Collaboration and Human Centricity: The Future of Market Research (IIeX EU 2020 Summary)

Amy Greenwood

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Sophie Grieve-Williams

    For the past few years, technology has dominated the major trends in many different ways. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things, and many other innovative inventions have come into being and revolutionised the way we interact with each other, the way we behave on a daily basis, the way insight professionals do research, and the way businesses grow.

    But at IIeX Europe 2020, technology was only a minor consideration. It is a boost that allows us to take a bigger step towards the future. Instead of technology, this trend has been replaced with disruption and future-focused innovation, customer centricity, blending experience design and research methodologies, agile mindsets and in-house research vs research partnerships, and many more.

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    For the past few years, technology has dominated major MRX trends in many different ways. But at IIeX Europe this year, the technology trend has been replaced with human-centric, future-focussed innovation trends.

    The themes that emerged from the brilliant talks and networking conversations were varied, but vein of golden commonalities interlinked them in the most intricate of ways that makes it hard to separate them out into separate categories. So here, we have a brilliant summary from each our four IIeX attendees, exploring their main takeaways and thoughts of the event:

    Talent management; In-house vs. Agency Researchers

    Amy Greenwood, Head of Research and Insights.

    For me, the focus on people rather than new innovations was encouraging. Whether customers, consumers, or employees, this focus is what is driving the current success of market research. Karolina Tutaj from Booking.com exhibited this brilliantly with their talk on the emerging trend of moving research in-house. From 2014 to present day, Booking.com built a research and insights team from the ground up, making sure to hire the right people with the right skills to complement each other and work towards the shared goal of gaining valuable insights. They proved to be a fantastic example of how the right insights team can lead to a markedly increased efficiency in insight generation.

    The benefits of moving research in-house were outlined by many talks at this event: greater communication between research teams and other departments; an innate understanding of business objectives and goals in the research team; taking less time to get signed off and straight onto conducting a research topic (what would take a few days with a  research agency would take mere hours for in-house researchers); more of a chance to get the right insights to the right people at the right time, etc. And I would agree that there is definitely a gap within many businesses that would be best filled by a research team, however that doesn’t mean external research agencies are redundant.

    We as agencies hold a vital mission to support those in-house research teams, and form proper partnerships with them that last for years. Over this time, the agencies would form just a deep a knowledge of the business as the in-house researchers do, meaning more agile research can be conducted at an efficient speed, and the agency would act more as an extension to the in-house team. For me personally, I was pleased to see that this was still acknowledged across presentations and there is still a place for agency relationships.

    Technology Only Enhances Agile Business Strategies

    Sally Nicholls, Insight Manager

    It was surprising that technology wasn’t the trend in the forefront this year. Technology was acknowledged in this conference, but not as the driver of innovation, rather more as an enabler of the best research experiences we can possibly provide. It is an enhancer rather than the root cause of innovation.

    What was acknowledged as one of the root causes, was agile mindsets within research teams and businesses. With my talk on developing the Internal Expert supporting the case studies on show in other talks very well, the need for internal insight experts has finally been recognised and will be the start of success for those firms like Booking.com who do take the notion up. But agile wasn’t just used in terms of building insight teams, business agility was expressed in a variety of different ways, such as in the formation of knowledge management.

    WPP Health was one of the organisations who recognised the brilliant agility that a data store would provide if they used it to store all of the insights that they collected in that one place. This would mitigate the need to conduct research over and over again to collect the very same data they might have disregarded within a previous project. By investing in Bloomfire, they made this a reality, and are able to combine past and present insights in critical moments to make the best decisions possible.

    But while technology wasn’t in the spotlight, there was definitely a theme of new technologies being used to enhance different areas of research. With mentions of AI, ‘passive’ facial and eye tracking, IoT, data analytics, etc. we are truly working towards generating smart insights, getting the right insights to the right people at the right time.

    Customer Centricity and Digital Transformation

    Katharine Johnson, Client Success Manager

    Every day 170,000 children go online for the first time, and 14% of people online are children. These two stats highlight a new generation of consumers that are slowly gaining more and more acknowledgement: Generation Alpha. Born in the 2010s, this generation is as old as the iPad and has never known a world without instant internet connectivity.

    These neat stats were brought to our attention by Elizabeth Pinkney from the Arsenal Football Club and James Nation of Beano Studios, who were talking about their research collaboration and the digital transformation of the whole Beano brand bringing it truly up to speed with the current generation of kids. Getting to know your customers, no matter how young they are, is vital to business success as can be seen by brands such as Netflix, JetBlue, and most obviously, Amazon. As the Youth Marketing Manager, Pinkney knows how hard it is to research children of that age, but together with Nation, their teams realised that it wasn’t just the children they had to take into account, but the parents as well as the purchasers of their products.

    Now, customer centricity has always been at the forefront but now taking more of a lead with small steps being taken towards company success, but after IIeX EU, I now have more faith that industries will pay attention to it more as a proven successful and viable strategy for business growth and future-proofing. Mondelez was another company who focussed their talk on how to gain “true customer centricity” from a community of research participants participating in real-time research in order to understand what they know and preventing the duplication of work.

    Disruptive Growth and Future Innovation 

    Mayra Munguia, Insight Manager

    Future-proofing businesses is something that would bring more profit than a diamond mine to the person who discovered a fool-proof strategy. Yet it remains one of the riskiest ventures in business, and as such, is a hot topic at this year’s IIeX EU event. With links to hiring agile mindsets, working in a customer-centric corporate culture, and creating internal expert roles, this future-proofing business is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s something that we are definitely working our way towards as an industry if the talks at IIeX are anything to go by.

    The presentations I attended, no matter the specific subject matter, expertly told the story of where we are today: big companies typically ignore small opportunities. But it’s these small opportunities that make the biggest steps towards innovation, and these are readily recognised by start-ups who become challenger brands. However, we are just as much to blame for these opportunity gaps, as we are only just now talking about blending User Experience research with Market Research! It’s such a logical step to take, yet most UX teams are still located in with the product design departments. But why should we stop there? Why shouldn’t we also bring in data science teams, behavioural researchers, and other tangentially related disciplines that are slowly influencing of MRX?

    Future-proofing, customer centricity, and in-house research are just three of the many trends that dominated IIeX EU 2020. With brilliant speakers and case studies to learn from, our attendees had a lot to take away!

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    Future-proofing, customer centricity, and in-house research are just three of the many trends that dominated IIeX EU 2020. With brilliant speakers and case studies to learn from, our attendees had a lot to take away!

    Another way to future proof is to improve the connection between the research teams and the stakeholders of a business. Now, as mentioned by my colleagues, this can be done well by moving research in-house, but the talk that I gave also provides an innovative way of leading stakeholders to research teams instead of vice versa. By focusing on looking to other creative ways to present information in order to generate truly insightful, memorable data to make use of in future plans.

    Et al.

    There was so much that our attendees came back to share with us, that it’s hard to fit all of the truly innovative themes and breakthroughs into one article. Other notable themes that need a mention is iterative testing like that of Vodafone's brilliant redesign of the traditional survey, and generate the same insights from observing in real-time the actions consumers take on a comparison website! Instead of asking them to think about the actions they would take and the factors they would prioritise, we can gain the same insights from simply observing what they do by placing them in that same scenario. Simple, yet wonderfully effective.

    With Data fusion, sustainability, neurolinguistics and semiotics, and so many more interesting topics delighting and intriguing the audience, that it’s safe to say that IIeX EU has had yet another very successful event.

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