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Key Findings From The GreenBook Research Industry Trends Study Q1 & Q2

In 2003, The GreenBook began collaborating with select industry partners to produce the annual GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report. Initially focused on data collection issues, the scope of GRIT expanded to include directions in outsourcing, advances in technology, and inter-relationships among research providers/providers and clients/buyers.

In late 2009 the collaboration was formalized by the formation of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Study under the leadership of the GreenBook Marketing Research Directory. Partners include: Anderson Analytics, Brand3Sixty, iCharts, iModerate, Interviewing Service of America, The MRGA, NextGen Market Research, The Foundation for Transparency in Offshoring, one point Mobile Surveys, Peanut Labs, Pioneer Marketing Research, RFL Communications, Rockhopper Research, and Strategy One.

For 2010 GRIT will conduct two studies. The first was fielded in Spring 2010 and the second will be fielded in October. Each will cover key issues that have been trended since the initial GRIT study in 2003, but will focus on a select topic of interest to the industry. This survey asked a subset of questions from the annual study and focused on “Respect For Research” and probes perceptions of market research and researchers both within the profession and among other marketers. The second 2010 study will focus on Research Technologies and will include the full complement of annual GRIT survey questions.

A brief e-mail invitation was sent to individuals randomly selected from co-sponsors’ internal lists of research providers and clients. As an incentive for participation, respondents were offered a complimentary copy of the 2010 edition of the GreenBook Marketing Research Directory. From these invitations, a total of 875 usable responses were included in our analysis. The 2003-2010 respondent mix is displayed below.

Respondent Category 2010a 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
Full-service providers 48.2% 42.6% 46.1% 42.9% 43.3% 49.7% 43.7% 36.0%
Research consultant 20.9% 25.6% 23.9% 21.0% 14.5% 13.1% 11.9% 13.7%
Research client/purchaser in an enterprise 16.9% 10.9% 9.9% 10.9% 11.7% 8.9% 17.9% 21.8%
Data Collection (Quant/Qual) 9.5% 13.7% 12.7% 14.8% 20.1% 17.6% 5.2% 5.8%
Advertising agency 3.0% 3.7% 3.2% 3.3 3.3% 4.2% 4.2% 4.9%
Academic/non-profit/medical researcher 1.5% 3.5% 4.2% 7.1% 7.0% 6.5% 7.1% 17.9%
Total Respondents (875) (512) (284) (366) (600) (336) (720) (431)

To stay abreast of the most current issues facing the market research industry, we continue to modify the online quantitative survey instrument. Thus, year-to-year trends are not available for every question. Where possible, trend data are shown. Consequently, the base per question may change. For consistency in analysis, all rating questions are scaled to indicate “the higher the number, the more positive the result.”

iModerate Qualitative Interviewing

Partnering with GRIT for the first time on this study, iModerate Research Technologies conducted 64 qualitative research interviews with respondents who were taking the survey online. Depending on their answers to qualifying questions (in particular their perceptions of whether there was an advance, a decline, or a status quo in respect for marketing research and MR professionals), respondents participated in a one-on-one online chat with a professional moderator in order to explore the topic of respect more deeply.

The touchstone for the interview was the following question, which respondents answered in writing:

“If you could change one thing in the attitudes or behavior of marketers and other clients toward market researchers, what would you change? Why do you say this?”

The larger research agenda for the interviews was as follows:

  • Ÿ  Explore views about changes in levels of respect for market research providers and organizations.
  • Ÿ  What do researchers feel is causing these changes?
  • Ÿ  Most importantly, what role, if any, has the availability of easy-to-use online survey software had on their perception of market research?
  • Ÿ  Understand what researchers would change about the attitudes or behaviors of marketers and their clients toward market researchers and why.
  • Ÿ  What impact do they feel these changes would have on how research products and services are regarded?

I.        What YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW (Key Findings)

A.      Business Outlook Brighter in Spring/summer 2010

1.    Expectations are higher

From Winter in 2009 to late Spring 2010, expectations for increased revenue and spending on research climbed from the lowest ever recorded by GRIT (only 47% expecting an increase in 2010) to a figure (73%) approaching the 2007 level of 79%.

Positive outlook was far more prevalent among research providers (80%) than research buyers (45%). But in 2009 only 31% of client side researchers had a positive outlook for the coming year.

We should note that data was collected shortly after a major run-up in the stock market and before fears of a double-dip recession surfaced in the business press. The forthcoming Fall 2010 GRIT could tell a different story.

2.    Experience supports them

Although caution is indicated and the positive expectations recorded in the late Spring could turn out to be a blip rather than a trend, there is more heartening news. Not merely expecting better times, a striking percentage of 2010 respondents report that they are actually seeing stronger revenue and higher spending on research.

When GRIT 2009 data was being collected, only 6% said they had been pleasantly surprised by a stronger recovery than expected. The predominant attitude was a highly cautious optimism that at least the worst was over. A little less than half of respondents expected recovery but had not experienced any.

By Summer 2010 the change was dramatically positive.

In the Winter of 2009 only 27% were willing to believe that the worst was over (21%) or were already experiencing growth (6%). By late Spring and Summer 2010, that figure had more than doubled to 60%. Even more striking, the percentage reporting stronger revenue/spending leapt by a factor of 5 from 6% to 33%.

v  Buyers Optimistic, but Less So

For reasons that are not clear, research providers seem more likely to expect and to be experiencing growth. A strikingly higher percentage of client-side researchers (34% to 12% of suppliers) expect continued depressed spending levels or a further decline. Perhaps they know something that suppliers do not.

Still, 66% of client/buyers expect or are already experiencing growth in budgets and spending.

It is sadly possible that some of the increased business reported comes from the widespread business failures among research providers during the past year. With fewer competitors, the survivors have richer pickings.

B.      Special Focus Issue: Respect and Regard for Research

Some researchers feel the profession is under siege: beset on the one hand by unrealistic client expectations for pricing and turnaround and on the other by a growing notion that there is “nothing all that special about conducting surveys” among non-research managers with easy access to user-friendly online polling applications.

Some researchers on the supplier and on the enterprise side feel that their clients are often unable to judge quality and as a result increasingly view research as a commodity.

This edition of GRIT 2010 addresses this dynamic as “Respect for Research.” The key questions seem to be whether marketing research is in fact losing stature as a key component of corporate strategic planning and whether research professionals are regarded less favorably than in the past.

v  Respect for the Research Product

Do you feel that the products and services traditionally delivered by market research practitioners are receiving more or less respect from marketers today than they did when you came into the business?

While most (70%) researchers feel research is at least as well respected today as in the past, almost a third see a decline in respect. Further, among those in the best position to know (researchers with more than 10 years in the industry), 35% see diminished respect, compared to fewer than 23% of those with under 10 years experience.

v  Respect for the Research Profession

Compared to when you came into the business or five years ago, do you feel that market research is now receiving more or less respect as a profession?

Again, time in the industry seems to play a pivotal role in perceptions.

While a large majority in all respondents categories feel that researchers as a profession are as well respected or better respected than formerly, there is a significant minority of “old timers” with more than 20 years in the industry who perceive less respect. They are twice as likely to feel that way as are researchers with 10 years or less experience.

Details and further breakouts are available in the following discussion section.

v  Factors that Enhance or Erode Respect—A Qualitative Perspective

iModerate Research Technologies approached the question of respect for research qualitatively, using one-on-one interviews to glean additional insight into how respect for the industry has changed, and what underlying factors contributed to the change.

Marketers and researchers alike expressed a sense that the industry has evolved in recent years, shifting some perceptions about research. However, this did not translate into a belief that the industry overall is held in lower esteem.

Instead, respondents feel that there has been a transformation in the way research is used and how its relevance is determined.

Buyers reported that they increasingly seek out suppliers who understand the intricacies of their particular business, and who deliver strategic insight rather than boring 100-page decks 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.

ŸHow suppliers measure up on this issue also influences how tempting—or irrelevant—cheap and easy do-it-yourself (DIY) options appear to clients.

(The preceding section was prepared by iModerate’s qualitative research analysts.)

The full report will be released by the end of this month in multiple formats and will be available for download by all interested parties. We’ll make sure to let everyone know when it’s available via email, posting here, and on the usual social outlets.

In October we’ll be launching the Q3 & Q4 Phase of GRIT, with a special focus on innovation and emerging technologies. We hope that all of our colleagues in the global MR industry will continue to participate and find value in the GRIT initiative.

We’d also like to give a special thanks and acknowledgment to our partners in the GRIT Q1 & Q2 Study:

Concept Originator and Managing Director – Lenny Murphy, GreenBook

Questionnaire Design – Bill Weylock, Mike Dailey

Design Consultation – RFL Communications, StrategyOne, Cambiar

Qualitative component – iModerate

Sample – MRGA, NGMR, PeanutLabs, Lenny Murphy

Data Collection – Interviewing Service of America

Tabulation and Banners – Mike Dailey

Chart Production – iCharts

Report – Bill Weylock, Mike Dailey, iModerate

Copy Edits, Review, Supplementary Analytics – Mike Dailey, iModerate, Tom Anderson

Publication – MRGA, GreenBook, iCharts

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