4 ways for research to leave the twilight zone in 2020

2020, a pivotal year which has set its time mark on many business strategies and plans over the past years. So, how many companies have set up a 2020 Strategy over the last decade? Tried to envision how their business will look by then? Made plans to anticipate potential futures? And now… 2020 is just around the corner.

Traveling around the world talking to marketing and research professionals on the future of research, it’s my personal belief that, indeed, 2020 will be a pivotal year. Especially for Insights and Analytics.

The past years, we were in this ’twilight zone’ between traditional and state-of-the-art research. Many of us had one leg in the ‘new’, while keeping the other in the ‘old’. Yet, the consumer reality has become more complex than ever. Research is forced research to explore and use new methods that capture this ever-changing behavior better. Businesses are also under pressure to do things better, faster and cheaper. There is a need to continuously have a finger on the pulse and adopt agile methods aimed at ongoing consumer understanding. Entering this new decade, comes the time to take the jump…

Yet having quick access to consumer inspiration and customer feedback at an almost zero-margin cost will most likely become an entry ticket to the game, rather than a game changer. In this new reality, the research industry must step out of its ‘box’. Methods like research communities, which have proven to tap into the need for ongoing consumer understanding, might no longer be enough. Come 2020, different weapons will be required for the insights profession to fuel businesses. So, the time has come for us to think about the skills and capabilities we will need, so we can start strengthening them today!

Moving away from the traditional research box

The core focus of the research industry today is on generating insights. These insights fuel the decisions (and as such the minds) of marketers, innovation and customer experience experts. The current playing field is a small box, where we tap into the minds of research stakeholders with our insights.

Traditional research box

Yet, if the research industry wants to have a true impact on businesses and consumers, we actively embrace the following skills and capabilities:


The past is where you learned a lesson, the future is where you will apply it”. There lies a magnitude of untapped potential in aggregating learnings from the past. As an industry, we need to stop asking consumers questions they have already answered. We should leverage this data abundance and actively apply data analytics and AI to generate hindsights from the data and insights we collected previously.


In a current reality where change is exponential, one can no longer afford to focus solely on today. We need to think about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, by incorporating trend-watching and scenario-thinking capabilities.


Aside from reaching the minds, we need to try reach research users’ HEARTS. As an industry, we need to invest in methods that infuse ‘consumer empathy’ among internal stakeholders. But one cannot turn research insights into meaningful and consumer-relevant products, services and experiences, without stepping into the shoes of the consumers.


Many companies are literally sitting on a pile of insights. Research findings are locked up in PowerPoint reports and company servers, without sparking any decision making. Research insights are not the end-game. We need to invest in turning insights into ACTIONS by levering extreme creativity and installing a mindset of experimentation.

Out of the research box

In 2020 and beyond, we will need to combine the best of technology with the best of human skills. The time has come for us to not only think out of the box, but to jump out of it all together.

Curious as to what this shift will mean for research and insights? Tune in on Tom De Ruyck introducing the research trends of 2020 with this new framework, illustrating the and why with inspiring case examples.

Or just start a conversation with us to answer your burning questions!

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