Earlier this year The GreenBook Marketing Research Directory, in cooperation with The Market Research Global Alliance, Next Gen Market Research, Rockhopper Research, iModerate, ISA, Pioneer Marketing Research, Peanut Labs, OnePoint Surveys, RFL Communications, StrategyOne, Anderson Analytics, and the Foundation for Offshoring Transparency embarked on an ambitious agenda to develop the venerable Research Industry Trends study into the most comprehensive and relevant study of the global MR industry ever undertaken.
The response was extraordinary, with well over 800 respondents participating in the study, which included a battery of quantitative questions regarding the ongoing tracking of changes in the industry as well as a new module focused on the perceived levels of respect for the research function from both the supplier and buyer point of view. The results are still being analyzed and the full report will be released very soon. The study will be repeated in October in order to get a comprehensive view of issues impacting global MR at various points within the year.
As part of the early 2010 iteration, iModerate conducted 64 one-on-one interviews with respondents in the Research Industry Trends study. The results were intriguing, showing an industry undergoing transformation and rife with opportunities to add value, grow in influence and prestige, and chart a new course for future growth. Here are a few highlights from the iModerate interviews:
Respondents were males and females who work in the research industry, commission or conduct primary research, and at least play a role in evaluating the performance of the research methods, techniques, or resources that their companies use. All were eligible to chat.
Primary iModerate Objectives:
Explore views about changes in levels of respect for market research providers and organizations.
- What do researchers feel is causing these changes?
- Most importantly, what role, if any, has the availability of easy-to-use online survey software had on their perception of market research?
Understand what researchers would change about the attitudes or behaviors of marketers and their clients toward market researchers and why.
- What impact do they feel these changes would have on how research products and services are regarded?
Changes in Levels of Respect:
- For the most part, marketers and researchers do not perceive a meaningful decline in respect for corporate research providers. They do agree that the industry has evolved and changed in recent years, and that these changes have shifted some perceptions about research. However, this does not translate into a belief that the industry overall is held in lower esteem.
- Instead, respondents felt that there has been a transformation in the way research is used and how its relevance is determined.
- Research users are increasingly seeking out suppliers who understand the intricacies of their particular business, and who can provide strategic insight rather than a boring 100-page deck full of data.
- Suppliers, in turn, are recognizing the power of differentiating themselves by serving as confident and vital advisers who offer actionable ideas and recommendations.
- When corporate research suppliers deliver such insight, esteem rises; when they fall short, clients question the value they provide.
- How suppliers measure up on this issue also influences how tempting—or irrelevant—cheap and easy do-it-yourself (DIY) options appear to clients.
Factors that Erode Respect:
- Although respondents typically felt that respect for the research industry has stayed the same or increased, they consistently cited several key factors that can be damaging to its overall perception. These factors included:
- The advent of DIY tools such as Surveymonkey and online and social media listening approaches. These options have unquestionably given many research users and buyers the sense that all research should be quick and inexpensive. In some cases, the economic crisis has increased the appeal of these low-cost options.
- Increasingly compressed timelines and budgets within companies, coupled with a growing insistence on having data to back up more and more decisions. In some cases this difficult equation has led to a “just get it done” approach (both on the client and provider sides) that can negatively impact quality and has increased reliance on DIY approaches.
- A perception, on the part of providers, that clients disregard research findings if they do not align with expectations. This leads some to think that research is not “worth it” because it does not give them what they need.
- Concern that some providers simply deliver shoddy work. Possible reasons for this include tight deadlines, low budgets, poorly trained employees, and cultural barriers inherent in off shoring.
- A sense, from both vendors and clients, that the services currently provided by research suppliers do not always measure up to evolving expectations on the client side. Specifically, clients now increasingly seek out vendors who will turn raw data into actionable, strategic, targeted recommendations.
Factors that Enhance Respect:
- Conversely, many of the factors that respondents perceived as damaging respect for the industry were also simultaneously seen as enhancing its image. These included:
- Market research has increasingly become more accessible and integrated into public life and culture. This has had the effect of demystifying it, helping both laymen and marketers understand its power.
- This widespread awareness has impacted the business world. More companies and industries that have not historically done research are now willing to incorporate it into their toolboxes.
- The ongoing and exciting innovations in research technology—from DIY approaches to social media to virtual shopping—have helped make research seem a bit “cooler” than in the past.
- As a result of this evolution, the most successful providers have begun to partner with their clients on a more strategic level, adding value by offering insight and actionable recommendations in addition to charts and tables and PowerPoint presentations.
What Needs to Change:
- Respondents from both sides of the industry expressed hope that the nature of the relationship between supplier and client is changing.
- They observe a shift to more collaborative, transparent, trusting and customized interactions that focus on interpreting research findings to complement the unique needs and challenges of an individual business.
- Providers in particular feel that strategic direction and solutions are an opportunity for them to add value for their clients, and that their skill and experience is what differentiates them from the down-and-dirty or DIY research that some companies have adopted.
- They also noted that as a profession they are notoriously poor at marketing themselves, and would appreciate the help of industry associations at redefining their role and reestablishing their credibility.
The quantitative questionnaire included a section focused on this topic as well, and the initial results show that although the majority of participants perceive either an increase or no change in the respect of the MR function, a sizable minority feel that a definite erosion is occurring.
The charts below from our new RIT partners at iCharts tells us more:
The forthcoming The GreenBook’s Research Industry Trends Report, 2010 will go into a much deeper level of detail and offer more compelling information on the state of the industry. In the meantime, we hope this sneak peek will tide you over!