The strategic consolidation trend in market research continues, with two interesting announcements today. The first was the news that online survey software giant Confirmit was acquiring mobile research pioneer Techneos. The second was that Kantar had acquired the long on the auction block GMI and was rolling them into their Lightspeed panel.
Both make sense for a variety of reasons, and both are very telling about how Confirmit and Kantar read the future of the industry. I also will be so bold as to make a prediction for the next steps Confirmit and Kantar will make to build off of these acquisitions within the next six months. Let’s look at each one.
Confirmit has been slow out of the gate to develop a mobile offering. They have recently focused on mobile optimization for web surveys, but had no credible solution of their own for a native mobile solution. They had to move in that direction, and they had to do it fast. The press release actually details their strategy very well and drives home the point that Confirmit needed to have a mobile solution in house in order to grow their EFM and MR businesses.
“The ability to segment and target customers – especially hard to reach demographics – through multi-channel strategies is paramount for businesses today,” said Henning Hansen, Confirmit President and Chief Executive Officer. “Every day the mobile channel takes another step toward the forefront of feedback collection and market research. The combination of Techneos’ innovative mobile solutions with the Confirmit Horizons platform empowers our customers to talk to the right audiences, at the right time, in the right way. Whether users prefer to use their browser or an app to complete surveys, Confirmit technology stands ready to meet their demand.”
Techneo’ Chief Executive Officer and Director, Dave King, joining Confirmit as EVP Confirmit Mobile Solutions, agrees: “The powerful combination of Techneos with Confirmit’s robust market-leading solution promises to advance the mobile engagement market. Confirmit’s end-to-end platform will set a new standard for scalable multi-channel enterprise-class customer feedback and market research programs that drive business process improvement.”
With more than 4 billion mobile phones in use worldwide and mobile internet usage expected to surpass desktop internet usage by 2014, companies are racing to find new ways to gather feedback via mobile devices. According to a recent Forrester report, ‘Mobile Applications Will Empower Enterprise Business Processes,’ the opportunity to deploy mobile applications for enterprise business process will change dramatically within the next two to three years.
Bruce Temkin, managing partner of the Temkin Group and a leading customer experience expert adds, “People aren’t always at their computers, but most of them won’t go anywhere without their mobile phones. As companies compete to gain deeper, more relevant insights about customers, they will increasingly invest in the mobile channel for gathering real-time, locationally-aware customer feedback.”
The combination of Techneos, which has installations in more than 55 countries, and Confirmit, the platform that enabled the completion of over 150 million surveys last year, creates a best-in-class technology offering that keeps pace with demand as more companies leverage the mobile channel via browsers and apps. Confirmit provides a comprehensive yet simple way to gather and integrate mobile feedback from employees, customers and market research panels at the point of experience. With Techneos technology, customers use mobile apps to pose relevant, real-time questions in a respondent’s preferred environment. Using mobile survey, feedback, panel, ethnography, face-to-face and digital diary solutions on any mobile device, they can gather data about peoples’ expectations, motivations and intentions in over 200 languages.
Industry-leading market research firm Fresh Intelligence relies on Confirmit technology for its market research IT needs. Corrine Sandler, CEO of Fresh Intelligence weighs in, “We operate in an increasingly mobile environment; the combination of Confirmit and Techneos means that companies looking to deploy comprehensive, multi-channel programs will be able to benefit from the combined power of these best-of-breed technology platforms.” She continues, “The ability to select a single, end-to-end platform that enables companies to take full advantage of the mobile channel and engage with respondents in a highly intuitive and immediate manner is an extremely attractive proposition.”
So Confirmit just made a very big bet on mobile vs. online surveys, and you can bet that they will be pouring their significant resources into pushing that model. Expect mobile to grow very fast indeed now.
Here is my 1st prediction regarding Confirmit:
In order to compete effectively in both the EFM and MR spaces, they will need to integrate a social media analytical capability, most likely via text analytics. Look for them to partner with or acquire a player in that space in order to have a true multi-channel offering.
The Kantar acquisition of GMI is a little less transparent. Of course it makes sense for Lightspeed to beef up their global panel offerings; the WPP machine is always hungry for new sample resources, and the looming big data play that WPP is making with their Xaxis offering adds extra urgency to their need to get deeply profiled opt-in profiles on global consumers within their wheelhouse. GMI gives them both in spades. Here is part of the press release from Lightspeed:
The acquisition of GMI adds panels in 13 countries, bringing Lightspeed Research’s global reach to over four million online panelists across proprietary panels in 38 countries. Notable additions to the Lightspeed Research footprint include Brazil, Mexico and India along with numerous Asian markets. Panel capacity in the U.S., Canada and the European ‘Big 5′ will grow significantly as a result of the acquisition.
“Uniting the assets of these two global leaders in the online panel market research industry strengthens our offer to clients through the size and reach of our panels. Our combined technology and market research expertise will put us in a strong position to address the significant growth and rapid change in our industry around the world,” said (new combined Global CEO) Day.
I think there is another angle here though. GMI used to be a tech powerhouse before they lost their way and were seduced by the easy money of panels, but one asset they have maintained is GMI Interactive, led by Jon Puleston. GMI Interactive is poised to be one of the key players of research games, an area that Kantar has a keen interest in as well. As WPP brings down the silos between their research and marketing properties, the ability to leverage the GMI Interactive capabilities to build “serious games” that can serve to support marketing initiatives while also generating MR data becomes a significant opportunity. It may not have been the driver of the acquisition, but I suspect whereas the panel asset was a resource they needed to support other business efforts, the GMI Interactive business will be positioned as a new profit center to help drive the next generation of hybrid insights-based products.
So here is prediction number 2 for Kantar:
Look for them to do four things next:
- GMI Interactive will be rolled into Kantar Media and it will become the nucleus for a “gamification” division servicing the WPP group for research-driven games.
- Look for the Lightspeed and GMI panels to be combined with a social media element to turn it into a massive global database of consumer demographic, psychographic, behavioral and purchasing information as part of the Xaxis offering.
- Kantar will either build or buy a mobile solution that they will link to their panels to “mobilize” them and to acquire useful meta data for Xaxis.
- They will deploy serious games as a primary model for data collection across the mobilized panels.
Of course, I could be way off base on both my analysis and these predictions, but it’s what I would do if I was handling their strategy…