By Melanie Courtright, Insights Association

Here in the U.S., we were pleased to see rays of optimism rippling through the findings of the 2024 Global Trust Survey. These are areas we can explore, learn from, and build upon. Let’s dive in.

First, it was encouraging to see that the U.S. bucked the global trend of growing distrust in organizations. Americans were the only group in the international survey to increase their trust level in organizations of all sorts – albeit a modest 5% up to 20%. This carried through to our industry. Those in the U.S. who believe market research benefits them grew by 6% during the past two years and now sits at 56%. We believe this area – proving to consumers the value of what we do to help them in their everyday lives – is deserving of more attention.

Personal, Meaningful Relationships with Consumers
Insights, done properly and inclusively, provide citizens with a voice. Those of us in the business understand this, but the general population is largely unaware. Recently though, as brands invest in making more meaningful, personal connections with consumers, we’re seeing greater understanding and appreciation that this is indeed a two-way relationship. We’re seeing this build at the grassroots level in highly visible ways via popular influencers who work closely with brands on Instagram and TikTok. They illuminate how consumers can sway brands in their messaging, advocacy, UX, and improving access to the process.

AI: A Double-edged Sword
Integrating AI into the insights process may be a time saver, but it may also be a trust deflator. Nearly half of respondents said that the use of AI by market research companies decreases their trust in that company, specifically noting the use of AI chatbots and avatars for online interviews. Only 13% said it increases their trust. The fact that companies providing AI tools have among the lowest trust levels (25%, compared to banks, which have the highest at 60%) should be noted as a cautionary data point. It is imperative that organizations emphasize the human touch in research and create and communicate clear policies on the use of AI in their work. IA is working on an AI policy that will focus on, among other things, duty of care, transparency, and quality. Such guidelines – at an industry and company level – will bring clarity, understanding, and trust.

Data Privacy
There continues to be widespread distrust in how industries, including market research, handle personal data. Close to 30% of U.S.-based survey respondents don’t know how their data is collected and used in a market research setting. This underscores the need for transparency and effective communication and notification. On the regulatory front, IA continues to urge Congress to adopt a national data privacy law to bring consistency and eliminate the confusing patchwork of state laws. We’re also stepping up our efforts to promote the IA Code of Standards, which is featured as a learning module on our new education platform.

Participant Satisfaction
While the report indicates that satisfaction in the survey process is steady, we are not content. Satisfaction levels have been too low for far too long and we are determined to improve them. Criticism of long surveys continues. Here, AI enhancements can help.

There are numerous other contributing factors and we are working to address them. At the Insights Association’s Annual Conference in April, we asked attendees to help us co-develop a Participant Bill of Rights and to work on policies to guide the proper and ethical use of AI. The engagement was enthusiastic and rigorous; the results of the brainstorms incredibly productive and valuable. In the coming months, IA’s Standards Committee will move these ideas forward and develop supplements to our Code. Then it will be time to activate these best practices across the industry. I hope we can count on you to help with implementation. Only with your adoption can we move the needle on trust – in this report and across society.

Melanie Courtright, Insights Association