As insights professionals, we are always seeking to understand our customers, learn their opinions, what frustrates and excites them, how they make buying decisions. FocusVision recently fielded the second annual “How You Research” survey to explore these questions and more. Because understanding the “how” of gathering insights is just as important as gathering the customer insights themselves.
In 2019, we surveyed 168 marketing and insight professionals, all of whom used market research as part of their job function. The sample included a mix of agencies (e.g., suppliers and consultancies) as well as brand firms. Participants came from large firms (1,000-plus employees) and small (fewer than 25 employees) (Figure 1).
The results showed that most use this research weekly. This hasn’t changed much since last year (Figure 2)
Traditional research methods like surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups are the techniques implemented most often, with surveys leading the way. The number of research approaches being used has declined slightly, with focus group use down compared with last year. Enterprise is driving this decline, as larger firms are shifting to fewer in-person focus groups and detailed in-person interviews (Figure 3).
Brand and customer research continue to be the most prevalent research-focus areas, with customer experience topping the list for the second year in a row. For 2019, there seemed to be a redoubling of efforts to understand customers in the form of customer journey research increased (Figure 4).
Respondents were asked what market research trends were of interest (Figure 5). Mobile (ethnographies, technology, surveys, diaries, etc.) remains important, followed by data visualization and integration of qualitative and quantitative technology tools. Some differences emerged depending on the size of the firm. Large firms understandably are more keen on specific tools designed for their industry, including better integration of qualitative and quantitative technologies, and AI.
What do respondents find most frustrating? Budget constraints and sample quality again topped the list (Figure 6). There was an increase in concern for “integrating multiple data sources” and “managing multiple research technology providers’” for 2019 suggesting that research is becoming increasingly multifaceted and companies are struggling to integrate the tools and variety of data being collected. This is especially true for large enterprise firms, and their reliance and use of research technology tools has become more challenging. Large enterprise also showed a dramatic lift in frustration with budget constraints in 2019.
Survey participants were asked to elaborate on their research frustrations and share the one thing that would make their research lives easier. Indeed, there was a strong need for improved technology that integrates and synthesizes information across departments and multiple data sources. With this, insights can be delivered quickly and more efficiently (Figure 7).
Some things remain the same (e.g., the emphasis on customers and use of traditional research methods), but the survey findings suggest other areas of the research industry are experiencing shifts. Technology has always been a part of conducting research, but the pace of its impact moves quickly: not just in the way we manage and collect data, but also in the quest for cheaper and faster insights.
The shifts in business and their data needs, together with the corresponding rapid technological development, has led to a protracted time of change within the insights industry. It’s clear that most are still grappling managing the transition, evolving technology and increasing demand for high-profile consumer insights to lead business decisions. What’s important is that the insight professional continues to evolve and use the most fit-for-purpose approaches for that business question and the associated business need. At the same time, we should continue to demand more from our technology, because that’s a large part of what’s going to get us there.
For a recap of our findings see "How Do You (and Others) Do Research?"