Market research is a rapidly evolving space. Artificial intelligence is completely reshaping what’s possible, by who and the skills researchers need to bring the most value to their work and themselves. With the help of findings from the 2024 Qualtrics Research Trends report, here we look at the major trends in a changing landscape, and the skills that are most in demand.
The market research landscape in 2024
In a growth-obsessed business world, good market research is the key to responding fastest, creating a competitive advantage and converting potential into success.
And today, fueled by artificial intelligence (AI), the world of market research is evolving at an unprecedented rate.
It’s no surprise that, according to the latest Qualtrics Research Trends report, the value of good research is higher than it has ever been. It’s equally unsurprising that investment in market research is very much on the rise.
Every year, we ask thousands of researchers from across the globe about their experiences to understand how the market is shifting and create the annual Qualtrics Research Trends report. Here are the four main trends we discovered for 2024.
1. Succeeding in the AI revolution is paramount
As sophisticated AI has become an accessible, everyday tool for workers and businesses, its application to market research – generating rich insights from mountains of qualitative and quantitative data in the blink of an eye – has become abundantly clear.
AI has lept from a helpful tool to an integral component of market research, and it’s reshaping the research landscape.
We’re seeing it used to analyze multi-source (qualitative and quantitative) research to generate insights, transform raw findings into marketing strategies, and drive new efficiencies through AI-driven survey reviews that are preventing data-damaging question types or structures.
Our research found that 47% of researchers globally are already using AI in their day-to-day work, and 92% are confident that they understand how to apply AI to research activities. Despite the ‘AI will steal your job’ narrative persisting, most researchers (87%) feel overwhelmingly strong about their job security.
Market research is ripe for AI innovation; it’s an ideal starting point for companies to see what AI-fueled innovation looks like. The race is now focused on how to leverage AI tools to generate the best results.
2. Digital qual is taking over
Digital qualitative research has fast become a popular route for researchers searching for deeper, more nuanced feedback from more people in a cost-effective way. In fact, 87% of researchers say that most or an equal amount of their qualitative research is currently conducted remotely or online vs. in-person.
But how did we get here? There are two key trends that have driven this transition.
On one hand, conducting comprehensive research via traditional methods, like in-person focus groups and large-scale surveys, has become a pain point for market research analysts – it can be slow, labor-intensive and expensive. On the other is the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced researchers to adopt digital-first approaches out of necessity – and saw consumers accept digital interactions as standard enmasse.
As digital qualitative technology evolves at a rapid pace, market research teams are retooling and restructuring to embrace both in-person and online research methods as the demand to collect data in a contactless, remote way grows.
Our research shows that cost effectiveness is the primary benefit of digital qual, but there are many more: increased geographical diversity, faster time to insights, increased accessibility and better reach of target audience are the other key drivers.
3. Data quality is becoming even more important
Behind every good decision lies good quality data – this has always been clear, but as consumers and technology evolve, it has become increasingly difficult to capture.
AI’s impact on market research is immense but it’s not necessarily all positive: it’s no coincidence that rising issues with quality data have coincided with the rise of generative technology like ChatGPT. 43% of respondents in the 2024 Qualtrics Research Trends report say identifying and/or preventing AI-generated responses is a challenge when collecting data using online providers.
But there’s a flip side to this issue, and AI is of course at the center of it once again. While data quality is at risk from AI, it can also be maintained and improved by it. AI can be used to automatically flag issues, like respondents who completed surveys too quickly or open-ended questions that contain nonsensical answers, and intelligently comb through thousands of data points far more efficiently and effectively than a data analyst can.
However they get there, the organizations that prioritize a relentless pursuit of data excellence will be best prepared to make strategic, data-driven decisions.
4. The skills gap is widening
While we’re definitely seeing market researchers adopt AI and learn new AI-focused skills, the pace at which they’re developing these skills is lagging behind the speed at which the technology itself is evolving. According to our data, a third of researchers globally say they outsource projects because their teams don’t have the research skills to manage them internally.
Although AI appears to be widening the skills gap, yet again it can also be the solution to it. Skills development can’t come without the capacity to learn, and AI-powered automation can take on repetitive manual tasks better than ever before – freeing up valuable time for upskilling.
5 market research skills organizations are prioritizing in 2024
The research industry is in a state of significant change. We’re seeing a rapid adoption of new technologies, which is in turn reshaping the skills required for success.
But while new skills are highly valuable, it’s important to not neglect the timeless skills that will be sought after in current and future market research analysts.
As we delve into the top five research skills organizations are prioritizing in 2024, we recommend that you complete a quick skills audit. Determining where your strengths and weaknesses are, what you know and what you don’t, will give you the clarity to understand how you can become a more well-rounded – and employable – researcher or market research analyst.
Starting this list with what is now arguably the most crucial skill today.
AI is being applied at all stages of the research lifecycle, from quality assurance checks on surveys to spot biases to data cleaning, analyzing video from in-person qualitative research to creating highlight reels and shareable results. So, while broadly having good “AI skills” is certainly the way forward now, in the very near future the onus will be on specializing in specific components of AI-driven research.
Our recommendation is that you infuse AI into everything you do and go from there. The exponential growth of data and advanced AI tools makes knowing and understanding them essential for staying competitive in a data-driven market.
Safe to say, nothing is more central to career growth in market research right now than knowing how best to apply AI.
Statistical analysis skills
From new skills to those that will always be in demand.
Statistical analysis skills comprise the likes of statistical modeling, data collection strategies, data visualization and presentation, reconfiguration, Excel, R, SAS, Python – the list goes on. A timeless necessity, solid statistical techniques create the ability to interpret and manipulate data, and identify patterns and trends. In the Big Data era, the ability to distill meaningful information from vast datasets is more critical than ever for effective decision-making.
As researchers and organizations double-down on technologies, honing your statistical data analysis skills as a foundational competency can truly set you apart.
Digital qualitative skills
As digital qualitative research takes center stage, the broad collection of skills required to maximize it have become highly sought after.
Digital qualitative skills encompass designing, conducting and analyzing data from online interviews, focus groups and various other digital qual methods. It’s an umbrella term that also includes prospecting, designing research programs, crafting proposals, managing relationships and identifying target audiences. The main complexity, however, is that all of these skills must of course be done remotely.
A significant portion of researchers (36%) report difficulties in establishing the same level of rapport with participants online as in face-to-face settings. From communication skills to critical thinking, and becoming well-versed in all things consumer behavior, developing the core competencies to mitigate the challenges of online-only interactions is essential for any market researcher.
Data integration skills
This one is particularly important for modern organizations using digital technologies for market research. Data integration, on any research project, can be very complex – especially if market researchers are pulling and interpreting data from multiple sources.
Data integration skills are also essential for closing experience gaps, something that every organization is prioritizing.
The best researchers have a thorough understanding of how to extract information and combine data sets without compromising data quality. They’ll also understand how to structure APIs, use spreadsheets, model data, use statistical analytics programs and coding languages, and more. Of course, with newer market research platforms, much of this can be done with ease.
Automation has become vital in streamlining market research.
Automation skills enable researchers to use AI and machine learning for tasks like data analysis and report formatting, freeing them up for more strategic work. By mastering automation, researchers are better positioned to adapt to new trends and methodologies, ensuring their work remains relevant and impactful.
Developing automation skills isn’t just about understanding and using tools; it’s about reshaping the role of the market researcher to be more efficient and adaptable, and creating capacity for in-depth market research analysis and strategy development.
The importance of getting the basics right
In the fast-evolving field of market research, where cutting-edge technologies and advanced technical skills are often spotlighted, the importance of mastering the basics can’t be overstated. The foundation of effective market and marketing research lies in getting the basics right.
It's essential to not lose sight of fundamentals like survey best practices, interview skills and well-researched questions. These basics are the cornerstone of accurate data collection and ensure the clarity and relevance of the research. They are vital for engaging the right audience and for the effective analysis and interpretation of data.
While advanced technologies and skills are crucial, they should enhance, not overshadow, the foundational aspects of market research.
Embracing platformification in market research in 2024
In today's fast-paced market, having the right technology is crucial, just as much as having the right skills. The future of market research is "Platformification”, integrating various tools into a unified platform. This approach isn't about accumulating disparate solutions; it's about creating a cohesive system that enhances the capabilities of researchers at all skill levels.
Platformification streamlines research methods, data sources and analytics into a single, accessible platform. It allows for quick sharing of insights through tailored dashboards, offering both basic and complex analyses suitable for different roles.
For market researchers, this shift is transformative. It elevates their role from being reactive data analysts to proactive strategists, enabling on-demand insights and strategic recommendations across the buyer’s journey.
While fundamental research skills remain essential, platformification can expand the researcher's value and the impact they create.
How can we help
In a highly competitive business world – with disruptive new entrants more empowered than ever before – researchers need smarter, faster research solutions to stay ahead of the game.
Qualtrics® Strategic Research is an end-to-end research platform that brings together both quantitative and qualitative methods and AI-powered analytics to uncover insights at scale.
- Collect, analyze, share and act on insights from a variety of qualitative methods, including video feedback, video diary studies and in-depth interviews
- Leverage pre-built customisable projects, programs and dashboards
- Automate advanced statistical analyses including Conjoint and MaxDiff
- Easily build profiles, segments, and proprietary panels and reach out on the right channels through personalized targeting
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