person Guy Potter access_time December 16, 2019

Research Surveys: Annual Round-Up 2019

As we say goodbye to another year and indeed another decade, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how the past 12 months have shaped up in the world of research – the highs and lows, the good times and the not-so-good times!

The B word

Let’s get it out of the way first. Yes, Brexit. I don’t think there is any business in the UK that can say it’s had a smooth ride this year. Uncertainty around the possibility of a no-deal Brexit during quarters 1, 2 and 3 of 2019 shook business confidence with many business leaders saying they would reduce investment.

However, for the research world, the need for a better understanding of the Brexit climate via opinion or feedback surveys, has meant the industry has been kept busy.

We don’t see this busy period ending any time soon either. With the general election coming at the year’s end and still no consensus on how to implement Brexit, we think there will be a lot more surveys to be done.

The C-word

Like last year, consolidation continues apace. The research industry is still in flux and transition, so we think 2020 will continue to follow the same pattern.

Over the past couple of years, the large management consultancies have been on the acquisition trail in the marketing and research sectors, and this has pretty much stayed the same during 2019. In fact, Accenture acquired three data and insights companies this year alone.

In total, there have been around 16 merger or acquisition announcements of research houses this year. This has been partly due to the economic climate, but also down to the fact the industry is narrowing its focus.

Technology has the ability to do so much for the industry, but there can only be so many self-serve platforms or insight specialists, which means there isn’t enough room for everybody, so 2020 will be another year of consolidation.

It’s been scandal-less

The great news is that it’s been a bit quieter and a less scandalous year than 2018, where we had to deal with the likes of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This really did shake the industry, but we’ve clearly managed to steady the industry ship. It’s usually better for the research industry to fuel the news, not be the news.

GDPR rules changed in May 2018 so we have had a full year to see the effects. In the end, GDPR didn’t impact the research sector enormously as we are already well-versed in looking after customer data and privacy. However, what has been interesting this year is the way we negotiate the unclear field of tech advances and customer data.

The ICO recently announced they have hired a Data Ethics Advisor to help guide and steer them through these issues. With AI fast-emerging, there are more questions than answers on this area, so it’s no surprise they have made this hire.

We don’t think we’ve seen the last of the data protection issue either. Social media platforms, especially Facebook, still continue to be cagey about the data they have and what they can access.

2020 predictions

The great news is that 2019 has seen the research and data biz less embattled than in 2018. This resulted in a lot of reputation management for the industry, which luckily is now business as usual.

2020 is set to be another politically charged year, well the first half at least (we still don’t know when or even if Brexit will happen), so we’re still going to be working in an uncertain market, but hopefully there will be a much clearer political focus than there was in 2019.

As for data breaches or scandals, well, we can fairly confidently predict that data and privacy will be high in the news agenda and on people’s minds. As we mentioned earlier, social media is still finding its way through the data privacy maze and governments and public bodies are trying to adapt and adjust to these channels. Let’s cross our fingers that another major breach or scandalous use of powerful data technology does not land us in hot water.

One thing we do know is that it’s going to be an interesting 2020 and we at Maru/Usurv we will not just be observing but continuing to lead the way in the research field. Happy holidays, and here’s to a fresh new decade!

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.
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