2018 was a big year for the consumer insights space. We saw a major consolidation (IPSOS bought the survey parts of GFK), a massive exit (SAP bought Qualtrics), and several capital ingestions from the VC community – the industry was also forced into rapidly adopting new technologies.

We saw more contextual and behavioral ways of measuring behavior, mobile-first solutions, all while looking for better ways of driving change management into corporations as well as learning (over just doing things quickly).

Here are my consumer insights predictions for 2019.

2019 is going to be a transformational year for the insights business, measured by market share changes, corporate organizational changes and restructures, M&As, and a new way of working. The de facto approaches of the past are becoming less viable.

Here are some of the main themes I expect to be front and center in 12 months time (I’d love to know your predictions too).

Enterprise Insights Ecosystems and One-stop Vendors Lead to Massive Consolidation

For years, there’s been a swath of “full service research suppliers” who are similar to the “agency of record” model in the advertising space, specialized in being generalists.

That era has been eroding in insights for some time and is all but gone in advertising, however in 2019 we should see further consolidation of service business and spend, with manufacturers turning away from having 30 suppliers around the world and answering the same business question differently – leaving their data useless after hitting “send”.

An aerial view of London at night, taken from within an aeroplane

I expect further consolidation of the major market research firms, as well as more strong boutique specialists and tech providers. Those that work together will rise the highest in 2019.

The holistic picture will involve connecting data, and delivering value multiple times beyond the project view – bringing it all together to drive a growth agenda for the businesses they support.

Death of Black Box Methods

When brands ran the world, a single one-size fits all composite metric stashed in a black box, littered with marketing collateral about the methods  “validation”, worked damn well. Today consumers are in charge. They’re inundated with propaganda, the “next big things”, and the iconic brands they are used to.

We need to have flexible, modular ways to predict success in the right context. Not all ads will work in all environments, yet we need to bring ‘why data’ into a programmatic world. This shift impacts all industries but it should bring about an upside for the consumer insights space.

Marketers Lean into Insights Solutions and Departments, Curate Macro Insights, and Fuel Growth Strategies

For our top ten customers, the following trends are here and now:

  • 6 times more marketers than insights employees
  • more budget in marketing than in insights
  • more need than ever to be agile and iterate with consumers as an organizational-wide dynamic

Despite this dynamic, I too often hear insights leaders say to our staff that we can’t let marketing access this. I ask why.

The answer is never something I consider future-proofed: “we make the decks, so we can’t give that up to a machine” or “marketing doesn’t know what to do” or “we manage the projects”.

In a world where automated solutions are expert-led, you don’t need 30 years of primary research training to measure your brand or validate decisions.

By 2019, we should see more major brands embrace this. Marketing will have insights solutions at their fingertips and insights departments will set up the necessary ecosystem to provide growth strategies and curated meta insights, rather than being reactive.

Set up the right expert-led ecosystem, curate the macro POV, and don’t worry about day-to-day testing needs. Tech is here to make this a seamless process.

The Lines of Qual and Quant Blurring, Even More

For 12 years, whenever I explain what I do for work, I typically get one of two responses: “do you mean the focus groups I always get invited to?” or “like survey monkey?”.

I laugh, then explain the industry in a bit more detail. Many of those I interact with are, by coincidence, marketers, sales people, and business operators – who you’d think would be more aware of the miraculous world of market research!

Sadly, they aren’t. This is because we’ve done a subpar job of marketing the abilities of the industry. Executives don’t care about perfectly curated, experimental designs that take $400K to execute. With technology, we can code unstructured text, webcam interviews, use survey walls to get at people in-Situ, and have live conversations with people – all for far less money than a multi-city focus group.

I see a world of specialization around solutions that do certain things, platforms that curate it all, and experts in domain areas. Most importantly, a premium on the insights leaders and consulting partners who bring it all together

From Insights to Foresight

An ah-ha moment alone isn’t good enough anymore. It’s great, but can you leverage what you already know to predict outcomes or uncover why previous attempts didn’t work?

If not, you aren’t leveraging your data and expertise to the best of your ability. I believe we are entering a world wherein metadata is accessible and will get smarter every day.

In 2019, we will take the first major stride to move from insights to foresight by having data from various places connect and form real-time calculations; that’s ad testing scores, ad tracking results, and SKU data (or something similar). This level of data connectivity will enable foresight as efficiently as launching an automated research project.

For an industry filled with inquisitive, data savvy, commercial, and storytelling experts, the opportunity is here to deliver true value by bringing the consumer to the table – all day, every day. In turn, this will create shareholder value – and economic value – for businesses we all support.

I’d love to know your thoughts on my predictions. If you have any of your own, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

Ryan Barry

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Ryan Barry

Ryan Barry is the Chief Revenue Officer at ZappiStore.

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