As we emerge from a highly disruptive year, many brands are still reeling from the realisation that the world can transform in the blink of an eye. For example, 59% of consumers are more open to trying a new product than they were pre-COVID (Figaro Digital).1
In a consumer market that changes at breakneck speed, with unknowns around every corner, brands face immense pressure to keep pace with the rapid shifts in consumers’ needs, desires, and behaviours.
Now more than ever, brands require market research solutions which deliver real-time insights to stay on top of ever-changing consumer sentiments. Insights are the new currency for business leaders, and research that captures consumer sentiment and behaviours in real time will create a competitive edge. Best-practice marketing organisations are devoting 30% of their budgets to technology platforms (Gartner Annual CMO Spend Survey). 2 Similar to the way entertainment industries have adopted ‘on demand’, we are now experiencing the shift towards ‘always-on’ research. A shift that will change the role of research for brands moving forward.
RESEARCH TAKES A SEAT AT THE TABLE
Traditionally, research has lagged behind marketing’s footsteps in speed, technology investment, and research and development strategy. Efficiency is key for marketers, which is why they spend up to 30% of their annual budget on technology to drive maximum efficiency. 77% of insights professionals report feeling budget pressure and many (54%) look to automation to help drive value and time efficiency (Greenbook GRIT Q3 2020). 3
That means that taking days, weeks, or months to complete actionable research reports simply won’t work. Now, with the digitisation of research and the implementation of cutting-edge technologies, research is finally able to keep pace with marketing and advertising departments while matching their agility and flexibility.
As real-time insights become the norm, executives are placing a new emphasis on research as a critical business function. In an ever-changing market, real- time insights are not a ‘nice to have’; they have become an absolute necessity for brands to get an accurate picture of consumers in that exact moment, allowing them to make swift business decisions in a quick and timely manner.
FROM PROJECT-BASED TO ‘ON DEMAND’
Times are changing. Traditional project-based research simply no longer meets brands’ needs. This past year has reinforced the notion that brands must engage with consumers in real-time, all the time; the pandemic affected the way brands operate and consumers showed us that they can change their behaviour at any moment. Because of this, the research model of tomorrow must be fast, easy, and flexible so that brands stay on top of customers’ opinions as they change.
This business need for real time insights will ultimately reduce the need for project-based, one-off research. Instead, ResearchTech that captures what consumers feel, think, and do in real time, in collaboration with strong MarTech and AdTech, will prove essential for brands to inform their digital strategy and evolve to remain relevant. With the use of real-time insights, brands will be able to stay one step ahead and tweak their brand message as consumer sentiment shifts.
‘Always-on’ research isn’t just a buzzword. The insights derived from real-time research have substantial business benefits; this not only provides a window into the minds of consumers which can be accessed on demand, but this cutting-edge, digital, ‘always- on’ research improves ROI. And more than simply increasing the ROI of research itself, having access to real-time insights will ultimately also improve the ROI of marketing and advertising, alerting brands to any shifts in consumer sentiment and allowing them to adjust campaigns in real time.
As more organisations recognise the measurable business impacts of always-on research, and savvy leaders recognise its tangible business value, research will hold an even more important role in the strategy room.
RESEARCH OF THE FUTURE
It’s clear that today’s brands must move away from a legacy, static research model to ensure they stay relevant and meet evolving customer requirements. We have found in our proprietary research that quality, global reach, targeting, and speed are the four key buying factors for online consumer audiences. Consumer sentiment and behaviour has always been a moving target – but we must realise that the – pandemic accelerated that pace, and if brands want to respond and remain relevant, they need the right insights to adjust and adapt their strategy in real time. This is a make-or-break moment for brands, and they must leverage all the tools available to them to stay ahead of the pack – and constant, real-time access to critical insights will mean the difference between innovation and stagnation.
‘Always-on’ research is not only revolutionising and transforming the way brands gain consumer insights; it has become a critical business tool. Brands must stay one step ahead of consumers with real-time insights – or risk being left on the shelf.
 A Year in Review: The Ever-changing 2020 Consumer, and Planning for 2021, Figaro Digital.  The State of Marketing Budgets 2021, Insights From Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey, Gartner.  GRIT Report: Business and Innovation Edition 2021, GreenBook.