Highlights of Esomar Congress 2018

Attending ESOMAR Congress is a great way to take the pulse of the global market research industry – and not a bad way to renew relationships with friends, colleagues, clients, and frenemies alike. The event always aims to showcase diverse perspectives – both geographically and methodologically – and this year’s event in Berlin was no exception. It’s a bit of a daunting task to try to distill a conference like this into a few themes, but here is my attempt to cull a few observations of what I found compelling.

Seeing the Big Picture

It’s always good to be able to get out of the trees enough to see the forest. Ray Poynter walked through data that elucidates the state of the industry, including that the average price of studies is going down, margins are being squeezed, and clients are wanting more (without wanting to pay in a timely manner!), while highlighting opportunities for researchers as well. While industry trends are key, keeping up with consumer trends is fundamental to the industry because, as is often forgotten, people underpin everything we do. Melanie Courtright from Research Now SSI shared how following and reacting to key trends such as those relating to privacy, data sharing, and media consumption help us to conduct better research. She also pointed out the importance of expanding data sets for more accurate sample audience identification and the ability to track marketing activities across marketing disciplines.

Speed and Agility

Hearing about the need for faster and more efficient research is nothing new. But when BV Pradeep, Global Vice President – Consumer & Market Insight – Market Clusters, tells how Unilever is going directly to consumers to quickly gather their opinions and act on them, we should listen. He was not alone in displaying how many of the new research tools that are being built are focused on both speed and agility. Most of them are also being developed with UX in mind, making the research process more approachable for both researchers and non-researchers alike, as questions bubble to the surface about the value of middlemen in the research process. Samplify from Research Now SSI is one example of an agile, user friendly tool that enables researchers to get the answers they need quickly, but without compromising on quality – for both data and survey questions. Innovative solutions such as Samplify are helping researchers to rise to increasing client demands.

Data Integration

Integrating data from various sources has been an ongoing and worthy theme at conferences this year, with Congress being no exception. The fact that we have more data at our disposal now than ever is, well, a fact, and presents both challenges and opportunities for researchers. Several presentations showed how data sources of many shapes and sizes – quant/qual, big/small, internal/external, for example – are being brought together to better accomplish objectives. Researchers are looking to leverage not just their own data sources but also additional data sets that allow for more impactful results. Also, many AI-driven tools need very large data sets – a high volume of data to inform accurate automated decisions. We have anticipated this trend with our integrated data solutions and we continue to build out our data partnerships.

Results Matter

While one of the reasons to attend Congress, and events like it, is to see what is new and different and what innovations will make an imprint on the industry, it is also great to see research that really makes an impact. The presentations on how research makes an impact are always inspiring. Further, it is great to see what happens when research powers change makes a grand business impact. Kantar TNS and McDonald’s shared (in a very creative manner) how research was able to help McDonald’s push through significant cultural and societal resistance to their business and help to reestablish the brand in Malaysia. And the winner of the Research Effectiveness Award, won by New Zealanders Ross Delaney of Paymark and Shaun Fitzgibbon of TRA, revealed how something that may seem run of the mill, in this case a B2B segmentation, can have far reaching impact for a business. It’s hard to not feel inspired seeing research done at its best.

With another Congress in the books, now it’s time to take the inspiration back to our desks and figure out how we can improve our research, our businesses, and as Vanessa Oshima so poignantly reminded us, ourselves.