Peering Into the Crystal Ball: Market Research Trends in 2021

Posted by Op4G Staff on January 5, 2021


To the relief of many, 2021 is finally here. The new year brings hope for widespread vaccinations against COVID-19, a return to relative “normalcy”, and an economic rebound. But that’s not all. At Op4G, we also predict a number of key developments in the world of market research. Some of these predictions reflect the current global context, while others are extrapolations of long-term market research trends.

 Though difficult to narrow, here are our top 5 predictions: 

  • Continued Popularity of Online Market Research: When COVID hit and governments imposed social distancing rules, previously “fundamental” in-person research was no longer feasible. Online market research became the only option for many organizations. Since then, however, there has been a “definite shift in understanding its value and importance”—not just as a back-up tool. The research community has come to appreciate online surveys as a way to reach more people, in more places, and at virtually any time. They also allow for gamification and digital rewards. Hence, even when the pandemic subsides, we expect online market research to remain popular.


  • Demand for Instant Responses: In recent years, our society has become accustomed to “immediate feedback." When we post a photo on social media, for instance, we expect instantaneous “likes” and forwards. The pandemic has only magnified our need for rapid information. In the words of experts, “a crisis…is not a time for delay; it is a time to speed up…Your company needs to know what is happening as it happens” and “today’s consumer insight tools…allow faster feedback than ever before.” In light of these factors, Op4G predicts sustained demand for real-time research in 2021. Luckily, our services include 24/7 coverage from our veteran team and speedy turnaround times on projects. Learn more here


  • Greater Investment in Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Companies are always looking to cut costs. But in today’s economy, it is perhaps more important than ever. One obvious tactic is to reduce the need for human intervention in market research, i.e. through the adoption/use of automation and artificial intelligence. Studies suggest that automation allows market research teams to “do 25% more work with 25% less staff an infrastructure.” For instance, automation can convert large volumes of data from diverse sources into usable insights. Moreover, AI can “derive insights from text-based data without…manually interpreting it.” 


  • Renewed Focus on Quality Survey Methods: Maybe it’s the “rise of fake news and the proliferation of doctored narratives” or the “breakdown of trusted information sources.” Whatever the cause, there seems to be growing concern about fraud and the quality of market research methods. In fact, this was one of the leading “buzz topics” in GreenBook’s annual GRIT report. To assure clients in 2021, market researchers will need to employ sound research practices—and prove it through greater transparency. Check out one of our recent blog posts, The Right Way to Write, for tips on crafting effective survey questions to produce high-quality research. 


  • Mounting Interest in Blockchain: Though often associated with crypto-currencies, blockchain has the potential to “revolutionize market research” in 2021 and beyond. In a blockchain system, all “nodes” hold a copy of the “ledger” (a record of the “blocks” or information). So if market research companies are connected to the system, they have full and equal access to that data. This may reduce the need to actually ask questions of panelists. Furthermore, blockchain systems can enhance data integrity. Because they are “decentralised, encrypted, and cross-checked by the whole network” they are more difficult to hack. For these and other reasons, insight agencies will likely show increasing interest in blockchain technology moving forward.


Our 5 predictions center on how market research will be conducted, but what about the research topics? We expect several hot topics to emerge in the year ahead, including:

  • Health and wellness, as the world deals with the pandemic and its lingering effects;
  • Streaming and e-sports, two COVID-friendly forms of entertainment showing dramatic growth over the last decade, and
  • Cannabis, given its surging demand and recent legalization in 5 additional US states.


We are looking forward to what 2021 will bring and hope you continue to follow along. Subscribe to our blog at the top of this page for monthly posts on market research industry trends, best practices, and more!


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Topics: Tools & Technology