Market ResearchMarket Trends

Alliance of International Market Research Institutes: A Pie Grows in Manhattan

market research survey trendsAt last week’s AIMRI conference in NYC, I had the opportunity to meet market researchers from around the world: Czech Republic, England, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and more.  A small but dedicated group of researchers met to share current insights on market research trends, and to constructively discuss our industry’s future.

With contributions to the conversations by John Mackay (who, among other roles, is the founder of The Research Club), Lenny Murphy, Ruth Stanat and others, some of the presentations—and discussion—repeatedly pointed to an underlying question:

Is the volume of “traditional” survey work declining, or is it simply that the volume of other methods is growing faster? In other words, the market research pie is growing, and surveys have a smaller slice of a larger pie?

Personally, I don’t see any evidence that the volume of surveys is declining—if anything it is increasing. But I also see plenty of evidence that as a percent of the total, surveys are declining.

Evidence was abundant at AIMRI as well. Consider the presentation by Marshall Toplansky of WiseWindow, who shared a case study example of using a combination of social media research and ethnography as a Phase 1 to a quantitative Phase 2. This is consistent with many cases I see in client-side organizations; market research surveys are still being done, but are increasingly augmented by other methods.

As further evidence, consider that three of the ten presentations were specifically about panel based research. Panels (at least for now) are largely focused on data collection for online surveys.

And finally, lest there be any last doubt that surveys are still being done in volume, consider this: by my last count, there are now over 50 companies offering online survey platforms. Okay, this isn’t a fact specific to the AIMRI conference, but if survey volume was shrinking, I don’t think we would be seeing such a surge in new software platform entries.

Surveys are here. Vast volumes are done every day.  But as other options grow in volume, market research agencies simply have to ask themselves: what does the term “full service agency” really mean in today’s context?


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Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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2 thoughts on “Alliance of International Market Research Institutes: A Pie Grows in Manhattan”

  1. Good summary. I think the growing pie analogy is one of better descriptions of the MR industry that I’ve read. I think it is a touch conservative, as I think the growth of surveys will likely show minimal/modest growth while the rest of the pie will expand at a rapid rate. Surveys will never go away, but clients will increasingly expect most firms (and any firm that claims to be “full-service) to have a *firm* grasp of social media analysis, how to integrate findings from both social and traditional sources and what the implications are for the client business in terms of overall strategy and social strategy. Sounds relatively straightforward, but completing the trifecta will define success.

  2. Thanks Brandon. As I observe what is going on with many “full service” agencies I know, I can’t help but think things will end up fragmenting–that we will see a lot of specialist firms, including some that will focus on simply surveys (with excellence, of course), others on crowdsourcing, others on social media….OR, that we will see firms that specialize by application (example: a market research agency that specializes in Brand Research and uses a wide variety of traditional and newer methods to do it). We have so many research applications and methods these days, I just don’t see many firms that can do it all, well.

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