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The Researcher of 2023

What skills will researchers need to sharpen to make 2023 a successful year? Learn how industry professionals are adapting.

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REPORTThe Researcher of 2023

After years of uncertainty, having insight into what the future holds seems like a tall order.

But why not try?

We want to give you a peek into what 2023 holds. To do so, we surveyed 54 research professionals in Brandwatch’s network who were kind enough to share their thoughts on this year’s challenges and predictions for the coming year. 

Here’s what we found.

Top challenges for researchers in 2022

As we head into 2023, it’s worth considering what tripped researchers up most in 2022. When we asked respondents to identify their top challenges for the year, they reported the following:

  • Lack of bandwidth (51.9%)
  • Limited budget (48.1%)
  • Difficulty measuring and reporting on ROI (35.2%)
  • Difficulty predicting the future (33.33%)
  • Unable to access the right data about our prospects and consumer (33.33%)
  • Lack of insight into the customer journey / experience (27.8%)
  • Difficulty assessing helpful data from other teams (20.4%)
  • Generating traffic and leads (9.3%)

It’s not particularly surprising to see ‘lack of bandwidth’ and ‘limited budget’ shoot to the top of the concerns list. As companies prepare for economic uncertainty, many are turning to budget cuts or downsizing teams as a preventative measure.

Concerns around measuring ROI and understanding the customer journey continue to be top concerns for researchers. While they have dropped a few spots respectively, clearly there is still work to be done on that front.

Interestingly, accessing data from other teams is more of a problem in 2022 than in 2021. This suggests that while analysts have made some progress with data sharing, processes for communicating important information are still a friction point for teams.

Faced with these challenges, what should researchers make a priority in 2023? Our data led us to some concrete takeaways.

What should research and analyst leaders prioritize in 2023?

As we head into 2023, we can see some clear focuses emerging. The customer is the driving force behind organizational success, and researchers play a critical role in identifying what tactics make them tick. Now, more than ever, analysts are tasked with understanding the entire journey of their audiences. How do their interests inform their buying habits? What tools do they use to research before purchasing? Do their values play into their brand preferences?

The systems that support information sharing will naturally take on an increased level of importance, especially as teams downsize and are asked to do more with less. Having the right technology available is critical to allow for better information sharing but, perhaps more importantly, for freeing up time. Analysts need tools to take care of the day-to-day data work so they can turn their attention to extracting insights that impact the company’s bottom line.

Here are four priorities for research and analysts to focus on in 2023.

Priority #1: Understand the customer journey

Researchers and analysts play a pivotal role in an organization’s understanding of target audiences and customer personas. That will continue to be a core focus for teams as they work to better predict what’s coming. When asked what skills will be of importance for researchers going forward, the majority of answers mentioned collecting, analyzing, and better understanding the customer.

“Combining data science with traditional qualitative insights for a richer understanding of consumers will be critical,” said Laure Dewan, Vice President, Insights and Communications at RVO Health. “Right now those ways of understanding consumers can often be siloed. I believe the insights leaders of the future will have a strong understanding of data at scale AND in-depth consumer insights, brought together through storytelling, empathy and design thinking.”

Considering predictions about the future were a challenge for over one-third of respondents (33.3%), with the same percentage citing an inability to access the right data about prospects and consumers - researchers need to get a better handle on how a customer moves through the sales cycle. This information works to inform departments at every level.

Both market research tools and social media listening tools rank high in importance to research teams, indicating an increased focus on understanding customers and mapping their journeys. Combining multiple sources of insight to create an overarching narrative will require technology that can consolidate information for a more holistic understanding of audiences.

It’s worth noting that this area of focus has a trickle-down effect. Without understanding how customers get to your product or service, you can’t predictably forecast ROI meaning you won’t be able to plan effectively for the future. As a result, your revenue, budget and team’s overall bandwidth will be stretched thin. Understanding the customer journey allows you to influence it in the right ways, treat it as such.

Priority #2: Invest in the right technology

The right technology can make all the difference for researchers. When you have tools to automate smaller tasks, you give yourself time back to do the critical thinking tasks. Less time on data cleanup means more time on extracting valuable insights. Considering 66% of respondents are spending up to 30% of their time on data cleaning or labeling, there is lots of opportunity for streamlining tasks in favor of more impactful work.

When asked what obstacles stand in the way of researchers getting to know customers and target audiences, most signs point to the need for investment in technology.

  • Not having enough time (51.9%)
  • Not having enough budget (46.3%)
  • Not having the right technology (40.7%)

The right investments will free up time, accelerate insights and enable researchers to better share relevant information across the organization. The result? Better business outcomes, more budget and a promising company outlook.

So which tools should be at the top of the list? According to respondents, the tools most important to them were market research platforms, social media listening software, and data visualization tools.

Priority #3: Empower the entire company with insights

Data shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. Information is better when it’s shared. Customer data, in particular, can have a considerable impact on every department, from sales to product. Whether insights are used to impact the product roadmap or to close a big deal, the right information in the right context can have a considerable influence on business success.

In 2023, researchers should prioritize creating better processes for not only distilling information but collecting data across departments. Some of the top challenges analysts faced in 2022 were around data sharing, including the following:

  • Inability to access the right data about prospects and consumers (33.33%)
  • Lack of insight into the customer journey / experience (27.8%)
  • Difficulty assessing helpful data from other teams (20.4%)

Researchers need information about every customer touchpoint. Sales calls, product feedback, marketing behavior — these data points help paint a complete picture of the customer journey. In 2023, there should be less guessing to make way for more understanding of what matters to your audiences.

Data teams also need to make information sharing a priority. That starts with understanding what other teams need to know. When asked about current obstacles to getting to know your customers and target audiences, 33.3% cited not having the right data with another 24% reporting a lack of understanding of what kinds of research could be helpful.

Open communication across all departments should be a priority. Researchers need to ask for the relevant data, and then they need to extract insights and disseminate the findings for everyone to benefit from.

Priority #4: Identify the right research methods

The majority of respondents have used some form of data collection method within their organization in the past year. Surveys and social listening tools led the charge, followed by focus groups and interviews.

Which of these data collection methods has your organization used in the past 12 months (remote or in person)?

  1. Surveys (83.3%)
  2. Social Listening (74.1%)
  3. Focus Groups (50%)
  4. Interviews (46.3%)
  5. None of the above (5.6%)
  6. I’m not sure (3.7%)

Yet, despite companies clearly leveraging research methods, 40.7% of respondents say they do not have the right technology or data (33.3%).. It begs the question: Are researchers using the right tools? Considering budget restraints and lack of bandwidth, it will be important for teams to determine what kind of data significantly impacts business outcomes. Researchers need to invest in reliable tech with reliable data to move forward in 2023. Otherwise, they will likely waste time, budget and resources. 

Another consideration? Expectations for research in 2023. When asked what the main purpose of the research their teams are doing / will be asked to do over the coming year, the responses indicate researchers and analysts will have a lot on their plates in the coming year:

  1. Market research (59.3%)
  2. Brand health measurement (46.3%)
  3. Trend spotting (42.6%)
  4. Growth opportunity identification / risk analysis (42.6%)
  5. Competitor analysis (38.9%)
  6. Influencer analysis (16.7%)
  7. Crisis management (7.4%)

When considering what research methods make the most sense or even which technologies to invest in, teams should be on the lookout for tools that help them do more with less. Think: all-in-one platforms or research methods that allow for a wide range of data collection.

The forecast for 2023: 3 predictions for researchers

We know where researchers should be turning their focus, so what does all of this say about the year ahead? Here are our big three predictions for 2023:

1. Storytelling will play a major role in data sharing

Weaving a thread across sales, customer success, marketing, and product will be critical for success in 2023. When you understand how customers interact with your various functions, you can paint a picture of buying cycles, behaviors, and potential risks.

This kind of insight also plays a crucial role in the story your brand is trying to tell. You can craft a narrative that draws them into your product or service when you understand who customers are and what they need. In fact, if people love a brand story, 55% are more likely to buy the product in the future, 44% will share the story, and 15% will buy the product immediately, according to research by Headstream.

In an increasingly competitive market, the stories that you tell for your customers and about your customers can quickly become the difference between a closed deal and a lost opportunity.

2. Community building will be increasingly important

We know consumers are more likely to buy from a brand they know and trust. Creating those relationships proactively (as opposed to reactively) sets your business up for continued success. In fact, nearly 80% of startup founders reported that building a community of users was important to their business, with 28% describing it as their competitive advantage and critical to their success. The modern sales cycle has more touch points than ever before — the best businesses will ensure they are shaping the conversation every step of the way.

Research teams will play an important role in arming the relevant teams with the right information about customers to inform these community-building techniques. The best place to start? Social media.

A considerable 59% of researchers named social media listening platforms the best tool to support their efforts in 2023. Understanding what audiences talk about in their free time, finding patterns, and pinpointing general values can help shape the narrative your business builds to nurture better community building.

3. Teams will need to do more with less

It’s the elephant in every room, but we all know a recession is incoming. Businesses are already finding ways to become leaner with costs, which will likely mean lower headcounts and fewer resources.

It’s no surprise then that budget, resources, and tools top the list of concerns for researchers. Yet securing the right technology may solve some of the pressures teams are beginning to feel. While it may seem counterintuitive to invest more money in tools, the right technology gets the data to your teams so they can focus their efforts on the analysis that drives better business.

Better understanding of customers = Better business outcomes

As we head into 2023, researchers should be aware of what’s in store.

With a rocky economic climate, understanding what drives customers will be as important as ever. The more research teams can do to fuel insights into customer journeys, the better positioned they will be to get the tools and resources they need to keep doing their jobs and making an impact.

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