Research companies are showing a new level of enthusiasm for gathering insights digitally. Much of it’s due to the pandemic, but it made good business sense even before.
The ‘new normal’ in research
The pandemic has forced many sectors of the insight industry to speed up their existing digitalization programs or even adopt online methods for the first time.
This is the conclusion of Manny Rodriguez, Global Director of New Business at Forsta. He’s noted how research companies that used to reject digital methods are now embracing the technology for the first time – in place of in-person interviews, qualitative groups or ethnography.
Foresight caught up with Manny, who’s just blogged his reflections on the strangeness of industry events post-Covid. He talks about adjusting to the new normal of socially distanced business meetings and links this to some surprising changes that are defining the new normal for research.
“Just thinking about bringing strangers into a room to talk about products, or an interviewer sitting on the sofa in someone’s living room – people aren’t ready for that yet. That has and will continue to limit the options for research for some time. I don’t want to call it a metamorphosis, but we’re seeing something of a transition in our industry where a reluctance to explore new technologies has been broken down.”Manny Rodriguez, Global Director of New Business, Forsta
Necessity as the mother of digitization
In the early stages of the pandemic, researchers had to cancel their projects or put them on hold. According to a recent report from industry body ESOMAR, initial losses were short-lived. Globally, research revenues in 2020 mostly matched those from 2019, with modest 1% growth. Not all parts of the world recovered during 2020 – the deficit persisted in some. But the USA managed to grow by 4% and Europe by 2%.
Businesses soon realized they needed research to understand how to work in a changed world. Research projects were unfrozen, and within months companies were approaching Forsta for the tech that would help them to adapt and survive. And this wasn’t just happening in the more obvious areas, like digital qual, but across the entire range of solutions.
ESOMAR’s report shows strong growth in interest and investment in technology across the industry, post-Covid. But it warns that “the divide between more established, more ‘traditional’ research companies and tech and digitally enhanced solutions continues to widen”.
Manny says the answer for this is simple: companies must think about where technology can most reduce the effort and cost of their research. This could include using tech to bring together their qual and quant streams, or by communicating data in more visual ways, rather than conventional, lengthy reports.
“We’ve been helping clients to understand and see the value in their technology as a whole – not as disparate pieces or things that need to be tackled on their own. Because one will naturally feed into the other. I think the pandemic has probably made folks a lot more aware that something like this could very well happen again. And like Covid, that something will be very, very unexpected.”Manny Rodriguez, Global Director of New Business, Forsta
Companies need the right tools to be resilient
Many companies came to Forsta for help in the early stages of the pandemic. Manny believes some of these companies wouldn’t still be around today if they hadn’t embraced new technology.
He’s proud that Forsta proved to be a safe haven for users during such an unpredictable period, so full of unexpected challenges. The Forsta platform performed without any incidents and without need for any modification.
But Manny feels the research industry is still learning lessons about how pivotal it is to have the right technology when you want your firm to become more resilient.
Read Manny Rodriguez’s blog “What we’ve learned going around the world with Quirks” here.
ESOMAR Evolution of the Data, Analytics and Insights Industry, a forecast into 2020
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