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Looking into the Future of Insights: The Women of the GRIT Future List


February 22, 2019

The GRIT Report, now in its 24th Edition, has been a foundational text for so many in the market research community, offering a comprehensive glimpse into the who, what, when, and where of our industry. This year, Greenbook and Zappi teamed up to add extra focus on the up-and-coming movers and shakers of market research, recognizing sixteen rising stars whose leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, and passion for excellence is making a measurable mark on the expanding insights universe. Receiving hundreds of nominations, Greenbook’s GRIT Future List judging panel settled on sixteen finalists—10 of whom are women. WIRe’s mission to arm women in the mr industry with the tools to develop professionally, build connections and stay inspired mirrors our community’s belief in the transformative power of women in business. In light of this year’s inaugural GRIT Future List, we wanted to know what the female honorees—the future leaders of insights! —predict at the horizon of a changing market research paradigm…so we asked!

An Outspoken Audience Will Need an Evolving Methodology

A number of honorees called for methodological innovation in response to an ever-changing and developing communication landscape. Twitter’s Head of UK Ad Research Sara Picazo is excited by societal shifts toward action and taking a stand and wonders how this trend might shape survey format and participation in research activities. She emphasizes that, “as researchers, we are going to have to become more conscious of the people behind our insights, how they want to take part, and how to make it a rewarding experience for them. We can’t uncover insights without them, however much data we may end up having at our fingertips.”

Founder and COO of MMR LIVE Tricia Houston reiterates this idea, suggesting that the research experience of our future, “will consider the complete end-to-end experience in the context of all brand touchpoints. It will embrace collaboration. It will simply let people talk.” Houston stresses that the research experience is often designed with the researcher, and not the respondent, in mind and that more human-centric tactics that meet respondents where they are will result in “authentic feedback, sound strategy, seamless brand experiences, highly engaged brand fans, and a marketing research industry with a permanent seat at the proverbial table.” Picazo echoes this idea that the key to unlocking the true value of research lies in better understanding respondents themselves, noting that, “as more and more data becomes available to organizations, it’s going to be more important to know what do with it and provide that necessary context to make it useful!”

Commoditized Insights for a Tech-Forward World

Dstillery’s Chief Data Scientist Melinda Williams neatly sums up the interweaving of tech and daily life, noting that “today, most consumers use multiple devices throughout each day, leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs that offer tiny windows into their motivations and interests.” Buyer Brain’s CEO and Chief Neuroscientist Ana Iorga confirmed this sentiment, forecasting that, “In the next few years, MR is going to become more commoditized, relying more on technology than on human interaction.” She locates this turn in how audiences engage with technology—the “rich and diverse steams of data” generated as younger generations spend more of their day on screen is “an accurate image of the customers’ overt behaviors” waiting to be tapped. Similarly, she notes that tools and techniques measuring covert behavior like facial coding and biometrics will continue to grow, “as companies understand that they need to remove the declarative and cognitive biases in order to get reliable and accurate data that can be trusted.”

Both agree that, with an increasingly digital lifestyle, data collection will become a more passive exercise. Williams notes that AI technologies already exist that, “understand and predict consumer behavior, and can marry observed and reported data without relying on any one data source […] the combination of these factors creates a greenfield of opportunity in marketing research, an industry where these techniques have yet to be fully applied at scale.” On the same note, CEO of Campus Sonar Liz Gross concedes that “data is the most powerful commodity in modern society, and insight professionals must continue to push the boundaries of data collection, analysis, and dissemination” but is quick to remind that collecting data is just the first step; “more data that isn’t effectively analyzed to produce actionable insights benefits no one.”

A Changing Data Pool, A Changing Industry

Many of the women of the GRIT Future list turned their attention to the MR industry and its practices. SKIM’s Director of Research Remy Denton hopes for “a refocusing on MR talent development and leadership.” She notes that, in an increasingly global world, “recruiting, retaining, mentoring and leading insights-driven MR professionals will be one of the highest and most important set of skills we can have. The companies and teams with the best coaches will win.” Generation1.ca’s Arundati Dandapani takes this a step further, arguing that, “as demographics and population rates flux, it is imperative that researchers, businesses, non-profits, and governing bodies achieve new levels of hyperconnectivity and hypercommunity for a seamless synthesis of ideas and recommendations grounded in real-time context. It’s not just about more and better AI, but also about fostering superior human-moments and divergent viewpoints to tackle a range of problems successfully.”

Gross feels that firms should diversify to host both research experts and industry experts so that their research “can be more closely aligned with business and organizational objectives” and she doesn’t limit this tactic to just market research. “I think an approach like this,” she notes, “can benefit many industries with a well-defined set of common business problems and audience characteristics. Boutique firms can develop a strong focus while remaining nimble and adapting to change.” To this point Dandapani urges for “unprecedented levels of plurality and collaboration, gently superseding or tipping over old monopolies,” saying that “we must strive to raise the profile of an ever-changing industry through diverse publications and a focus on knowledge ecosystems, networks, and multi-modality relying on an ‘optimal’ mix of tech, human-tech and human intelligence, to archive our progress and learnings for the future.”

Williams wants to see the research industry change “more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 70.” Why? “Because right now, all the pieces are in place for the industry to take full advantage of a range of technologies.” With its focus on new ideas and methodologies, the GRIT Report has always heeded this call of equipping and empowering researchers with the latest innovations and the GRIT Futures List is no exception. In regard to this newest edition to the GRIT Report oeuvre, Greenbook’s Executive Editor and Producer Lenny Murphy notes, “We’re so proud to have the honor of recognizing these leaders of the industry. I can’t wait to see the lasting mark that each of these rising professionals makes on our future.” The honorees of the GRIT Futures List are undeniable proof that, when predicting the future of insights, the impacts and innovations from today’s rising Women in Research will be shaping the industry beyond our wildest imaginations for years—and GRIT Reports—to come. To see the full GRIT Future List, download your free copy of the GRIT Report here.

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