Many industries have witnessed disruptions caused by the emergence of digital tools. Unsurprisingly, market research is no exception. In particular, market research disruption is the result of the emergence of new agencies starting to gain market share. The media fragmentation and convergence brought about by the digital era guides consumer behaviour to move into the online environment.
Therefore, research is also moving online to follow suit. However, it’s important to remember that market research disruption is about more than simply the rise of online methods. These are a few of the most innovative new types of research agency that are shaking up a well-established industry.
1. Online Agencies
As expected, these are the research firms that started to uproot traditional agencies in the early 2000s. They were the pioneers of a new era that acknowledged the complexity of consumers’ virtual existence and the breadth of market research in the offline environment. What these agencies offer is better precision and reliability than traditional market research methods — potentially at a lower cost too.
Online research also lacks geographical boundaries that constrain traditional market research, giving clients access to international markets and insights. Even though they have grown rapidly and fruitfully since their beginnings, online agencies have not seen the degree of growth that industry analysts predicted. Why might this be? This question can have multiple answers. Part of the issue may lie with the fact that agencies do not do enough to break conventional perceptions of market research. Another, commonly cited facet is that clients expect bond to develop between the researcher and the participants — that is not easily replicated online.
2. DIY Tools
A new breed of online market research is the DIY tool. These individual tools, or platforms, allow individuals to conduct quantitative market research without the aid of an agency. This has encouraged many companies to bring research in-house, without employing a dedicated team of researchers.
Because these firms specialise in platform development, companies can select their own tasks, questions and even participants. However, there is an unwritten trade-off when it comes to DIY platforms — you very much get what you pay for. A research platform is a means to an end. Though the tools may present a cost advantage, you’ll still need to consider exactly how you’ll recruit participants, conduct research and analyse findings.
3. Automated Solutions
An automated solution can be regarded as the digital, artificial intelligence equivalent of a full-service research agency. But while the latter are increasingly seen as redundant today, the former are just evolving. Their main advantage is integration between digital marketing research efforts, analysis and distribution. However, automated market research is still in its infancy and by no means a perfect solution. It has limited applications — especially across data collection stages. Instead it is combine research automation with simple, non-mission critical tasks that save researchers time rather than replace traditional functions.
4. Digital Omnibus Providers
Though few, these research agencies are managing to provide what traditional market research lacks: speed. They facilitate almost instantaneous results in exchange for a one-time purchase. Clients receive a generalised report of the market, conducted using repeated, proven and reliable methods. Those that funded the research receive reliable, accurate (if relatively standardised) results.
For many middleweight firms, it’s a dream come true. Except that it is isn’t. What this research lacks is the personalisation and contextual reporting provided by other agencies. In addition, there is no interpretation of results or unique recommendations that capitalise on firm and market position. Ultimately, the value of a digital omnibus depends on what you want to do with the data.
- Do you need a description of demographics?
- Are you looking for the ideal location to open a new store?
These are questions that can be answered by an omnibus, without revealing competitive intelligence to other firms funding the study. However, if you’re looking for feedback on a new product development, this may not be the best approach for you.
5. Specialised Reporting Agencies
This last emerging trend in research agency structure is vital for traditional agencies to understand. It has the potential to temporarily cut deep into the net present value of cash flow. This is the effect of specialised reporting agencies.Market researchers will typically spend approximately 20% of their work lives reporting. But reporting is becoming increasingly complex. It is the need for greater storytelling and data visualisation that specialised research reporting agencies have come to fill.
As the market research marketplace continues to fragment, what specialist, boutique agencies do you believe will become more popular over the next few years?