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TMRE: The Market Research Event

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October 8-10, 2024
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Staying Focused on The Future of Insights

All Things Insights’ Seth Adler hosted Oksana Sobol in a virtual chat that previewed her upcoming TMRE session, “The Future of Insights: Agile, Faster and Consumer-Obsessed,” and how change in a time of disruption is prompting more sophisticated research.

Sobol’s career spans brand and insights operations. Today, she leads the insights function at The Clorox Co., and, as such, considers what the department should really deliver for a business, why insights have to evolve, and how insights as well as marketing organizations in general need updating to maximize business impact.

Sobol points to the need for better integration of insights with business decision making and effectively demonstrating a clearer link to ROI. To get there, agile resourcing is key. However, behind it all is the driving question: What does customer-centricity really mean in a consumer-obsessed organization?

Multiple forces are influencing how insights and organizations who rely on them are transforming. One is productivity.

“And this is the economic pressure that forces companies to become leaner, to question their investments more critically and demand stronger proof of ROI,” she says. “Another one is a more dynamic in-market environment. And it's not that this is unusual. What is unusual is that the years between the recession of roughly 2008 to 2011, and the pandemic were unusually stable. This is where we saw predictable growth, and this is when a lot of business systems that are in operation today were designed.”

In that case, companies designed systems based on long planning horizons in a relatively stable environment.

“Insights capabilities, ways of working processes, have been designed to work with those systems,” she says. “Now that has been disrupted. We see a lot more change in shorter periods of time. We see more volatility in the marketplace and so the companies are responding by redesigning their assistance. Insights needs to understand the direction that is going and evolve to work with new more agile processes and solutions.”

Future insight organizations will, indeed, have to become more agile as well as faster and more consumer obsessed, Sobol says: More agile in applying insights across the organization where they add maximum value at a given point of time and then focusing elsewhere as needs arise. Faster in response to productivity pressures, which can be accomplished in reducing cycle time by removing unnecessary meetings, distractions, whatever takes attention from the task at hand. And more consumer obsessed in helping key parties get in closer touch with the consumers through direct contact with and understanding of insights.

Democratization is a term used to address the access and use of data. But Sobol says that, to really make a difference, it requires a deeper dive into what’s going to move insights organizations into the future—an ongoing process that delivers value where and when it is most needed so that everyone across a business has a greater understanding of the customer as a starting point and a better connection with the tools needed to satisfy customer needs through application of up-to-the-moment insights when they are decisive.

See the video for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Oksana Sobol, as they discuss the path ahead and how change can keep insights organizations on track.