As with most aspects of modern life today, the market research industry has seen a dramatic change during our COVID-19 pandemic. Although most principles of market research are still valid, global brands have had to adapt their research methods in order to meet the "new reality".
Market research generally begins with a wide-angle view of the market's influence spheres (including changing customer behaviours and emerging industry trends). Then, the research zooms in on specific details within a target audience.
Companies can gain a detailed and clear understanding from market research.
Get insights into the customer's use of their products and services
Differentiate your offerings from the competition
Start the foundation for product launches or product upgrades that are successful
Find new growth opportunities
These insights can help brands set the tone for their marketing efforts in the coming year.
Here are some key trends in market research today, and what's ahead for 2022.
Trend #1 - Agility and Technology
Despite all the changes brought about by the pandemic or other global forces, there is one constant: the continuous evolution of technology that underpins advanced market research.
For example, advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), for instance, allow researchers to collect information from a wider variety of sources. These advancements have also led to a renewed emphasis on speed and agility in research. Various elements include:
Automating routine research techniques Automating routine aspects of research allows for faster analysis and interpretation. Researchers can save time and effort by automating the repetitive aspects of research, while focusing on what is most important in their work.
Smarter surveys and polls that are shorter and more concise. Surveys that are easy to position and distribute (and take only a few minutes to complete) can increase the speed of analysis. This involves identifying mobile-reliant populations that are willing to participate in surveys or polls upon request and in a short time frame.
Continuous research. Continuous research is equal to agile research. The insights from one survey may change dramatically in a constantly changing global market. Researchers can also use the findings from one survey to create a more specific survey that focuses only on changing market factors.
We have said before that "if your offerings meet current and emerging customer requirements, your business will build a reputation as being completely customer-centric, which your competitors cannot match."
Trend #2 - AI, Machine Learning and Emotion
If 2021 is any indication, we can expect an increasing number of raw data in the coming years. Researchers will have access to more data than they can possibly compile or analyze by themselves because of the vast number of sources. Machine learning and AI are both invaluable tools for research.
Emotion AI is a tool that analyzes voice patterns, eye movements and facial expressions in order to decode human emotion. It also uses non-verbal cues to help brands link emotion to consumer behaviour patterns. Emotion AI is able to more accurately "read" the emotions of consumers and determine whether a venture succeeds or fails by analyzing their responses to proposed upgrades or product launches.
MIT Sloan points out that "new artificial intelligence technologies are learning and recognizing human emotion and using this knowledge to improve everything, from marketing campaigns to healthcare."
Trend #3 - Social Listening
Often, the best data for marketing trends comes from direct interaction with customers. Engaging in social listening is an equally efficient research method.
Social listening is the process of analyzing social media conversations related to your brand and your industry. This goes beyond the monitoring of basic metrics like "likes", "mentions", or "followers", and focuses instead on the buyer's emotions behind the data.
Customers often share their opinions about products and services via popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others. This can be viewed by market researchers as real-time feedback on customer preferences, brand awareness and the inroads made to their products/services by other competitors.
Social listening is a great way to gauge customer sentiment (what they like or don't like about the purchase experience, preferences regarding how a transaction is done, etc.).
These actions are necessary for social listening to be effective:
You can search the most popular social media platforms to find branded keywords, phrases or product names.
Check out customer reviews on platforms.
Learn more about competitor sentiments.
Use Google Trends and other social media listening tools to anticipate potential trends.
Identify industry-relevant social media influencers.
Reputation.com states that social listening should be a key component of every company's marketing strategy. It allows you to react to customer sentiment and gather data to improve the way your business runs. Social listening can be described as "your own constant focus group rich in constantly updated, actionable business intelligence".
Trend #4 - Longitudinal Studies
Long-range market research has seen a steady rise in longitudinal studies. This trend is expected to continue into 2022. This method is most effective when a brand wants to monitor a set sample of its target audience for a pre-determined period.
Continuous research is also known as longitudinal studies. It tracks market attitudes and consumer behavior over time. Researchers use a long-term method to gather data from different sources. This gives them insight into consumer buying patterns and their reactions to new products or services.
Trend #5 - DIY
The do-it yourself (DIY), approach to market research is another emerging trend. In-house research teams can conduct surveys or other activities using smart, agile tools. Many of these tools are often accessed via an online portal. There are many types of DIY market research:
Interviews with potential and existing customers using questionnaires, focus groups, or surveys
Segmentation of target audience into clearly defined groups (demographics, behavioural, psychological, and geographical).
In many cases, product testing is done before a brand enters the production stage.
Loyal customers are the best way to measure customer satisfaction
Do your own research to gain "insights into the happiness of your customers and any areas they dislike or like."
Identify areas of concern (potential or actual).
Get to the root of the problem by finding and then interacting with dissatisfied customers.
Find out what you can do to improve customer experiences and attitudes.
A caveat to DIY marketing is that it can be dangerous. Forbes points out that if you seek advice from a third party (for market research), you will likely receive a different perspective to what you would receive from your team. You also have a higher chance of getting an objective perspective, which can be healthier and more informative about the target audience.
Trend #6 - Aligning Brand Values and Mission with Customers
Market research will continue to investigate the benefits of aligning a company’s mission statement with the values of its customers in 2022 and beyond.
It is gone days when a brand could simply tell its customers what it stands for. Customers who are savvy do extensive research to find out if a brand is "walking the talk", especially when it comes to the values they hold dear, such as the environment, sustainability, income inequality, racial harmony, etc.
Customers who identify brands that align with their values are more likely to stay loyal. Customers may decide to leave a company if they feel that there is a disconnect between the brand's mission and its actions.
Brands are encouraged to review their mission and values in 2022 and how they are communicated to their target audience. The process of refining a company’s mission statement can be aided by monitoring social media conversations about these values. This is a great opportunity to make a new commitment to support causes and initiatives that are most important to your audience.
Although market research trends change, the end result is consistent from the past to today. The main objectives remain the same:
Improve products and services
Customer service enhancement
Boosting customer retention
Market research shows that brands must be agile in an ever-changing marketplace. Customers' needs are never static. A brand that meets customer needs and anticipates future ones will have a stronger position in the global marketplace than its competitors.