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Five Reasons Why the Market Research Industry Is Ready to Join the Sharing Economy

The "sharing economy" is rapidly spreading across many industries. Here are five reasons why the market research industry is ready to join the sharing economy to spur meaningful growth.




By Peter Zollo

The “sharing economy,” also known as the “collaborative economy,” is rapidly spreading across key industries with tremendous success. And, even more sectors are poised for leveraging “sharing” to catapult growth.

Some of the most prominent of the new sharing brands have become household names, including Uber, Airbnb, and Kickstarter, as they harness the Internet to connect like-minded partners and customers, while driving down costs. There are now – count ‘em! — 17 companies with revenues in excess of $1 billion that operate within the realm of the sharing economy, employing more than 60,000 people.

Market research is clearly one of those industries primed and ready to join the sharing economy to spur meaningful growth. The two most important pillars of successful sharing businesses — collaboration and technological innovation — are already cornerstones of the industry, reflecting market research’s readiness for serious sharing. Yet, despite the current level of innovation we’re enjoying, when nearly two dozen market-research leaders were asked how technology is currently impacting the industry, not a single comment even touched on integrating technology and the sharing economy for the industry’s benefit.

So, here are five key reasons why the market-research industry is ready to join the sharing economy right now:

  1. Data has become less proprietary because of technology

For many, the idea of sharing data (aka collaborating with competitors on research projects) sounds counterintuitive. As Bob Meyers, former Global CEO of Millward Brown, put it: “It’s 2016. It’s no longer about data being proprietary. Today, data is ubiquitous. So, embrace this reality and look for ways to reduce your data-collection costs by sharing and collaborating. That way you can focus on what really matters: analysis.” There’s an inherent advantage in sharing. As Stan Sthanunathan, SVP of Consumer and Market Insights at Unilever, advocates: “In a rapidly changing world, we cannot operate in silos.”

  1. We have actually been doing this (without a tech platform) for years.

Something that most of us don’t really think about: All those syndicated research studies you’ve been purchasing are shared with your competitors. You’ve probably also “co-sponsored” a study with others along with way. And, that’s good, showing an openness to sharing that can now be enabled and accelerated at scale. Whereas the cost of producing a large-scale syndicated study can approach or exceed seven figures, an individual subscription is priced at a fraction of that. Why? Because syndicated subscribers share the research and the costs — that’s the model. So, imagine the benefits of an online sharing marketplace, where insights projects are posted that address timely issues and opportunities rather than simply the same old studies.

  1. Collaborating with others can often result in better outcomes than by going at it alone.

Here’s one quick example market researchers can learn from: Physicians Dr. Ijad Madisch and Dr. Sören Hofmayer, and computer scientist Horst Fickenscher, believe in the power of collaboration. So, they created a company that removed academic and scientific research outside of the “silos” to which Stan Sthanunathan refers. They founded ResearchGate in 2008 to connect scientists and researchers in order to collaborate, coordinate, and advise their peers on current research. The site’s 10 million members have taken a dramatic new approach to research, changing what used to be a solitary and slow process to one of collaboration, resulting in faster and better results, disrupting the way in which scientific and academic research had always been conducted.

  1. Sharing drives down costs.

Many of our new realities include working in a zero-based budgeting environment, making the funding of unplanned-for insights projects more challenging than ever. We’re asked to be more agile — to do more with less. Guess what? Sharing data can dramatically drive down costs, allowing you to fund more projects and to re-allocate your budget to analysis and insights.

  1. There’s a new platform, recently introduced on stage at IIeX, that brings market research into the sharing economy.

Research suppliers and clients alike can post research projects on Collaborata, allowing multiple parties to share in the cost of funding a project for as little as 10% of its original cost. And those funding the project can also help guide and shape it. So, Collaborata resembles syndicated research in that it makes large-scale projects affordable for the individual client – all for the pragmatic trade-off of sharing results. In fact, everything about Collaborata has been strategically and carefully designed to promote collaboration. For example, anybody registered on Collaborata can “refer” a project to anybody else, leveraging his or her professional network to help get a project funded. Collaborata credits your account (of, if you prefer, they’ll actually send you a check) in an amount equivalent to 20% of the spend of whomever you referred, assuming the project funds. And, if a project exceeds its funding goal, any extra revenue is shared with the research supplier and the client who originally posted the project.

Collaborata helps to solve many of the problems currently faced in the market research industry. A 2015 Greenbook blog post by Leonard Murphy noted “dwindling budgets” as one of the top 10 challenges in the industry. Collaborata reduces redundancy by connecting clients with similar research needs, so they can pool their funds. Michalis Michael’s 2015 Greenbook blog, regarding the future of the marketing-research industry, noted two significant predictions. First that “ traditional market-research agencies that refuse to change will go out of business.” Collaborating, in order to drive down costs, seems not only like reasonable, but also, strategic change. Michael also suggested that: “Agile research will become mainstream, ” reflecting that the time is right for the sharing economy to be embraced within the industry now.

There are already nearly 20 projects, totally $2 million in value, posted on Collaborata, ranging in content from “Millennial Mealtime” and “Gen Z Luxe” to “Omni-Channel Shopping” and even “Sizing the Global Legal Marijuana Market.” A 60-second video, residing at, explains how Collaborata works and how you can quickly become a sharer — to the benefit or your company or organization.

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5 responses to “Five Reasons Why the Market Research Industry Is Ready to Join the Sharing Economy

  1. Great article Peter!

    If you are not aware of Cint and our platform, we are a sharing economy business that supports the MR industry and our technology connects those that what to share insights (panelists) with those that want to buy insights (researchers). Think of Cint as the Uber of the market research industry’s target research audience (sample) market, though we have been at it longer than Uber.

  2. Great article for any market researcher! Even after ending a research project that proved to be a great investment, it is like pulling teeth to get the company behind the next project.

    Another important challenge for Market Research Industry is enormous amount of expected automation which will kill the human interference for most purposes. Although there might be visible advantages of a human interference, the differential benefit what a human interference causes might be quite limited. As the accuracy of the automated solutions would increase, the amount of opportunities for Market Researchers would come down drastically.

  3. Such a smart and intuitive concept–the most brilliant companies and platforms always are, in retrospect, but identifying the trend and need and leveraging action is the art. Leave it to Zollo. I’m in, and can’t wait to see where this goes.

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