How Market Research Reports Are Changing Along With Everything Else

Posted on September 17, 2020

As Ferris Bueller says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  

A year ago, we were talking in terms of stability and strategic plans that looked out over a decade or at least the next year.  Now, we don’t know what’s happening today or what will happen tomorrow.  For some, this is an opportunity to lay low, wait and bide time and see how it works out. For others, this is the time to leverage their strengths to get and gain an advantage while others wait. 

What is clear is that the current situation is so dynamic that what we find out today may or may not be useful a year or even six months for now.  Researchers find that the one we can say about this time is that there is a need for speed.   

Market research and reporting insights aren’t exempt from the fast-clip nature of 2020. Just like the news cycle, education, and going to the movies, standards for reporting consumer insights are changing fundamentally before our eyes.

Though speed is of the essence for delivering customer insights that drive marketing strategy, we know as researchers that speed can often compromise the depth of the insights we can deliver. The previous happy medium between speed and depth for market research reporting has shifted, and, as always, we’re eager to dig deeper. How can qualitative researchers report consumer stories in a way that is meaningful and can still align with expectations created by real-time quantitative data delivery? And how can we do that without creating a bottleneck in our client’s workflow?

With all of these questions at the forefront of our reporting process, we decided to consult some experts—our clients. Here’s what we learned in our conversations:

The narrative shapes the report

As with most things qualitative, there’s no perfect formula for reporting customer insights that aren’t portrayed by data sets and metrics. Qualitative reports need to tell customer stories—and the narrative at hand should shape the report, rather than the other way around. As a result, there wasn’t a specific reporting code that we cracked through our interviews with clients. 

That said, we noticed a few themes in how the ideal reporting has shifted in recent months. 

Here are the insights we uncovered through our conversations:

  • Clients want reports that retain colleague attention.

Our clients say that there’s a new premium on stakeholders’ attention. Shifting workplace dynamics (where we work, how we work, how much we work on with our kids learning virtually in the next room) seem to have led to quicker turnarounds and, ultimately, shorter attention spans. Clients voice a growing need for qualitative reports that will catch—and maintain—the attention of the teams they work with within their company. 

More engaging presentation formats would help with capturing colleagues’ attention. Simply put, PowerPoint alone is no longer dynamic enough to fully engage every attendee. How can these presentations be as engaging as the stories we heard and intend to share?

As for retaining their colleagues’ attention, clients suggested that reports showcasing high-level insights prominently—followed by easier-to-parse specifics—would help them more readily and more intelligently respond to inquiries about the research findings. 

  • Clients want reports that require less time repackaging for various teams.

Similarly, clients want to spend less time and energy digesting, summarizing, and re-organizing reports for their different internal audiences. It still stands that one report tailored for an Analytics Team should be different from a report tailored for a Branding Team. However, receiving insights in a format that allows for simple, straightforward repackaging would help our Insights clients provide more specific—and more timely—findings to their colleagues.

  • Clients want reports that connect findings to business goals.

We heard loud and clear that reports must connect findings to the KPIs (key performance metrics) that clients base their business goals on. Instead

of having to spell out why the project insights are important, clients increasingly expect a clear linkage to the findings and the KPIs. 

  • Clients need reporting formats that morph from project-to-project.

Finally, our clients voiced a need for more agile and versatile reporting formats. They want reporting structures that can more aptly apply to multiple projects. This is where reporting that spells out how their findings impact business goals comes in again—finding the common thread that connects to separate initiatives makes for a reporting template that’s more useful moving forward.

At Marketry, Inc., we’re practicing what we preach – applying the learnings to what we do

Because there’s still no one-size-fits-all magic wand for the perfect reporting structure, how will we make sure that each report we deliver meets our clients shifting preferences? For one, our project kickoff meetings will include a collaborative discussion on the ideal reporting format—at the very start of that project—will help shape our reporting and our research to better address the unique goals at hand. Just as we’ve done to find our own insights for this blog post, we will take the time to get answers straight from the mouths of our clients on a project-by-project basis. We commit to a truly bespoke product—all while making sure we deliver that product with the urgency and efficiency that these shifting times require.

Once we get rolling, we’ll begin sending clients daily “What We Heard” updates for multi-day virtual projects. These real-time updates can deliver insights with a quick turnaround while retaining the depth that clients expect from qualitative research. We’ll also add a “Top Ten Things We Learned” report to our processes. This report will distill notable findings into bite-sized insights while also emphasizing why each of these top learnings are important for overall business goals. 

Finally, we’re hunkering down to develop a suite of new, creative presentation formats. We want our clients to share report findings to a room (or Zoom screen) full of engaged and excited colleagues. As we actively brainstorm and roll out more dynamic ways to share insights, we would love to hear your thoughts on what makes an effective, impactful qualitative research report. What have you learned about reporting this year? What have you changed as a result of what you learned? And, if you could wave a wand, what would the most engaging qualitative research presentation look like for you? We can’t wait to hear from you!