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New technologies continue to transform market research. From artificial intelligence to big data, from insight communities to virtual reality, exciting innovations constantly challenge market researchers to change.

This year is no different. Emerging trends promise to disrupt how companies engage with customers and how researchers deliver insight to stakeholders.

We hand-picked four of the most thoughtful and provocative predictions on the future of research. Keeping these in mind will help you take advantage of the biggest opportunities in your role in the years ahead.

1. Increase in market research spending

Many experts agree that 2017 will bring some uncertainty in the geopolitical landscape. In many markets, business leaders will require better intelligence about their customers in order to make smarter and more confident decisions.

The need for customer insight will drive demand for research expertise. That’s why Joe Newsum, founder of the research firm Kentley Insights, believes that “2017 will be a boom year for market research.” He says business leaders see a need to objectively understand their customers and the competitive landscape, and they’ll invest in market research to bring that insight. 

2. Acceleration of automation adoption

According to Ray Poynter, a market research leader and founder of NewMR, researchers must embrace automation tools in order to become more effective and efficient in their jobs.

“Automation is going to underpin most success stories over the next few years,” Poynter points out in his predictions for 2017. He says automation will reduce costs, increase speed and lead to more opportunities to provide more “evidence-based decision making.” In general, automation will enhance the quality of research by allowing insight professionals to scale repetitive tasks and letting them focus on more strategic areas of their role.

3. Evolution of research departments

More in-house research teams will transform from service providers into strategic partners. According to Gregg Archibald, managing partner of Gen2 Advisors, more companies want to integrate various sources of data (including CRM and social media) to find insight they can use for decision-making. This need elevates the role of in-house market research teams as many departments lean on researchers for timely customer intelligence.

“These departments will look a lot more like strategic planning functions than the marketing research department of old,” Archibald tells the GreenBook Blog. In-house researchers, and the third-party marketing research firms that work with them, need to adopt strategic thinking to meet the expectations of executives and other stakeholders.  

4. Focus on qualitative methods

Leonard Murphy, executive editor of GreenBook and senior partner at Gen2 Advisors, believes companies will invest more on automation and artificial intelligence in order to more efficiently gather customer data. But he also predicts that as a direct result of these trends, researchers will increasingly rely on qualitative research to validate their findings.

For 2017, Murphy predicts an increasing focus on new methods that allow researchers to get closer to their consumers. These methods, according to Murphy, will be mostly qualitative (qual) in nature. Qual research through online communities, in-person groups and mobile ethnography will thrive as companies acknowledge the need to contextualize the trove of quantitative data they already have.

Prepare for these changes now

The future of market research has never been brighter. But succeeding in the face of disruption requires learning new skills, building your influence in the company and embracing new technologies.

As you prepare for these changes, check out The Must-Have Toolkit for Market Researchers—a collection of Ray Poynter’s best nuggets of wisdom. Get the toolkit to discover more than 55 resources, tips and tricks for research success.  

The must-have toolkit for market researchers