It’s the time of year again, in which we tend to look back at what has been, and look forward to what will happen. Looking at this from a professional angle, 2010 was a very interesting year for the industry: research vendors bounced back from the recession, there was an increased focus on added value, and we saw a lot of innovation happening. In our report Predictions 2011: What Will Happen In Market Research, my team and I have identified a number of trends that we expect to shape market research in 2011.

Organization, technology, and social are defining the research agenda in 2011. In fact, in 2011 market researchers need to embrace social media as an information source, recognize technology as a driver of change while understanding how to implement it effectively, and continue to identify and integrate innovative methodologies to prepare for the future ahead. This will drive, for example, the following trends:

  • The industry should coalesce around a long-term vision for the profession. The past year saw some lively debates about how market research professionals have to prepare themselves for the future. In fact, there was even a debate over whether or not market research would still exist as a profession in 20 years’ time. To continue to stay relevant, client-side market researchers need to take on the task of redefining the role their departments play in the business. Some questions they’ll be addressing: What will be the vision, mission, and values of the team? How will the team collaborate with other departments internally? Which technologies does the team need to own to prepare for the future? Who will the team support and how?
  • Market research will act as the social conscience of the organization. With social media currently owning many organizations’ PR agendas, it’s really easy for market research departments to be firefighting for a living, responding to each social media outburst. But the real question market research should answer is this: How damaging are these outbursts to the organization? Is the uproar about a genuine problem with the product, or just hype? In fact, in 2011 market researchers will focus on how to make sense of all the chatter that’s already happening on social networks, integrate social intelligence into their research, report these insights into the organization, and uncover major issues before these actually hit the groundswell.
  • Technology will help the market research team to build a central knowledge house. Market research departments need to start using technologies that will make it easier to analyze large amounts of data and find meaningful patterns across sources, through knowledge discovery tools such as data and text mining and analytic software. In 2011 market researchers will spend more of their time on understanding how technology can help them with their vision, mission, and values moving forward.

Other trends we're covering in the Predictions 2011: What Will Happen In Market Research report are around emerging methodologies and how they’ll gather interest with client-side market researchers (although we don’t expect them to spend much money on it yet). We also expect a new wave of DIY uptake that, because of the broad capabilities of the offerings, will support the whole organization, not just market research departments.

Do you agree? What other trends do you foresee for next year? We'd love to hear your thoughts on what will happen in 2011 in our industry.

We wish you a merry X-mas and a Happy New Year; may all your (market research) wishes come true!