Lenny Murphy recently compiled the annual ‘Predictions about Insights & Analytics’ list on the Greenbook blog, in which he asks 40 industry thought leaders about the top market research trends and themes that will emerge/evolve in 2017. It’s a must-read for everyone in the industry.

Like good researchers would do, it’s most helpful to look at recurring trends in responses and extracting those as truths. Certain topics came up over and over again – and that helps give an idea of where the industry as a whole feels they should most be focusing on. There are two main throughlines that stood out when reading through the full list:

  • Polling pushback. Most worrying is the expected negative blowback thanks to dropping public confidence in polling associated with a string of notable failures through 2016. The spotlight will be on us – can we improve the accuracy of population-level predictions?
  • Automation technology. Automation technology, led by Big Data and AI, is going to affect almost every element of our industry. How can we embrace the automation side of data collection in a way that still shows off the unique value of an insights professional?

The trends noted above will most likely have the biggest impact on the industry as a whole. Here’s how it breaks down:

Polling pushback
  • “In the shadow of the 2016 election season, sampling methodologies and data collection techniques need to take center stage. The reputation of survey-based data has taken multiple body blows in the public eye, and nothing short of major refactoring of how we collect data is going to heal those injuries. […] Absolute facts are being replaced with relativistic ones, which does not bode well for anyone trying to sell the truth.” Jason Anderson, InsightsMeta
  • “With the public polling misses, the increase in programmatic, and the continued mobile evolution, clients are beginning to raise concerns with frame, representativeness, and predictive value. This will bring on the next set of quality tools.” – Melanie Courtright, Research Now
  • “Triangulate to Restore Trust. Election polling aberations around the globe are undermining confidence in “traditional” research methodologies in the minds of CMOs.  […] To boost confidence, CMOs will begin seeking multiple methods of assessing the same key question(s), and value efforts to triangulate on the conclusions that can/should be drawn.” Pat LaPointe, Growth Calculus
  • “If 2016 was the year the insights industry so spectacularly and publicly got so much wrong then our first prediction is that surely 2017 must be the year that both the general public and senior executives at client-side companies turn the bright, hot spotlight onto our industry and place us all in the last chance saloon; demanding greater precision and guarantees.” Alex Hunt, BrainJuicer
Automation technology
  • “Research itself will be less linear, more agile. […] Automation of the interpretation of data is an emergent area that will complement rather than replace the skills of the insight professional. We need to realize the efficiencies we’re afforded, and ultimately add more value to the insight we provide as a result.” – Mark Simon, Toluna
  • “If researchers are to be relevant, they must commit to integrating surveys with the company’s digital profiling data in its DMP. […] Brand and comms guidance systems will become much more granular, real time, and leverage digital data as well as surveys.” Joel Rubinson, Rubinson Partners, Inc.
  • “The business of impactful insights will experience a renaissance as more clients and providers realize the power of synthesis, particularly as it pertains to the melding of research and analytics. Qualitative and ethnographic methods will continue to gain credence as will new and creative ways of visualizing insights. Leading the way will be video analytics combined with virtual and augmented reality.” Simon Chadwick, Cambiar LLC
  • “Data integration across all key marketing and sales metrics is, and will continue to be, the ultimate goal as organizations overcome the challenge of large data siloes.  Successful enterprises will recognize that while these silos are needed for data scientists, they are not meant for enterprise-wide integration, interpretation and sharing of key information.” Rudy Nadilo, Dapresy
  • “I expect the larger agencies will start making some bolder moves in [automation] leaving mid-sized companies worried. They will naturally continue to productize their offerings to fit into this new world and the interesting thing from our perspective is whether they try to build themselves or partner with automation specialists. Either way clients should be looking forward to getting faster, cheaper and better research!” Stephen Phillips, Zappistore
  • “The terms qualitative and quantitative will continue to blur as integrated approaches, new techniques, and new data sources deliver quantitative scale with qualitative flavor.” Jamie Stenziano, Clarion Research
  • ” ‘A.I.’ will assume the mantle previously held by ‘Big Data’ and before that ‘Mobile’, ‘Social Media Text Analytics’ & ‘Web 2.0’ as the most annoyingly over used buzzword in market research in 2017.” Jon Puleston, Lightspeed Research
Onwards and Upwards

So can we make the changes required to collectively move our industry in the right direction? Only time will tell, but it’s in our capability to do so. We have the insight about what’s needed. Can we dive in and make the changes that will keep market research relevant through 2017? As she so often does, Kristin Luck summarizes the state of things perfectly in her own prediction:

  • “As an industry we’re great at talking about the future of research, but really poor at actually moving away from the traditional methods we’re comfortable with and trying new things. And that’s the key to progress. If you really want to change the future of the industry you have to stop predicting, stop dreaming and start doing. Let’s “do” more in 2017.” – Kristin Luck, Luck Collective

We’re in this together – let’s make it happen! Happy New Year, #MRX!