Predictions for the next five years

Predict the FuturePosted by Ray Poynter, 24 January 2021

On Thursday of this week the multi-talented Betty Adamou is interviewing Sue York and me about the NewMR story -covering our experience over the last ten years. Question 11 on her list relates to predictions about what is going to happen over the next few years in the insights and research industry. So, here are my initial thoughts (and I’d love to hear your views too).

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  1. 2021 is going to be the second worst year in recent times, but better than 2020. (I think it will be worse than the financial crash of 2008.) This sounds like bad news (and it will be bad news for some) – but we are on an upward trend, and that will be good for many, and for the industry. This repeats a message I gave in December last year.
  2. Mergers and acquisitions will grow and grow. Simon Chadwick covers this nicely in his recent 10 Predictions for 2021.
  3. Client trend 1 – a shift to democratised and agile research. Insights are being integrated into the whole organisation. Most research will be tactical, agile, iterative and be largely in the hands of people whose number 1 skill is not insight.
  4. Client trend 2 – more research being done internally. It is very hard to integrate research into the day-to-day fibre of a business if it is done externally. I expect 50% or more of research projects to be internal over the next five years (up from about one-third at the moment).
  5. Client trend 3 – platforms will be more important than suppliers and more important than methods. When research moves internal and is in the hands of non-research specialists, it needs to be automated, pre-designed, easy to use, and accessible to everybody who needs to access it.
  6. Qual research will remain essential and remain almost exclusively human. Yes, the shift to online qual is a sea change, even after the pandemic we will not see a massive return to F2F, but qual is an essential part of agile, it is an essential part of big data, and it is an essential part of human centricity.
  7. Automation and AI will focus on platforms, on simple projects, on error reduction, on cost reduction and on speed. We won’t (in the next five years) see the insights version of the self-driving car.
  8. China is going to grow in influence, the USA will grow in influence, everywhere else will decline comparatively (but will most grow in absolute terms).
  9. Governments and regulators will keep upping their game in terms of regulating data, data privacy, unfair practices, and the data economy. Change will be the name of the game, new rules every year.
  10. Human centricity is going to be over growing importance, which links to CX, UX, to online communities, to video, to semiotics, and to communities.


All of these predictions could be blown out of the water if one or more of the following happen in a big enough or bad enough way:

  • Pandemics
  • Wars
  • Environmental disasters
  • Global financial crashes / recessions
  • Asteroids
  • An EMP (electromagnetic pulse)

Your thoughts?

What would you add, delete or change in terms of this list?