I was recently given the chance to attend IIeX 2018 in Amsterdam, where some of the most prominent figures in the market research industry discuss new innovations and trends to watch out for in the upcoming year. Having only worked in market research for a short time, this was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn more about the industry from the wide range of talks and by talking to some of the most experienced people in the industry.
Here are 5 trends that stood out to me as being particularly important going into the future:
As more and more data is gathered and made available, its importance cannot be understated. It is the belief of Stephen Phillips of Zappistore that research enabling platforms will follow the experience of many other sectors and see a monopolisation by a couple of dominant insight platforms. He draws on examples such as Facebook, Uber, PayPal and Amazon, who each have monopolies over their individual sectors. This is because the network effect means that using a platform that isn’t the most popular just doesn’t make sense for the consumer. If technology can be used to allow all the data within the platform to talk to each other, then the power of the platform increases exponentially, and it is likely that it will emerge as the dominant force in the sector. Having one or two platforms to go to for data or insight fits with what has happened in the B2C sector.
One of the common themes throughout the conference was AI and how the next technological revolution is going to impact the market research industry. Stan Sthanunathan, Executive Vice President of CMI at Unilever who is one of the leading authorities in marketing, takes the stance that AI is both our friend and our enemy. It is up to us to decide which one it will be going into the future. He warns us not to be the ones who ask “what the hell happened?” in 5 years’ time when technology has left us behind, but to be the people who make the changes and help the industry to evolve with technology.
A particular highlight of the event was the interactive session in which the conference hall was split into two sides, each having to argue for opposing statements, and persuade a jury of industry leaders. I enjoyed watching the dismay in people’s faces as the ball which indicated it was their turn to speak landed at their feet. Each person had to stand up and give their argument and It was interesting because of the difficulty that one side had in arguing that consumers use logic to make rational decisions. The jury unanimously agreed that consumers are presented with so many stimuli that they are overwhelmed and therefore allow emotion to govern their decision making. The implication of this consensus was felt throughout the rest of the conference, with a large focus amongst many of the talks on implicit testing to tap into participants emotions and system 1 thinking.
Dr Aaron Reid, founder of Sentient Decision Science and an expert in behavioural science, used analogies of the brain to illustrate how automation of processes can help market researchers to spend more time doing what they do best and providing deeper insight. The brain undertakes countless processes subconsciously, freeing up space for our conscious mind to do more higher-level thinking. This can be applied to the market research process - as technology improves and allows automation of more parts of the process, researchers will have more time available to spend interpreting findings and creating further value for clients.
One of the talks which stood out from the general trend of a focus on how technology will improve market research, was one by Jenn Arrington-Korek and Jessica Long of LRW Tonic. They presented case studies illustrating the importance of maintaining a human touch in research. Examples such as framing virtual activities in a way that participants would be used to experiencing in normal life, bringing technical studies in-home for a familiar environment, and first putting yourself in the shoes of the participant to identify the best means to speak to them outlined ways that research doesn’t have to become less human as technology becomes more prominent. Research is about humans after all, it is important that the relationships that we have aren’t lost in a world of AI.
All in all it was a great event. It was really interesting to see what the hottest topics in market research are for 2018 and to get an insight into how the latest technologies are helping to lead innovation within the industry. From the Blue Yonder perspective the importance of innovation cannot be understated, so seeing first-hand just how much industry leaders are doing to ensure that market research doesn’t fall behind in the rapidly evolving modern world was very encouraging. I also met some great people and I’ll hopefully see many of them again at another event in the future!