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Opinion: Why 2021 will be the year of immediate market intelligence

Opinion: Why 2021 will be the year of immediate market intelligence

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Yesterday’s information is already old news. This is the reality we have come to live with during Covid-19. Companies have had to learn to operate differently, rapidly deploying new processes and making fast-paced decisions. But the rules of the game haven’t changed: It’s critical to stay up to date with major trends and market intelligence to avoid the risk of falling behind.

For market research leaders, these changes meant redefining the way they provide value. It’s precisely these lessons learned in the past few months that hold the key to restrategising for the future. Through self-reflection, the way market research is done will be changed for good, together with the benefit it brings to businesses across industries.

As the old crumbles, how will market research emerge in 2021? And why is the future of the field all about agility?

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Digitisation driving new formats and capabilities

The times when technology was an elegant addition to market research are long gone: Now, it forms its very own foundation. It has enabled new knowledge sources, diversifying market research to be even faster and more accurate than ever before.

Social media analysis, sentiment analysis, consumer engagement monitoring, video analysis, heat mapping, quick polls, and other tactics are now leveraged by researchers that are no longer focused on one domain only. Increasingly, they are utilizing their true potential within platform-oriented research fields. This way, researchers can find the answers to precarious business questions with simple, yet ultra-specific analyses.

Rather than predictive analytics, known for notorious inaccuracies caused by the poor quality of data, increased digitisation in market research has brought new promises for situation analysis. The virtual leap caused by the pandemic means that presenting data and reports will take on new forms. For example, the document size will reduce significantly: Businesses won’t have time to scan 500-page documents, so accessing short briefs with the fundamental information will be key.

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The need for speed

In the milieu of Covid-19, with business variables changing every day, embracing uncertainty is a must. Even as we go to the future, businesses will lean toward day-to-day, month-to-month check-ins for a particular market, rather than looking to get an extensive yearly update of a report. The supply chains of market research will shift accordingly, with many new players emerging to fill in these gaps and provide immediate solutions. 

A fast-paced business environment has become a new normal, which means that new approaches are needed. Previously, market research was centered around various parameters such as the economic layer, supply intelligence, demand frame, and more to forecast how the market would develop. This won’t be good enough anymore: In 2021, a real-time focus will be at the forefront. Fieldwork, data processes, and robust analyses that have taken weeks in the past will now be completed in minutes through powerful, automated systems.

Imagine that you’re launching a product. Traditionally, you would rely on the linear life cycle curve, with demand increasing extremely fast at the start before maturing. However, the current market is moving away from this model toward a u-shape curve where growth remains subdued until the threat of a large-scale outbreak is mitigated. Any product introduced in 2021 will see a fast decline, encouraging companies to invest much more to create demand and skyrocket. With the process becoming more unpredictable, together with the need to expand the marketing budget at least by several percent, there will be a pressing need to leverage real-time market intelligence and constant consumer feedback.

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Custom solutions are the future

Market research actors tend to offer two solutions: syndicated and custom. Naturally, COVID-19 has brought a growing demand for custom, client-specific projects, with companies looking to quickly tackle a specific problem they’re facing. Many of the parameters that market research used to cover in the past are now freely available online – so, there’s a need to dive much deeper. Simply said, real intelligence starts with business-specific insights.

We are, therefore, moving toward a more hybrid and dynamic market research landscape – one that still provides high-quality insights but often with a focus on a specific niche. Businesses don’t need smart answers, they need solution-oriented answers. And by regularly revisiting a specific market research question, businesses can also gain a long-term overview of a specific problem and be better equipped to predict future developments and pinpoint emerging trends.

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Client empowerment as a positive side-effect

Subdued demand has put pressure on revenues in many organizations. The impact of this has been felt across departments, with R&D and market research budgets taking a significant hit. As the uncertainty still looms large, many companies that used market research services regularly are now considering DIY models as an ad-hoc measure. However, these are often limited and can’t offer the granular level of insights market research companies can. To prevent their customers from procuring market research altogether, intelligence providers are now turning to lower price points.

While traditionally, these actors spend some 10% of their operational budgets on networking, in-person interviews, or client presentations, this will change drastically. Overall, market research offerings will thus become increasingly accessible: For example, if a company was charging $20,000 for an assignment, the price is likely to reduce at least by several thousand.

Together with the growing importance of customized reports, this will substantially compromise the profitability of market research companies. Providers from across the globe will step up to meet the demanding needs of their clients. Location may have been a factor in the past, with a local presence affecting the data acquisition process, but it won’t matter beyond 2020. Whether in India or Colombia, this factor will not speak of the capability of market research companies to deliver top-quality results.

Market research as a field has enjoyed years of comfort, but that era is over now. Clients are claiming the driver’s seat, and it’s up to them to dictate the rules of play. Intelligence providers need to adopt new technologies and switch toward a real-time, platform-specific focus in order to stay relevant – both in 2021 and beyond.

This piece was written by Sudip Saha, managing director and co-founder of Future Market Insights.

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