The state of the research & insight industry 2019

Letitia Oglesby
December, 2018

The state of the research and insight industry 2019
With Brexit looming large and all of us feeling a bit unsure about what next, reading the recent Research Live Industry Report made us feel a lot more positive!

Some key points that stood out to us:

1) The UK research market now accounts for £5bn! Representing growth of 3%
2) The top 100 individual agencies have grown by 6.5%
3) 43.2% of the entire EU research output comes from the UK!

As always, the Research Live report takes an indepth look at the research & insight industry and we wanted to summarise some of the findings. For the full report, you can download here.


Currency fluctuations have had a big impact on growth figures. When these figures are converted in US dollars, eight out of 25 global organisations were British and accounted for $12.2bn (46.4% of total revenue for top 25 organisations). Alongside this, the UK contingent included three of the top 10 companies including no1. Nielsen, no2. Kantar and no.9 Dunnhumby. The Euro represented 14.5% of the total global revenue (8.2 of which coming from France) and the Japanese Yen claiming 2.9% of global revenue.

How Global?

In the UK, France and Germany more than 75% of their 2017 revenue comes from international research.  By comparison, in the US only 41% of their research revenue is international.  Although overall the industry is very global, 16 of the top 25 companies get 60% or more of their annual revenue from their home country.

New approaches 

So how has the portfolio of services changed? We live in a period of rapid change and as result agencies have had to invent new and reinvent existing research methodologies.

The second is embracing change by learning to ask, listen and observe. Finally, Graeme Lawrence, from  Join the dots, stresses the importance of flexibility. This point is later reiterated by Andrew Tenzer, head of group insight at Reach, claims he is ”tired of research agencies offering standardised approaches which are dogmatic in their very nature” which has driven him to do more research in-house because agencies offer help without actually knowing his challenges. This is reiterated by Jake Steadman, senior director insight & analytics at Twitter, who insists that agencies need to think differently.

Business conditions

When discussing international business conditions, it’s not long before we arrive to the question of Brexit. Quentin Ashby, Managing Director at Join the dots explains that the uncertainty of the UK market puts clients under a lot of pressure as businesses are more cautious about spending. Jem Fawcus, CEO at Firefish, has expressed a particular problem – European staff are leaving the UK, and setting up payroll structures to keep them employed from their home countries is difficult. It is evident that the longer the uncertainty of Brexit looms, the larger negative impact it will have on the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe. The report also touches on the impact that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) the gender pay gap have had an impact in the market research sector – two of the hottest topics in 2018.

Looking forward

Jon Arthurs, Metrixlab UK managing director, believes that “Growth in our industry will come from automation, AI, new technique development, efficiency and agility. Automation not only brings efficiencies, it also offers increased precision, but we need to ensure it is complemented by adding value to the insight generated”.

Jem Fawcus, Firefish CEO, however, thinks future growth will come from a “stronger focus and value on strategic interpretation, rather than just data gathering”. For 2019, he adds: “Forget digital. Forget AI.  Forget blockchain. All of that is important, but not as important as the person who will buy your product or use your service.

This is a golden age for making sense of the human experience,  so expect agencies that can deliver human strategy to thrive, and for Quentin Ashby , it’s all about being flexible. “Flexibility to blend asking, listening and observation techniques to answer business challenges.  We think clients will benefit from fusing these methods, whether that be an online community with social intelligence, or self-ethno with cultural context.”

What do you think? Drop us a comment below.

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