Market research is continually evolving to help brands stay ahead of the curve. And in 2020, a focus on conducting more efficient and impactful research meant that insights functions grew, despite a global economic downturn.

Heading into the new year, things are only picking up steam. Here are the 2021 market research trends we think will be the most defining for the global market research community in the year to come.

Smarter, Simpler Surveys 

This may seem obvious, but many researchers struggle to get the most out of their surveys. One 10-question survey can quickly double in length just by adding open-ended follow-ups or new questions from other teams who want to get in on the action. However, it is becoming increasingly important to collect the right data from the right audience, without exhausting respondents or resources.  

By integrating expert-designed survey templates into the regular workflow, researchers and non-researchers alike can collect impactful data in less time. These surveys are refined to help businesses get the most important questions answered, so they can stay focused on what really matters. The ability to deploy templated surveys at various touchpoints speeds up the entire research lifecycle without compromising data quality.

DIY In-House Research  

For a long time, market research has been outsourced due to its labor-intensive nature and the fact that it has required special qualifications and experience. In 2021, there will be a marked shift away from the traditional full-service model and toward DIY in-house, with the help of agile research tools. Easy-to-use insights platforms and templated surveys will allow customer experience, marketing, and product teams to conduct their own research and share instantly digestible insights with stakeholders with the use of real-time dashboards.

In addition, researchers are no longer required to go to multiple vendors to complete a study with multiple needs. Centralized platforms that integrate a range of end-point solutions all within one ecosystem will make the management of market research easier for every stakeholder involved. For more tips on establishing your own DIY in-house market research program, check out this conversation with SurveyMonkey.  

Longitudinal Tracking 

Perhaps one of the most underrated – yet impactful – trends we see heading into 2021 is the increase in longitudinal research and tracking. This year, things tended to change drastically from one day to the next. Rather than continue to rely on yearly, quarterly, or even monthly pulses with ever-changing respondent sets, companies will further explore continuous research options that track the behaviors, attitudes, and experiences of the same group of respondents often and over time.

With the help of continuous research solutions like market research online communities (MROCs), researchers can conduct longitudinal studies that help them track even the slightest changes and pinpoint trends with their members. MROCs also grant researchers quicker turnarounds, because they have a group of trusted, research-ready participants who are excited to contribute their thoughts and co-create with the brand.

Online Qualitative Research 

A definite 2021 market research trend to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the proliferation of online qualitative research. Without the ability to run in-person focus groups, interviews, observations, and other qualitative research methods, researchers have had to migrate these activities online. Now that teams are experiencing the benefits and ease of virtual focus groups, these methods are quickly becoming a staple in every MR toolkit. 

With capabilities like a virtual waiting room, screen sharing, whiteboarding, and even a private backroom for observers and stakeholders, purpose-built solutions like Live by Fuel Cycle are destined to replace their traditional, in-person predecessors. In addition, the ability to moderate virtual discussions with a diverse audience not limited by geography is a truly game-changing plus.

Emotion Research 

One of the more fascinating market research trends for 2021, with great potential to change the industry forever, is the use of human perception AI to analyze complex human states. The ability to capture respondent emotions, based on facial and visual cues, will be extremely important going into 2021 and beyond.

While a survey question requires accurate and honest self-reporting on the participants’ behalf, emotional AI can read and categorize even the most subtle micro-expressions, detecting involuntary responses that participants themselves may not be fully conscious of or able to put words to. Fuel Cycle partner, Affectiva allows brands to collect unfiltered responses to ads, video, TV programming, and more, ultimately help brands form more mature insights.

Social listening  

Due to the ever-growing footprint of social media, it’s becoming increasingly important to monitor and derive sentiments from public, online conversations. And because social media is a highly emotive space, there is a broader, more colorful scope available to examine.

Using social listening to get to the root of ideas, behaviors, and macro and micro trends, researchers can isolate the data that matters most while keeping a pulse on other, more peripheral patterns that emerge over time. Because of this, social listening will become one of the biggest socio-cultural trends in marketing research and undoubtedly be a major element of future ethnographic research. Fuel Cycle partner, Talkwalker explains the important difference between social media listening and monitoring in their blog.

AI-assisted data collection 

Two common themes in CX that arose in 2020 are convenience and personalization. Using AI-assisted data collection methods is drastically improving research efficiency and efficacy for brands. By limiting human interactions and increasing point-of-experience research, there is a significantly greater chance of collecting the right data from the right people. It also allows teams to focus more on deriving insights from the data, rather than wasting time on the data collection itself.

AI-based sentiment analysis helps researchers collect and categorize insights from long-form and open-ended text-based data, without requiring a human team member to manually interpret it. Getting the right real-time data into the hands of the right stakeholders is quickly becoming a new success benchmark for research teams.

Wrap up 

2021 will be a big year for our industry, and we are excited to play a role in making market research accessible to everyone. For more information on Fuel Cycle’s continuous research and agile research platforms, or to discuss how to integrate emerging methodologies into your 2021 market research strategy, connect with one of our experts