The rising role of research

Crispin Beale, Senior Strategic Advisor mTab, has been on the forefront of market research and consumer insight for over 25 years both on the enterprise and agency sides. He’s served both as an executive for leading brands like Chime Communications and BT and as a Representative of ESOMAR and a Board member of the Market Research Society.

Crispin Beale

Crispin is highly sought for his perspective and insight by an array of media outlets and writes regularly for Research World, Insights Association and Research Live, to name a few. 

We sat down with Crispin to get his perspective and insight on the state of market research and where it stands heading into 2021.

Q: You recently wrote two in-depth perspective pieces for Research World that were seemingly stark opposites and caused a bit of a stir. One was called ‘Demons in Your Data’ and the other ‘The 12 ‘Datas’ of Christmas.’ What motivated you to write these?

CB: Like most things there are light and dark sides of data. I think it is critical for businesses and brands to have a handle on both the benefits or gifts that data can deliver, on an ongoing basis, but also the  snares and pitfalls that can be posed which can derail success. The demons article really turned a lot of heads and I got a lot of feedback on how dark and intimidating it was –  that was largely the point! Businesses need to understand that they have a tremendous wealth of understanding available to them in the data streams within their technology stack and through outside research providers. However, whilst this can empower your team, it has to be used appropriately to be effective. This means avoiding the demons of bias, preconceived notions, inaccurate analysis and unsubstantiated sample sizes, amongst others.

Q: It seems that market research is elevating in many organizations and starting to take a more prominent role in many companies and even becoming more embraced in the C-Suite. What do you think is driving this?

CB: This process has been going on for several years and has really been driven by the digital age in which we live. This is delivering unprecedented volumes and varieties of data on your company, customer and competitors from a spectrum of sources. However, the COVID pandemic has been the catalyst that has accelerated the increased need for research and insight. The pace of change amongst consumers continues to accelerate at an incredible rate. I wrote about this for the Insights Association in a piece called The Evolutions and Elevation of Evidence. This piece goes into how the typical brand can navigate these challenging waters to deliver relevance and effectively motivate customers. The key to it all is data-driven understanding. This is largely why market research and customer insights are getting a seat at the senior table in an increasing number of businesses.

Q: Where do you see the state of market research going from here?
CB: I have talked and written a lot about the need for speed and accuracy of evidence in today’s ever more challenging business environment.. So, the approach and methodology of research will continue to evolve and shift to fit these needs, but more fundamentally, the elements of decisions, strategies, engagements and innovations have to be built on a foundation of solid evidence. I think a major paradigm shift that will emerge is in the accessibility of data and information. For years there has been talk about data silos across the typical business. I would argue that there are similar data silos across typical industries. You have an array of research providers who have a wealth of knowledge in their findings, but the structure of their models forces brands to pick specific silos in lieu of the complete, diverse perspectives on consumers and markets. I think we’ll begin to see this change.