Op ed: What to expect in the world of research in 2021

After one of the most unparalleled and unpredictable years in recent history, Toluna's Sej Patel outlines key market research trends for 2021.

The only constant for brands now is change. And while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create disruption across the board, we expect to see businesses continue to move at breakneck speed throughout 2021.

Real-time Data 

This increased pace of business is driving the need for agility and speed to action, meaning that quick, data driven decisions need to be made in order for brands to have a voice. Market research powered by new advancements in technology focused on agility and real-time data collection will be key – because if brands are unable to get data in a timely manner, they’re going to miss keeping consumers front and centre of their decisions.

Bite sized research

In addition to an accelerated need for real-time insights, we also expect to see an increased frequency of research. With consumer sentiments constantly changing and evolving, one or two big, in-depth research pieces are no longer going to be insightful. 2021 will see businesses break up their research into smaller, bite sized chunks, with research going to field more frequently. This will not only give businesses access to the most up-to-date consumer data, it will also allow them to spot changing trends and pin-point shifts in consumer sentiment against major events and breaking news.

Online qual is here to stay

2020 has seen the emergence of online qual research. The pandemic and social distancing requirements has meant face to face discussion groups were no longer possible, driving qualitative research online. For brands, qualitative research has always been important but has traditionally taken a backseat due to time and budget constraints. Now, brands have had a taste of online qual and we don’t think it’s going anywhere in 2021. Not only do we expect to see the continued rise of online qual, but may finally see a true integration with qual and quant research, giving brands both real-time data and cost effective qual insights.

Brand Loyalty: a quest for relevance

Brand loyalists are an increasingly rare breed. With consumers growing ever more fickle, 2020 has pushed brands to their limits. As we move into 2021 and beyond, it’s imperative that brands continually adapt and change in order to remain relevant. Knowing exactly what customers want and when they want it in real time – as opposed to waiting weeks or months – will enable organisations to remain relevant to their consumers.

Australia leading the way

Australia has traditionally lagged behind the US and the UK, but now we’re keeping pace. In fact, throughout the pandemic Australia/New Zealand has been heralded as a world leader in the way it has managed the situation, and this will have a flow on effect for brands as we move into the new year.

In the past, Australia was seen as a test market for global brands, but this concept has flipped on its head with Australia now driving innovation and change. Brands here are now more open to trying new things. If it fails – no harm, no foul; but when they succeed, they’re promoted on a global scale. We’ve shifted from being a test market to a global leader. And as we move into 2021 – should we continue to keep the pandemic at bay – our economies will likely bounce back before the rest of the world, further positioning Australian brands to the fore.


Sej Patel, country director, ANZ, Toluna. 


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