IIeX Europe 2019: The 6 features of the future market researcher

IIex, the international insight innovation community, set up camp in Amsterdam for its annual European event. A rich diversity of agencies, clients, tech start-ups and research insight professionals from all 4 corners of the world showcased their take on where the future of market research is headed.
After 24 presentations in the past 36 hours, I am on the Thalys train back home. So, no better timing for a hot-off-the-press recap.
I observed six recurrent themes which, together, could form the ‘future forward’ features of the next-generation market researcher. Let’s take a look at the six main lessons I am taking home.

1. The future market researcher mixes multimedia techniques

Far too many client briefings are monomedial, and as a consequence far too many market research projects are monomethod and monomedial. In the past two days, many things were presented to us; how Virtual Reality can engage participants to give more articulate answers to complex questions; the way Smart Speakers could revolutionize the online community moderator’s job; how consumer-generated videos can offer deeper access to real-life settings; and how local photo galleries stored on a smartphone can generate deep learnings without the need of collecting new data. We all know it, but we just don’t apply this enough, not yet.

2. The future market researcher is a storytelling journalist that exploits the already harvested market intelligence data to the fullest

Cases were made for so-called data translators, data storytellers and even data journalists that wrap research reports into seductive headlines ready to publish to the business. Of paramount importance, this new corporate ‘data journalist’ role is sitting on the crossroads of data science, big data technology, corporate business stakeholders and insight department. Rather than having the ambition of pulling big data silos into market research departments, the aim is shifting towards playing an integration-and-communication role. In other words, the focus of the future-proof researcher should lie on creating snackable, bite-size and fun content to share with internal stakeholders, ultimately catching the attention of the c-suite.

3. The future market researcher caters to NextGen participants

A general observation by some of the speakers: we were mean to participants in the past 20 years; we over-questioned, spammed them, bored and under-incentivized them. Here, understanding NextGen consumers seems to be the key to success; if they no longer respond to our research requests, we might as well close shop today. However, if we want our business to be future-proof, we’ll have to invest in future-proof ways of engaging with them. How? By making our interactions snappier (shorter questionnaires, please); more natural (why not chat with them rather than invite them for focus groups in central locations); more targeted (why bother sending out requests to consumers we already know are not interested).

4. The future market researcher understands that predictable segments no longer exist.

We find ourselves in history’s highest rate of change. Everything changes. And everything changes fast. Even the old-school rock-solid demographic concepts like family, age and gender are in a complete blur today. In one experiment, asking for gender as a spectrum rather than a binary yes/no question, 12% of respondents categorized themselves as gender-fluid, for instance. Same goes for the ageless society where ‘silver fox’ senior citizens seem to be more revolutionary, tech-savvy and early-adopting than many of their younger counterparts. Members of newly formed blended multicultural families show apparent inconsistent food behavior as they consume their healthy snacks on the go in one context and indulge on fast food in another.

The future market researcher can no longer predict consumer behavior based on their belonging to a larger group, tribe, cohort or segment, but will have to look into the power of insight based on n=1 individual.

5. The future market researcher is a techie

The number of start-ups present at the IIeX conference was impressive. eye-tracking, Artificial Intelligence, VR, AR, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, behavioral tracking, CX tracking, emotional tracking, facial coding, text analytics, video analytics, neuroscientific approaches…: if you have been following the trends in our industry in the past 5 years, and are serious about contributing to the future of MR, you have probably already used some of these techniques in your projects. If not, you better catch up fast. The techies are here, and they are here to stay. All of them are clearly trying to capture a slice of the attention of both agencies and clients alike. But many of them seem to be in what looks like a positioning challenge: do they want to be acquired by an agency? Do they want to partner up with a research agency as a preferred supplier or do they want to interact directly with end clients? Which remains unclear in many cases. All of them are passionate, most of them excel in agile techniques and development. They all pitch their application very well.

But remarkably few speak the marketing and/or business language marketers and insight professionals speak. And the ones that really stand out are those that actually listen rather than pitch; ‘What is this technology bringing to which type of stakeholder facing which type of business challenge leading to which type of better decision making’ is the question at hand here. The future market researcher will have to keep up with all of these tech start-ups; he will have to experiment with them by seamlessly plugging them into existing research ecosystems and methodologies. Not unlike professionals in the tech industry, the market researcher of the future will have to try and succeed and/or fail with these applications and learn along the way.

6. Oh, and one more thing. The future market researcher delivers better, faster and cheaper research. Of course. Duh. Nothing new there, I guess ?.

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