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MR Suppliers Less Bullish on the Future; Feeling the Squeeze of Quality and Speed

The latest GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (GRIT) suggests that many research suppliers are not always 'on side' with a vision of the future filled with endless possibilities. They continue to feel the pressure to serve both quality and speed.

Editor’s Note: I met Adam Di Paula at NetGain 6 in Toronto this year when we were both on the agenda as speakers. We had a great chat about the future of the industry and I was impressed by how astute his observations about the business issues impacting market research were. When he asked me if I’d be interested in posting his own supplemental analysis of the recent GRIT Report findings it was a no-brainer to say “yes!”, and I think when you read his take on the tension suppliers are feeling between the “cheaper vs. faster” imperative I think you’ll see why.

By Adam Di Paula, PhD

In some ways there has never been a better time to be in the market research business. Yes, suppliers are under increasing pressure to deliver results faster and cheaper. However, we now have unprecedented access to a myriad of cost-effective—and often free—tools to deliver what our clients want. We are being coaxed away from endless discussions of process and method to focus intently on results and outcomes. This should be cause for optimism, right? The latest GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (GRIT) suggests that many research suppliers are not always ‘on side’ with a vision of the future filled with endless possibilities. And they continue to feel the pressure to serve two masters that are hard to please at the same time—quality and speed.

The Promise Gap. While the GRIT report showed that 66% of suppliers look to the future with more of a sense of promise than threat, this is well below the percentage of clients who see promise on the horizon—92%.

The Commoditization Gap. Suppliers are now more likely than clients to see the fruits of their labor as a commodity. The majority of suppliers surveyed (58%) agreed that market research is becoming a commodity. Compare this to 43% among clients.

Some of these gaps might be a function of differences in the factors that clients and suppliers believe influence the selection of research suppliers. Comparing the two groups across 25 factors revealed some large, and telling, disconnects between client and supplier.

Clients are much more likely than suppliers to rate ‘supplier provides highest quality data’ as a significant factor influencing the client’s choice of a supplier.  Suppliers are much more likely than clients to rate ‘previous experience with client/supplier’ and ‘lowest price’ as significant factors that influence the client’s choice of a supplier.

Here is where I had an image of a jaded research supplier (an image of myself comes to mind more easily than I’d like) having just gotten word that his—what could only be described as truly innovative—RFP response was rejected. Of course the client offers the typical condolences—‘yours was a strong proposal, and we almost went with it, but we decided to stay with our current supplier based on a combination of…..” In an effort to preserve our own egos—and build up enough energy to respond the next RFP—it is understandable that suppliers might be quicker to attribute rejection more to commodity factors like price, and less to factors that suggest something about the supplier’s ability, like quality.

Wither Quality? A somewhat disturbing, but perhaps not surprising, trend is the assumption that quality is becoming less important. Just over half of suppliers (55%) agreed that ‘quality work is becoming less important than speed of deliverables’. Only 40% of suppliers agreed that ‘if they had to choose, clients prefer quality over speed’.  The tight squeeze is not lost on clients—only 46% of those on the client side agreed that, when given a choice, clients prefer quality over speed.

This led me to a question that I don’t know the answer to—but would love your thoughts—Is it possible to deliver quality and speed, or do useful insights take time?

The Spring 2012 GRIT, prepared by MR trendspotter Leonard Murphy and his team, is essential reading for those who want to stay abreast of how MR clients and suppliers see the industry and where they think it’s headed. The full report is available at

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3 responses to “MR Suppliers Less Bullish on the Future; Feeling the Squeeze of Quality and Speed

  1. Thanks Adam for the post. Your topic is something that we talk with clients about every day.

    One the things that we emphasize at GutCheck is where it makes sense to cut time vs. where you can still invest time to yield quality insights. We believe if insights team members and researchers are able to cut time off of recruitment and other administrative items but keep time for analysis in tact, you can have both worlds. I created a post about this topic today if you want to read more…

  2. Great post Adam. Not sure though how clients know whether a supplier provides high quality data or not. When I think of high quality I think of accuracy. How would clients know whether there’s mistakes in data entry/recording?

    Or maybe when clients think of high quality data they mean high quality data analysis that actually translates to recommendations they can implement.

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Adam Di Paula, PhD

Adam Di Paula, PhD

Managing Partner, Sentis Market Research