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Learning the Soft Skills of Market Research

Building Softer Skills for Insights

Soft skills are harder to measure but yet are more universal in nature. It’s not about data mining or other trained hardware and software skills, but are more communication and leadership focused. In fact, in a recent LinkedIn study, 57% of executives say soft skills are more important than hard skills, with leadership heading up the list. Communication, collaboration, and time management are also soft skills that are key to being an effective market research leader.

As FlexMR puts it in their blog on the subject, “Hard and Soft Skills Every Research Team Should Cultivate,” ideally it is a balance and mix of both hard and soft skills that a successful research team member should develop. This could range from the job-specific training associated with data science tasks, and qualitative and quantitative based operations, to more softer skills such as organization, attention to detail, multi-tasking, and social skills.

“Soft skills go a level deeper and also lend themselves to aspects of the research process outside of the standard practice. For example, reaching out to clients and participants requires a level of understanding and communication that are appropriate for the research topic and relationships,” says Grayling Ferguson of FlexMR. Two of the more important soft skills that FlexMR highlights:

  1. Empathy: Empathy allows you to see the perspectives of others, as such it is a tool that researchers can use to get to the core purpose of the research with the client and then relay this in a coherent way to participants to get the information they need. When the hypothesis is successfully established – this mindset and understanding from the client perspective then feeds into the rest of the project build and those other hard skills.
  2. Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is a key skill to apply throughout a research project. From receiving a research brief to presenting results, each stage of the process needs to be carefully considered and executed, notes FlexMR. Critical thinking probably comes into its own at the analysis and reporting part of the research project, where the researcher is analyzing data to find the results and those actionable insights.

Defining the Soft Skills to Succeed

Connected to softer market research skills is the exploration of behavioral research. In “Infusing the Behavioral Insights Mindset,” All Things Insights’ Seth Adler explored “Activating Behavioral Insights: Team & Consumer Themes” with Jennifer Avery, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Insights, Universal Parks & Resorts, and Cherie Leonard, Senior Director, Head of North America Insights, Colgate-Palmolive, NA. They discussed the implementation of a behavioral insights initiative from both a team and consumer perspective, team temperament, and leveraging consumer behavioral science in the research and outcomes.

On All Things Innovation, softer skills comes up frequently as a topic, such as “Inviting Interdisciplinary Innovation Collaboration.” Like many scientific, research and business fields, innovation often calls for more interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation. This can help break down the silos built up in a larger enterprise, which can hinder projects and communication between departments. Yet just what are some of the advantages of interdisciplinary innovation collaboration? It’s important to broaden skill sets across the organization, develop multiple perspectives and team up with diverse fields of expertise to undertake a complex project efficiently and effectively.

Adapting Your Soft Skill Set

In the insights and market research field, soft skills play a crucial role in ensuring success. Some of the top soft skills valued in this domain, as identified by ChatGPT, include:

  1. Communication Skills: Being able to effectively communicate findings, insights, and recommendations to various stakeholders is essential. This includes both written and verbal communication skills.
  2. Analytical Thinking: The ability to analyze data, identify patterns, and derive meaningful insights is fundamental in market research. Analysts need to think critically and creatively to interpret data accurately.
  3. Problem-Solving: Market researchers often encounter complex problems that require innovative solutions. Strong problem-solving skills enable researchers to address challenges effectively and find opportunities within the data.
  4. Curiosity and Learning Agility: A natural curiosity about consumer behavior, market trends, and emerging technologies is key in staying ahead in the field. Continuous learning and adaptability to new methodologies and tools are also crucial.
  5. Empathy: Understanding the needs, preferences, and motivations of consumers requires empathy. Researchers need to empathize with the target audience to interpret their behavior accurately and provide relevant insights.
  6. Attention to Detail: Market research involves handling large datasets and conducting thorough analyses. Attention to detail ensures accuracy in data collection, analysis, and reporting.
  7. Collaboration: Collaboration is essential in market research, as projects often involve multidisciplinary teams. The ability to work effectively with others, share insights, and leverage diverse perspectives enhances the quality of research outcomes.
  8. Time Management: Market research projects often have tight deadlines, requiring efficient time management skills. Researchers need to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and deliver results within the specified timeframe.
  9. Presentation Skills: Presenting research findings to clients or stakeholders requires strong presentation skills. Being able to deliver engaging, persuasive presentations that convey key insights effectively is vital in the field.
  10. Adaptability: The market research landscape is constantly evolving, with new methodologies, technologies, and consumer trends emerging regularly. Being adaptable and open to change enables researchers to stay relevant and innovative in their approach.

Combining Both Hard & Soft Skills

There are no exact sets of soft skills ideal for the market research industry. As we mentioned earlier in this blog, a mix of both hard and soft skills are ideal. These skills should complement each other, and enhance the research team environment, as well as when dealing with clients in a research setting.

Individual learning and growth may be the most significant factor. FlexMR writes, “Encouraging growth and self-progression is what research teams should cultivate to grow a team with an array of soft and hard skills that feed into each aspect of a project. Learning from experience and peer input is a great way to ensure a team has a wide variety of skills to offer clients as the skills individuals bring to a team give an enhanced quality and combined perspective.”

Video courtesy of Research Rockstar Training & Staffing


  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

    View all posts

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