The year 2020 has been a whirlwind for most, yet the Current Topics in Marketing Analytics and Insights course has been a great chance for first and second year A.C. Nielsen Center students to get insight into the challenges and opportunities that industry professionals are currently facing. There were six trends that stuck with me, that I will be watching going forward.
1. Firms are reconsidering the role of marketing insights in the organization.
From CPG to the tech industry, companies are asking how much (if any) of the marketing research pipeline should be brought in-house. Should insights play the role of the consultant or of the researcher – or something in between? There are pros and cons to each approach, as well as constraints ranging from budget to capacity to level of expertise. Each firm must make a decision that work for their needs and under their constraints.
2. Marketing analytics is growing up.
No longer a just a buzzword often used in the same sentence as “big data”, analytics (in particular, marketing analytics) is moving from being an exploratory instrument to one that is critical to making business decisions. Businesses are moving toward using marketing analytics along with insights and are asking professionals to develop analytics competencies. The A.C. Nielsen Center’s rebranding in 2019 from Center for Marketing Research to Center for Marketing Analytics and Insights is a meaningful signal of this change in the industry.
3. Artificial intelligence is getting advanced, and marketers are asking, “What now?”
An entire article could easily be written on AI alone – it is another buzzword that has been popular for the last few years. Marketing departments have already started used simple AI, such as smart bidding or automatically generated ads, but AI is beginning to make far greater strides. As the competencies of artificial intelligence begin to mirror human behavior, a number of questions arise that are yet to be fully addressed: what constitutes ethical use of AI and who bears the responsibility of monitoring its ethical use? What are the risks of using AI? And even: to what extent can AI replace functions that are currently performed manually?
4. Insights professionals are questioning traditional, go-to metrics.
In day-to-day work it is easy to rely on metrics that are already being measured. But are the metrics we use really measuring what they want them to? Take customer satisfaction: the net promoter score is often used, but unfortunately it relies solely on the opinions of customers who are polarized, ignoring customers with more neutral opinions. With the rise of big data, choosing more detailed and specific metrics has become easier, and insights professionals are going back to basics by ensuring that business decisions are based on metrics that reflect the decision criteria.
5. Tried and true science is being used more frequently to get the most accurate research results.
From neuroscientific methods such as EEG brain wave measurement to behavioral scientific interview methods, insights professionals are turning to science for the best research methods.
Similar to the critique of choosing performance metrics by default, traditional research is also being examined, and updated based on proven accuracy rather than habit. While some methods are more cutting edge, others require only simple changes. For example, behavioral interview methods still rely on interviewing techniques, but change the way the interviewee is thinking about their experiences to ascertain more accurate or more vivid results.
6. Tech is becoming critical for business success
Corporations attempting to maintain their competitive advantage are turning to cutting edge research methodologies such as VR to understand what consumers will want out of products that do not yet exist. However, even more basic technology has been crucial over the last nine months to conduct research during the Coronavirus pandemic. For example, some researchers have replaced in-store observational research with virtual shelves and eye-tracking, as well as conducting interviews over video chat instead of in-person. It will be interesting to see how much our reliance on current tech will stick in the coming months, as well as what new technologies will become available. Ultimately, tech will continue to play an important role in marketing research.
I have been impressed with the marketing insights community for taking the opportunity in a year of upheaval to critically evaluate traditions and to view this time as an opportunity for improvement. 2021 will no doubt play an important role in shaping the field of insights as well, as more and more professionals return to working fully or partially in-person. I am curious to see what this will mean for marketing insights techniques (will they continue to be largely virtual or are professionals and consumers anxious to return to in-person research?). With certainty, insights departments will find a way to most efficiently make use of the plethora of tools and skills available to them.