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Transforming Vision Into Reality: Women of the GRIT Future List

May 3, 2021

The third annual GRIT Future List — released in January of this year — recognizes this year’s rising stars in the expanding Insights universe. Our partners at GreenBook received hundreds of nominations, sifting through a wide array of roles, research expertise, disciplines, and accolades to honor outstanding future thought leaders. Who better to ask the opinions of when it comes to the emergent tools that will shape the future of the Industry?

Market Research is on a collision course with industry-adjacent technologies and methodologies and, in turn, a rich potential for better, faster, and more holistic Insights stands in front of us. We ask the women of the GRIT Future List to weigh in on what tools, ideas, industry trends, and ancillary technologies will be hallmarks of Market Research in the years to come. Here’s what they had to say:

(Virtual) Reality Check

The quick shift to remote research imposed by pandemic restrictions inadvertently laid a pathway for a different kind of research tool: virtual reality tech. Katrin Krüger, Senior Project Director at Happy Thinking People, thinks there’s use for this methodology beyond quarantine: “I think we’ll see a lot more VR and AR technology being used in product, design and UX testing in the future. Last year I presented a case study together with our client Electrolux on a mix of VR and classic qualitative research. We showed how the combination worked extremely well, with a huge boost for both efficiency and effectiveness. VR takes the pain out of many steps in the whole process — in logistics notably. It reduces costs, and facilitates easy-to-manage virtual in-store modelling. But it adds a lot too: the sessions were really playful, participants were highly engaged, the overall experience was immersive, outputs rich and valuable.”

The Role of Researcher, Redefined

Maya Kantak, Consumer Insight Manager at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, sees emergent technology not just as a means of driving methodological change, but as a catalyst that is redefining the role of Insights professionals at large. “Technology will drive an inherent change in what it means to be an MRX professional,” she shares. “As data collection becomes more passive and automated research tools are adopted, storytelling and strategic consulting will become differentiators that ensure market research continues to provide value–not just data. Though industry technology is currently moving faster than its uptake, adoption is becoming critical to respond to needs for quicker insights in the midst of accelerated change and reduced budgets. With all this in mind, I see the MRX community of tomorrow pushing the boundaries of our profession, with a refreshed skillset and a renewed focus on using insights to ignite action.”

“In MRX and beyond, data is accumulating faster than individual training in data literacy,” Lauren Murphy, Director, Research Scientist at LRW, a Material Company, adds. “The insights hidden within this data are typically limited to those with specialized training and technology. In the coming years, increased data literacy across the industry will democratize access to insights-rich resources to help uncover the answers to questions we didn’t know to ask. Importantly, when paired with complementary data sources and behavioral-science driven thinking, the insights hidden in big data can help us paint a more holistic picture of what consumers want beyond their self-reported attitudes and preferences."

Innovations Abound

Our GRIT Futures honorees don’t see innovation as an end point, but as a necessary process in the evolution of the industry. “The most creative minds of our industry would continue to push the envelope of innovation of research tech: wider range of strong Quant-Qual hybrid tools, healthier sampling options, more inclusive methodologies,” Laarni Paras, Research Manager at Sklar Wilton & Associates, states. “Inclusion is also key to innovation. Inclusion brings to the organization different perspectives - a new way of 'seeing' and doing things.  Additionally - when we feel welcomed and safe in the workplace, when we are allowed to fail forward and take risks - the more ideas we can bring to the table. Risk aversion stifles growth and kills innovation.”

Manuela Isliker, Technology Insights Manager at Colgate-Palmolive, offers us a breakdown of the methods to most look out for. “My view is that the next couple of years will continue to be about a few things,” she offers. “Experience Measurement - more and more advanced online tools capable of capturing and evaluating every detail of people's experience and behavior. Foresight has also been a big focus, as AI is constantly improving the tools to predict the future. And third, blockchain being explored for companies as a way of building a deeper relationship with people (i.e products traceability). From the Insights perspective, this exchange will allow more level of detail on people's data, from profile and expectations to explore.”

Melissa Ferere, Director for Globant, urges professionals to consider opportunities where innovation can apply not just to the research process, but can aid in better supporting the business case for Research overall: “In order to prevent research from becoming a ‘nice to have,’ insights professionals need to get creative about showcasing the necessity of robust studies. Researchers will need tools that are more captivating than traditional PowerPoints to visually demonstrate the nuances and evolving needs of diverse users and connect them to relevant metrics — e.g revenue, earned media, etc. This can also help bring more ethical considerations into the forefront by highlighting positive and negative impacts of products on individuals and society overall with tangible consequences. Therefore we can tell a story to justify investments, align value / incentives and embed research more meaningfully throughout product development.”

Centering the Humanity of Research

The future of Insights is as equally full of emergent tech as it is an important constant: real people. Lynzie Riebling, VP, Insights & Strategy at REVOLT TV shares that, “I personally cannot wait for the day we’re able to ‘pop in’ on consumers globally at the drop of a dime (ok fine, it’s probably going to cost more than a dime but we’ll get the costs sorted eventually...) I’ve always been a huge proponent of innovation and incorporating future technology in research, but there has to be a human element to it as well. Forming a connection with someone on a human level is key to uncovering rich insight, and while IRL is still my preferred form of in-depth research… innovations in tech like this open up possibilities to new methodologies and outcomes we never thought possible before.“ Manuela Isliker agrees, and reminds fellow researchers to “keep improving and applying your human touch skills — remember that everything starts with empathy and there is still no machine as powerful as the human brain & heart to apply it!”

What does the future of Insights look like to the rest of #MRX? Let us know by tagging @WomeninResearch on social media or using #WomeninResearch to weigh in. Thank you Greenbook and to all of the contributors for this piece!

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