3 Market Research Trends to Watch in 2020

As we hit the halfway mark for 2020, the world looks vastly different than it did when the year began. 

Only six months into the year and we have already experienced a pandemic, a recession, civil unrest, and natural disasters. 


These global economic, health and cultural events will inevitably diffuse into the market research industry before we know it.

I have rounded up three of what I believe to be the most relevant market research trends of 2020 heading into the second half of the year. Keep reading to see how each will likely impact your business and market research strategies.

1. A Qualitative Comeback

For several years, it looked like traditional qualitative research methodologies were on their way out. In-person sessions like focus groups and on-site interviews were losing popularity as it was becoming harder to justify their high costs compared to online qualitative and quantitative options. 

This decline started to turn a corner as online adaptions of these in-person studies came to market. Consumers were becoming more comfortable with online interactions as technology companies innovated at a rapid pace.

Enter COVID-19 and the abrupt suspension of all in-person research. As tools like Zoom have suddenly become household brand names, online qualitative research appears more relevant than ever before.

Even as the world works to safely return to in-person gatherings, expect to see some behavioral shifts during the pandemic become permanent.

Online focus groups over teleconference software, one-on-one interviewing through IDI platforms, mobile ethnography, and online bulletin boards are just some of the methodologies that could experience growth. 

Here is a quick guide on how to conduct online qualitative research coming from in-person methodologies.

2. Be Ready to Adapt, and Adapt Quickly

Another continuing trend likely to accelerate throughout the rest of 2020 is agile market research.

It is probably safe to say that many research projects have not been conducted as planned over the past few months. For those who pushed forward with research efforts, adapting the research approach and timeline to the new circumstances became a necessity.

Businesses increasingly need knowledge from research quickly and often to keep up with customer trends.

Much decision-making today cannot afford a research project that requires over a month of archaic processes to complete. Results must be turned around in days in some cases to have any worth. 

Market research firms will be pressed by more clients to condense timelines, cut costs, and modify the scope on the fly. This will demand the use of automation and technology be as efficient as possible. At the same time, it must be easy to implement changes at each stage of the project. 

Full-service research firms will face increased competition from Do-it-yourself (DIY) and Do-it-together (DIT) research platforms. Research clients may turn to these platforms to take more ownership of the process and save money.

Full-service firms will have to respond with their own simplified solutions to handle urgent research needs from these types of clients.

Here are four pitfalls of DIY research you should consider before diving in.

3. Give a Reason for Participants to Trust

Trust in companies has unfortunately been eroding among consumers. After several high-profile cases of companies being hacked for customer data, security concerns are top-of-mind among shoppers.

Others fear their personal information will be sold to third parties if they share it online. 

The recent spread of misinformation online also contributes to skepticism as users click links and are asked to sign up for accounts. Credibility is becoming harder and harder to establish unless you are affiliated with a trusted brand.

This challenge is especially pertinent to market research. Thousands of studies every day collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including participant names, email addresses, and phone numbers.

This data is strictly used for research purposes like qualifying participants or notifying them about a study incentive they earned.

Nevertheless, not everyone is willing to trust the source. 

Market research firms will need to start doing a better job of communicating why participants can trust them with their data. One way to achieve this is through transparency in the study invitation and introduction.

You may see more detailed descriptions of what data will be collected and how the sponsor plans to use it.

Legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU or Data Protection Act 2018 in the UK have taken data privacy safeguards to the next level. These laws have given consumers the right to know, see, and remove their personal information collected by a business.

With calls for similar protections in the U.S., market research firms would be wise to get a head start on internal policies and procedures this year. 

Suffering from a poor online reputation? Look into Online Reputation Management (ORM) to intercept negative feedback before it becomes public and promote positive feedback.

Contact Drive Research 

Drive Research is a market research company in Syracuse, NY. Our team is always searching for the latest and greatest trends in the market research industry. Check out our market research services.

Ready to contact our team? Here are 4 ways to reach us:

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology. 

Learn more about Tim, here.


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