“Like it or not, we live in interesting timesThey are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind”.

This quotation or ancient Chinese proverb, attributed to Sir Austen Chamberlain in the 1930’s, & to Robert Kennedy in the 1960’s was as true then as it is today. Technology has completely transformed the way we live & will continue to shape our future, from the way we work, do business, travel, provide healthcare, communicate & generally go about our daily lives. But it also struck a chord with me when I think about the real impact these macro consumer trends are having on our industry, an industry I have worked in long enough to remember when the main decision was do you do a paper survey or focus groups.

I truly believe there has never been a better or more exciting time to work in the insight & research industry – there isn’t a brand on the planet who is not trying to develop better products, supply better services, and build better relationships with their customers. We are perfectly placed to help them achieve this, but to do so, must continue to embrace new and innovative ways of working, adopt new technologies, & explore new communication channels to reach & engage younger audiences. Most importantly though we need to move our thinking on from customer centricity to human centricity.

Consumer behaviour has evolved, & we are now in an era of digital based competition & customer control meaning the marketing strategies focused on customer loyalty prevalent over the last decade are becoming less effective. According to the latest research from Kantar Retail, 71% of consumers now claim that loyalty incentive programs don’t make them loyal at all. Instead, people are buying brands who can fulfil their needs in a personal & relevant way. In addition, two of the fundamental ‘p’s’ of the marketing mix, Product & Price are no longer enough to attract people’s money as personalisation & experience are the key differentiators for brands with people willing to pay more for a superior service or experience.

So what does this mean for market research professionals & how do we stay useful & relevant in these changing times?

Well, you can breathe a brief sigh of relief, because the good news is, we absolutely can, providing we adapt and evolve our practices & methodologies to mirror & support these emerging trends. We used to help brands with product testing, brand tracking & market measurement. In recent years this focus has shifted towards helping businesses drive customer centricity & insight led decision making within their organisations – all of which is of huge value & is a step in the right direction. But this is not enough to remain current in the long-term. To achieve this, we need to shift from customer experience (Cx) to human experience (Hx). In order to find out how brands fit into people’s lives we need to treat people as people. We can call them customers when they buy from us, or viewers when they view our content, users when they utilise our services, but we have to recognise that we are all people and brands & services play a small part in our active lives.  People don’t want to be defined by data points, or spoken to like a customer, they want to be engaged with as living, breathing, well-rounded human beings.

We have successfully helped companies listen more attentively to the voice of their customers, we now have to build on this and use our expertise & access to the right data & insights to be the evangelists of human centricity & help them connect emotionally with their customers as individuals, delighting & exciting them with a human touch.

Peter Harris

CEO, Potentiate