Looking ahead at 2019: five (continuing) trends in consumer insights

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

Bill Gates (1995) The Road Ahead, Viking Penguin

As the old year passes and the new begins, it is a natural time to pause and consider what the year ahead will bring. Here are my thoughts on five continuing trends that will dominate our industry in 2019. Why continuing? Because change doesn’t happen as quickly as we think it will. However, these trends are in the process of reshaping our profession as businesses move to 21st-century models and understanding your customer truth is no longer optional.

Trend 1: Insight taking its seat at the table

Insights’ professionals have always known the high value of customer data. Now the rest of the business is catching up. Data are informing all aspects of an organization. The small data (surveys, interviews, communities) to understand your customer is as important as the big data (transitional, click stream, behavioral). In 2018, the SurveyMonkey IPO, followed by the surprise SAP/Qualtrics acquisition were markers of this trend. In 2019, we’ll see the role of Insights Departments as strategic partners grow, moving away from being simply suppliers or validators.

Trend 2: Breaking down organizational silos

While Insights is beginning to take its seat at the table, there are many hurdles to tackle. Resoundingly enterprise researchers battle with being known within their organization and for their work to deliver the impact that it promises. Departmental silos, of course, are not unique to Insights but in this Experience Economy, Insights Departments have a greater emphasis on being known, disseminating impactful findings and assisting with activation to fulfill their vital role in the various business decisions.

The hurdles come in different forms for different companies. For some it may mean achieving leadership support, for others it is about building trust and buy-in across departments, identifying and working towards a shared vision. It is not easy bringing all departments to the table; this requires time and financial investment. However, the outcome will reap the rewards.

Trend 3: Data democratization, with education

In an on-going trend since the 2007 crash, Insights Departments remain small, pressured in both budget and staffing resources. These teams will continue to take on the larger, business-critical research projects while empowering non-researchers to collect the ‘just-in-time’ data they need.

At the same time, as we saw in the second trend, insight data is being socialized across the business and in some cases, data is being made available on centralized platforms. In addition to training non-researchers to conduct studies, there’s a wider need to educate everyone in how to access and read insight data in order for it to be applied responsibly.

Trend 4: Technology consolidation & maturation

There are two sides to this trend. Firstly from the enterprise and agencies perspective, the need for organizational level solutions is growing, with a view to being both budget and data smart, the fewer platforms used across an organization, the better.

On the other side, technology providers are also consolidating. We’ve seen mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs in 2018 and this year will bring more. We are in a building phase where we’ll see less of the ‘next big thing’ but rather working towards the advancement of existing technologies, particularly with regards to analytical platforms leveraging automation and artificial intelligence.

Trend 5: Data privacy & security

In the last continuing trend of 2019, the keen focus on data privacy and security remains bright. There are still many outstanding questions and uncertainties around the EU GDPR legislation. Added to this, preparation for the California Data Privacy law, coming into effect on 1 Jan 2020, will take place. It is not a stretch to say that other US states and countries across the world will enforce their own legislation. Beyond the legal requirements, following our various industry codes of conduct and ensuring that our data respondents believe in, and have trust for, our work is paramount.

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