More Alike than Different: The Changing Roles of Corporate and Supplier Researchers

twinsWhich of these statements is most accurate?

A.   Market researchers who work “client-side” and “supply-side” use the same methods.
B.   Market researchers who work “client-side” and “supply-side” use different methods.

If you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have said “B.” That is, I would have said “client-side” (also often referred to as corporate researchers) and “supply-side” (also sometimes called agency researchers) have very different jobs, responsibilities, skills, and tools.

Not anymore.

I see plenty of examples that reveal the answer is now “A.”   I know many corporate research departments that design research methods, execute multi-phased projects, run focus groups, use SPSS (and other data analysis tools), conduct text analysis and do their own reporting. These days, corporate research departments are just as likely as supply-side researchers to have team members with graduate degrees in market research and related fields. Indeed, some corporate research departments are increasingly intersecting with their colleagues in customer analytics and other data-driven business functions—such that they are becoming quite sophisticated in using various data sources.

It is time to acknowledge that “client-side” and “supply-side” researchers now use many of the same methods, tools and processes. These professionals have many similar skills sets and credentials.

What are the implications? The roles of clients and suppliers are now overlapping and intersecting in exciting new ways. Some of these new intersections are creating career advancement opportunities, and even new business and organizational structures. Some are creating pain for teams that need to adjust to the new reality.

And for those of us who remember the days when corporate researchers were often primarily purchasing agents with little-to-no hands-on research skill? Get over it. Those days are gone.

Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think.


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