The 2020 Challenge for Market Research

The start of 2020 feels a biggy – I can remember starting the last decade wondering what would be in store for The Focus Group as the tech industry was gearing up to take over the need for face to face research, at least that’s how it felt.  However thankfully, the need for qualitative face to face research remains a fundamental part of the research repertoire and I believe will continue to play an essential part in understanding mindsets and behaviour as we face the challenges of the next decade.

The next 10 years are likely to see some massive changes in terms of how we live, what we buy, what we eat, how we travel and how we influence government policy.

This past decade saw the emergence of a different type of consumer – of people wanting to be more active and ethical in their choices.  We blogged about this in April in our post The rise of the Active citizen. It is clear that this pattern will deepen and continue in this next decade.

This past year we have been especially aware of the ‘guilt trip’ of the consumer.  When discussing new products, packaging or advertising, conversations naturally steer toward sustainability.  People are aware of the need to change, even if they aren’t doing anything about it – their feeling of guilt when they admit some of their (non-sustainable) behaviours is evident.

 The role of research in sustainability

The dichotomy is that market researchers historically (and to be honest, currently) are in the game of encouraging people to buy more stuff.  So, what can we do in 2020 and beyond to be on the side of sustainability?

I think that as researchers we are in a strong position to help consumers and organisations talk to each other, to work together in figuring out the right messages and help galvanise people to make changes to their lifestyles and buying habits and to put pressure on politicians to make the changes that we as individuals can’t.

Brands and businesses need to help consumers to take this leap of change together.  If brands can take the guilty behaviours and give consumers better (and easy) options to change then this is a win win for everyone.  People need change to be convenient, so make it so, force the options, make the changes, channel the sustainable behaviours of the early adopters into campaigns, new packaging, better recycling, less energy wasting…etc…etc… And for those brands where there is already a more sustainable feature, make more of this to engage new consumers and reignite older ones.  It’s not just trains that are making most of this but who knew that  would be one of the most on-trend purchases.

Focus groups will continue to be a vital tool in helping facilitate conversations between consumers, businesses and politics. We are in the last chance saloon to implement radical changes to the way we live on this earth and we need to be able to look people in the eye, challenge what they say, interpret conversations into campaigns and have some difficult discussions to understand how businesses and consumers can truly work together as active citizens.


Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash