What is left for Research Agencies in Insight?

Letitia Oglesby
December, 2022

By Meri Nasaj – Resourcer

More and more research is being done by non-researchers and client side teams, so what is left for Research Agencies who work in the insight sector?

In their annual report, ESOMAR has answered this question and discussed what will become of a market research industry that’s increasingly automated and in-house.

Doing large scale survey’s in-house was next to impossible pre-internet; since then, the possibilities have increased thanks to new platforms and service providers that can enable surveys, track sentiment, monitor intentions, test products and ads. As a result more and more research is done in house.

In addition, during the pandemic consumer behaviour changed so quickly that companies needed real-time research providing answers instantly, which fed the explosion of self-serve research.

Businesses also needed to know “what was going to happen next” which led to more strategic research, so a lot of work went to consulting companies. Businesses like Pwc, McKinsey & co, Bain & Company, Salesforce, and Google started being involved in what was traditionally defined as market research.

Automation and in-housing research became one of the main threats to established agencies. For example “Momentive – the company behind SurveyMonkey, made it fast and relatively inexpensive for even small organisations with no insights team to ask people questions at scale.”

SurveyMonkey describes its offering as including market and brand insights. Samuel Bakouch, Momentive’s Head of Product, says “relative newcomers to the sector are sometimes rivals to the established players but often complementary service providers.” 

The proliferation of data dashboards raises some important questions!

One is how to filter data for quality in a world inundated with trolls and other fake or misleading information.

“What the data can do and what it can’t? A limitation may be because it’s historical data and so an unstable base from which to make predictions about the future, or it may be because the data is only a tiny piece of a much bigger picture.” 

“What is the established research market is going to mutate into, so it offers a lot more than just research.” This is the moment when market research sector has an opportunity to redefine itself.

Oshima, former head of marketing at Starbucks Japan, ex strategy at Coca cola has one solution “tech people will make the ‘traditional’ agencies better, and that’s the way they need to think about it. The tech people don’t know how consumer understanding works, and the consumer understanding people don’t know how tech works.” 

“You will still see human involvement when you’re trying to make recommendations… and you need your executive team to make important decisions, so you’ll still need to make sense of and present insights in a compelling way. That will always exist”. 

So, there’s a future for agencies within insight but it’s clear they will have to change their services and those within them their skills.

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