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GRIT Sneak Peek: The Market Research Firm of the Future

The 2013 GRIT survey asked respondents to think about how they might "Create their own new research company." What are the research techniques they would choose as specialty areas? And what are the "Key selling points" they would select in order to promote the firm?

GRIT Partners


Editor’s Note: The next wave of the GRIT report is scheduled to be released early next Month to loosely coincide with the annual ARF re:Think event and our second annual GRIT Party (register for free here: As always We’ll be covering a wide range of topics of importance to the evolving MR industry, with multiple authors contributing to the report. As a bit of a teaser to the release today we’re releasing the section on the “Market Research Firm of the Future” that Todd Powers, EVP – Primary Research at the Advertising Research Foundation tackled.

Our findings are consistent with our data on technology and methodological adoption that we released previously, but the real eye opener here is that since this question was positioned in more of a strategic planning context that presumably GRIT respondents are now embracing these ideas as central top their long term success, not simply as the “flavor of the month” which some have suspected. Until the next wave of new disruption occurs, it is safe to assume that the next few years will be driven by these approaches vs. traditional methods and that transition period is well underway.     


By Todd Powers

The 2013 GRIT survey asked respondents to think about how they might “Create their own new research company.”  What are the research techniques they would choose as specialty areas?  And what are the “Key selling points” they would select in order to promote the firm?

The graphic below shows the techniques selected as focal points for these hypothetical new research companies.  Respondents could select up to four different areas of specialty.  Responses are sorted by total combined selections (1st + 2nd + 3rd + 4th choices).




The top three areas of interest for these new research companies were fairly consistent.  First, many respondents selected one or more techniques that incorporated mobile capabilities.  These included mobile surveys, app-based research, mobile ethnographies, and mobile qualitative.  Given the rapid adoption of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets, in particular), it is not surprising to see that researchers expect substantial demand for MR services on these platforms.

Second, we see a strong contingent of general online techniques suggested as appropriate for the research firm of the future.  Included in this group are online [overall], online communities, social media monitoring, and online focus groups.  These choices reflect the ongoing trend to online methods, which often offer relatively fast and inexpensive means for collecting information.

And the third set of techniques emerging as top contenders for newly-created research firms can be classified as completely new or novel data collection and analytical approaches in the industry.  These include predictive markets, research gamification, virtual environments, text analytics and crowd sourcing.  Presumably, these would give our newly-created firms unique value propositions to differentiate themselves in the competitive landscape.

Traditional research techniques (e.g., focus groups, telephone, and instore intercepts) sorted near the bottom of the list.  This was also the case for neuro-based methods, including facial expression tracking, eye tracking, and biometric response.

Research techniques selected for inclusion in the MR firm of the future did not differ dramatically by type of respondent (supplier vs. client).  In fact, there were only two techniques selected by 5% or more of one group as a “1st technique” to focus on.  More suppliers (14%) selected “online” as a first technique than clients (8%).  And conversely, more clients (9%) selected “text analytics” than suppliers (2%).

After identifying the techniques that they might include in their future research firms, GRIT survey respondents selected up to 3 selling points for this new company from among a list of 25 possible candidates.  The list of selling points and associated selections are shown here.




What is particularly interesting about this list is the set of four selling points that bubbled to the top of the list.

“Listens well and understands client’s needs,” the top-ranked selling point, is definitely a service-related selling perspective.  The next, “high quality analysis,” reflects the general capabilities and qualifications of the firm.  The third-ranked item, “offers unique methodology or approach,” is a differentiating selling point.  And the fourth, “consultation on best practices and methodology,” positions the new firm as an advisor/consultant, offering much more than simple data collection and analysis.  Taken together, these selling points suggest a solid, well-rounded company, but one that is also focused on new and emerging techniques that will help their clients thrive.

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12 responses to “GRIT Sneak Peek: The Market Research Firm of the Future

  1. Could you expand on who the survey respondents are? I’m sure you’ll go into it when the full report is released but I’m still interested 🙂

    1. Thanks Hunter. Here you go:

      GRIT respondents are recruited by email from lists of research providers and clients contributed by GRIT co-sponsors and by invitations delivered via social media channels. The percentage of completes by channel are:

      Sample Source
      % n
      Greenbook 51% 697
      NGMR 11% 157
      IMRS 11% 155
      IIF 7% 102
      TRC 7% 92
      NewMR 4% 59
      QRCA 3% 48
      MRIA 2% 25
      TRC 1% 13
      BAQMaR 1% 12
      AMSRS 0% 6
      Other 1% 9

      For this report, the analysis is based on 1,375 completed interviews, although for some questions base sizes may be higher or lower due to skip patterns, rotations, routing, and other factors. The mix of respondents has varied over the ten years of the trends study, but within fairly narrow bands. For this edition of GRIT, we hold steady at 84% of respondents identifying themselves as Suppliers and 16% as Clients, broadly consistent with the last several waves of the study.
      Despite the robust sample size, GRIT is not meant to be a census or representative sample (if such a feat is even possible in our fragmented industry!), but rather a snapshot of the widest swath of insights professionals we can achieve. With that in mind we consider it “strongly directional” and recommend that you view it the same way.

      The respondent revenue profile skews notably toward mid-range and small firms at the expense of larger organizations with annual revenue above $15M, although 17% of Supplier-side respondents do identify themselves as working for larger organizations.

      This edition of GRIT continues the trend of increased global participation. With international participation continuing to climb, the percentage of respondents from the United States is now at 43%, with the next largest segments being the UK at 13%, Western Europe at 10% and Canada, India/Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand at 8%, 6% and 5% respectively. All others comprise less than 5% of the sample.

      Due to the relatively small base sizes regionally, at the analysis of this stage we have opted not to show them here, although as always we encourage all readers to make use of the online dashboard of findings to conduct any additional analyses.

  2. This survey is about techniques, people and tasks and, as such, is not that helpful. Yes, companies will adapt methods or develop new approaches to capitalize on consumer trends and changes in technology, But that misses the fundamental issue of the research company of the future: what questions will it be answering, and how will we go about answering them? If we grapple with that question, we’ll be in a better position to grasp what the future holds, what we need to do, the tasks we need to perform, and the qualities of the people to do them. Without answering it, the research company of the future is just an updated collection of projects, techniques and employees.

    1. Agree that we need to focus on the business issues @Steve, and I think you’ll see in the full report that we do indeed get there. Remember, these are snippets of sections of the report and are teasers; they should not be construed as the focus of the whole report. Although we do indeed look at the methodological and technological trends since those are prime drivers of the business models of supplier stakeholders (and often a major criteria for decision making on the client side), the transformation that the industry is undergoing is based on a fundamental shifty to help bridge the relational intelligence gap between brands and consumers and that is the underlying theme of the GRIT study. The entire report goes far to answering the question you laid out: “what questions will it be answering, and how will we go about answering them?”.

  3. Just wondering if the full report will include segmentation or drivers analyses and if this is the basis for the general themes mentioned in the abstract. I’d be very interested to see the counter trends and if there are distinct segments such as “new techniques” firms. Looking forward to the full report. k

    1. Hi @Kelley! We do some driver analyses on the topics of vendor selection and influence ratings, and of course we will make the entire data set available to the industry via an online dashboard to do deeper analysis for whoever wants to. There is plenty of opportunity to dig deeper here and create segments. Maybe we can collaborate on that?

  4. Great topline report. I’m really looking forward to reading the full GRIT. Lenny, we’d be more than happy to help with the online dashboards if you need a hand. Let’s talk offline about that.

  5. Very interesting article but is there a place where I can find what you mean by each methods? because for instance “predictive market” seems broad to me and then it is quite hard to figure out which company already do it ! Thanks

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