Four trends that will continue to widen the scope of information-gathering and analysis

Editor’s note: Tobi Andersson is managing director, market research, Forsta, New York. 

Market research is entering a pivotal moment in its existence, and the modern consumer is driving industry-wide change. Even before the pandemic, social media was making a seismic impact on consumer behaviors and that has only become more of a factor as post-pandemic life settles in. The adoption of more permanent work-from-home policies changed the landscape, too, with Gallup reporting that only two in 10 remote-capable employees are currently working fully on-site while the rest work fully remote or hybrid.

All this has left market researchers working to utilize entirely new technologies and avenues for reaching and learning from their target audiences. Here’s how that will look in 2023.

1. Everything from home – marketing research is seeing fundamental changes to research participation and consumer expectation. 

The growth of digital options in areas from education to health care to shopping, along with remote work during the pandemic, has fundamentally changed the behavior of research participants. There’s an underlying consumer expectation today that everything we do can be accomplished in either a hybrid or fully digital fashion. From willingness to travel to the way we interact with different survey settings, this sentiment extends to market research. In-person studies are still making a comeback across the board as some industries shift away from remote life almost entirely, but the game-changing impact of digital solutions in verticals like health care are leading to continued scale and innovation for virtual qualitative research.

New opportunities continue to arise from said innovation – with qualitative research making itself at home online, researchers are finding opportunities to widen the scope of feedback they receive in regions and from demographics that would have previously been tougher to capture. The widespread adoption of video streaming, for example, is helping researchers to connect with those participants who may have previously abstained from participating due to travel or other physical roadblocks in the process. 

2. Employees as influencers – employee empowerment and forward-thinking leadership are changing the way researchers think about employee experience research. 

There hasn’t just been a difference in the way consumers interact with their surroundings. Everybody wants to be an influencer these days (and for good reasons) – at work, that title is attainable. 

There is a newfound empowerment for employees to use their voice since the great resignation turned heads in 2021; and while the job market isn’t necessarily in the same position today, employees now have a louder and more persistent voice in the decision making of their organizations. This is obviously important for HR and workplace culture conversations, but it can extend so much further. 

Often, your own employees are the best equipped to ideate and create new products and campaigns for a business. Forward-thinking leaders will look to leverage this resident creativity through emerging employee experience technology and crowdsourcing platforms that allow businesses to gather, analyze, rank and execute their employees' innovative ideas globally and in real time. 

In 2023 and beyond, innovative ideas will be the currency that drives business forward and tapping employees from top to bottom will be essential to uncover the best ones. Researchers will gather real-time employee feedback within individual organizations or across entire industries to gauge anything from general satisfaction to ideas that can improve customer experiences (CX) and even evolve companies’ product lines.

3. Trend cycles are getting shorter – marketing researchers are seeing shifts in markets that require changes to data monitoring practices.  

Today, social media and consumerism are inextricably linked. Big picture values such as sustainability or social justice may be constant, but the smaller-scale interests of a brand’s consumer base are often in constant flux as driven by algorithms and trends.

These continuous shifts – both in social media platform changes and consumer interests – require constant monitoring. This never-ending dance will continue to impact market researchers both as they interact with roadblocks presented by social media companies (such as restrictions on post collection) and work to keep their analysis of consumer preferences current.

Near-real time data monitoring will be an essential tool to adequately follow the shifts in a market. Predictive analytics, which can identify consumer patterns at large without drawing solely from explicit feedback, will be another key player in understanding consumer behavior.

4. Growing, changing data – analytics and democratization of data will conquer the day. 

The trends we’ve discussed are contributing to market researchers being inundated with more disparate, faster-growing and faster-changing data. There’s no unified town square for customers’ opinions; they aren’t all voicing their preferences in the same places they were a few years ago, and the rapid shifts in opinion and preference are only making things more complicated for researchers.

To combat this, MR technology is evolving to better capture and organize omnichannel data sources, while researchers apply advanced analytics to weigh them and provide recommendations. Artificial intelligence is on everyone’s mind, as well, but its relationship with research is not cut-and-dry. While AI-based tools can augment teams by helping to make sense of the data at scale, only humans can apply the level of nuanced thinking necessary to put those insights into context for informed business decisions. 

In the same vein, collaboration and the democratization of data across market research agencies and teams will be invaluable to keeping up with the depth and breadth of data pouring in daily.

Market research for the modern era

The modern person, whether observed through a consumer or employee lens, interacts with the world differently today than they did before. It’s up to innovative minds in the MR space to widen their scope of information-gathering and analysis to make sure they don’t fall out of touch. This next year will be best encapsulated by the quest to continuously understand the flow of information about the human experience, using a combination of traditional and newer methods and technologies that keep pace with how we live today.