5 bets on the future of research: pre-conference interview

5 Bets on the Future of Research: Pre-conference Interview

In the run-up to MRMW 2021, we spoke with one of the key speakers, Mac Smith, Head of User Research, Core Search at Google about his challenging presentation that will examine present artefacts that point towards customer research’s future.

Question #1: Without giving too much away – what is the core message of your talk and what would you like delegates to remember?

Mac: We are in the midst of several significant changes to our industry, from massive changes in consumer behaviour to shifts in technology enabling new research approaches. This talk will examine present artefacts that point towards customer research’s future, including the impact of AI and machine learning on traditional research approaches, transitions in how companies are connected to customers, the emergence of new research leadership positions, and increased focus on equity in research.

Question #2: Why did you choose the topic of your talk?

Mac: The rapid change of the past year has accelerated existing research trends while challenging our assumptions of lasting customer change. This is the time to reflect on where we have been, where we are now, and where the research discipline will go in the near future.

Question #3: What motivates you to join MRMW NA 2021 and what are your expectations?

Mac: I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas with a community of experts to better plan for the future of our disciplines. In past years, I have made connections that challenge my assumptions and encourage me to become a better research leader.

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Question #4: There is a lot of talk about the current state of consumer insights and the impact of technology. How would you sum up the current state of the industry in 1-2 sentences?

Mac: Established approaches on the verge of great change. We are at an inflexion point in our field’s history. Our ability to observe and measure the human experience will continue to exponentially improve, while the global changes of 2020 will deeply challenge our ability to predict changes long term. It’s the most exciting time I could imagine for customer research.

Question #5: Looking back on the past months please share your thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the market research and the consumer behaviours in general. 

Mac: COVID-19 has rapidly upended many basic customer assumptions, leaving industry leaders grasping to understand what changes will be ephemeral and what will endure. The impact of COVID-19 on the world is ongoing, increasing the difficulty in distinguishing signal from noise. This year will test our discipline’s ability to interpret and predict customer response in the face of great change.


Join Mac Smith and speakers from Facebook, Nestlé, Amazon, Google, Pepsico, Microsoft, Pepsico, Citi and many more top of the line companies at MRMW NA 2021 to hear about the latest innovations, techniques and tools for market researchers.

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Jens Cornelissen

Jens Cornelissen has been writing for over two decades – initially for general newspapers in his home country Germany. After receiving an MA degree in Communications, he joined a new media start-up in Amsterdam as consultant on new media technologies and country editor for two daily newsletters. In his current day job, Jens runs the global conference division for Merlien’s dedicated marketing research events. Jens is a trained journalist with a BA in Journalism from Westminster University in London and has authored several media industry reports and articles on mobile and media technology.

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