I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Insights Association South East Chapter Spring Event this year and, naturally, made the trip across the pond to see what all the fuss was about. What a brilliant event! Let me start by saying this: the Insights Association local chapters are a fantastic resource of information and talented individuals, so if you haven’t signed up to yours already — you can do so here.
At the event, I was part of an insightful panel on teamwork and culture with Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound and Courtney Williams of Lucid (you can read my summary of that panel here). I was also presented with the opportunity to deliver a seminar on how journalistic principles can help researchers drive informed decisions — a summary of that session can be accessed here.
However, in this piece, I want to focus on the main themes and trends that emerged across the course of the day — highlighted by the great line up of speakers.
An Accelerating Pace of Change
Rick Rodgers, COO of Lucid, opened proceedings by discussing the increasing role that technology plays in the market research sector, and the responsibility we have as researchers to embrace and drive this in order to achieve better outcomes for participants and clients alike.
A key point that was echoed throughout the day by a number of speakers was that the rate of change today is faster than it has ever been before. And that’s not just in the number of technologies that are becoming available on the market, but the training and skills client-side researchers have access to, meaning that our skillsets as researchers need to adapt in order to accommodate such change.
Insight Industry Trends
Next, Kristi Zuhlke, CEO and founder of KnowledgeHound, provided an overview of the six research trends she is seeing in the market today. In this presentation, she hit on the decrease in the time it takes to find answers (drawing on a really interesting library vs Google metaphor), the continued shift towards DIY, the potential for the sharing economy to make its way to the insights industry and the continued proliferation of social and video data.
A quite lengthy discussion followed the presentation that the audience really engaged in — around whether voice was going to become a larger part of the industry in the coming years. After a robust discussion, I don’t think one single answer was agreed upon, but it’s fair to say many see the potential if the technical, commercial, legislative and privacy concerns can be addressed first.
While the opportunity that voice provides is well understood, there are a number of ethical, legislative and technical challenges that must first be overcome before it can become an effective source of research data.
Paul Neto, CMO of Measure Protocol, took the stage after Kristi to talk about another emerging industry technology — blockchain and its potential to transform sampling. Paul’s talk was frank and candid, a refreshing take that wasn’t full of the techno speak that’s become almost a cliché of blockchain discussions. But rather, he highlighted the practical advantages the technology has for both consumers and researchers. Top of this list was the opportunity to build an ecosystem of trust that provides consumers with ownership of their data, better respect of privacy, greater transparency and even a more streamlined user experience.
Data Fluency and Research on Research
After a short break, Kathryn Korostoff of Research Rockstar presented an interactive session on data fluency. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, the room learnt about the various terminology, language and skills researchers need to become data fluent and to become the expert consultants that can pull together a wide variety of data sets. One key takeaway from the session was that CMOs and other business decision makers have access to an increasingly wide pool of data sources — much wider than just those provided by research. If we can become data fluent, we can the expert consultants that brands need to stitch together data from these multiple sources and drive informed decisions.
Following Kathryn, and the teamwork panel that I’ve written a separate summary of, Renee Wyckoff of L&E Research took to the stage to build on the themes of the day and present research on research that found participants crave community but most frequently disengage with research because of repeated rejection. As had been mentioned throughout the event, technology may be the answer — but only if applied in a smart way that improves the participant experience rather than hinder it.
Renee’s session finished with a challenge and call to action that I wholeheartedly agree with; to apply ourselves as researchers to putting participant experience at the centre of what we do. Asking less, rewarding more, softening the blow of rejection and (to much fevered nodding of heads) reducing the length of screeners. All of these are opportunities for us as an industry to really stand out and lead the customer experience revolution, through our own mini participant experience revolution.
A Dramatic Conclusion
Finally, the day concluded with two presentations on storytelling and the art of presenting insights. First, I discussed how we can apply the principles of journalism to navigate the ethical, moral and commercial challenges of storytelling, as well as providing an overview of practical advice from the profession. You can read about that here.
This was followed by Arianne Larimer of Voxpopme who introduced the room to the 6 narrative and emotional arcs of storytelling and how they can be used to make presentations more engaging. This was peppered with live demonstrations of how this can work in practice — using video clips gathered from the Voxpopme platform. This resonated with points that both Kathryn and Kristi had made earlier about how video is becoming a much more mainstream data collection platform, offering benefits to both participants (by improving research experiences) and researchers (by providing more engaging narratives within presentations).
Summing Up My Experience
As I mentioned at the start of this article, this was a fantastic event — and if you have the opportunity to attend a local Insights Association Chapter Seminar, definitely take advantage of it.
The themes that seemed to crop up most throughout the day I think fall into three distinct categories that represent both the biggest opportunities and challenges for researchers today. First, technology can solve a lot of the current issues our industry faces — but we need to apply it to the right challenges in order to see a tangible benefit. Second, the skills that researchers will need to drive informed decisions will not be the same tomorrow as they are today. And finally, we must, as an industry, find better ways to engage stakeholders and decision makers with the work that we do.
If you’re engaging with any of these challenges and opportunities in your organisation, it would be great to hear from you. Leave a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.