The marketing research industry must adapt alongside consumers

Editor’s note: Matt Hynes is executive vice president global supply at Cint, a Stockholm-based research technology firm. 

The influence of consumer insights knows no bounds. They are sought by everyone, everywhere. They have the power to provide impact across industries and communities. 

But if they’re everywhere, why do they feel so hard to attain?

The market research industry is at a crossroads, one in which innovation on both the supply and buy sides is needed, and fast. Attention spans are shrinking, privacy concerns are abound and it’s all leading people to question if, when, how and in what capacity they should be sharing their personal data with third-party survey companies. 

This is a challenge for the market research industry, but not one that’s insurmountable. Let’s pull back the curtain and look at what buyers and suppliers can do now to advance the market research industry forward, so that we can continue toward a goal of being able to survey everyone, everywhere.

Growing the survey respondent pool

Let’s look at how mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are grow the respondent pool and creating new opportunities for emerging suppliers.

We’re seeing an influx of M&A activity in the market research industry, particularly on the supplier side. Established suppliers are acquiring smaller, independent companies and integrating them into their own ecosystem to boost their respondent pool and realize synergies within their cost structure. Bonus points if the supplier is nontraditional and it is its first time in the market research industry.

As these companies consolidate and fence off supply for internal use, it allows for other startups to fill in the gaps and grow their businesses. Some of the most innovative suppliers in the space today are driven by this opportunity, with founders learning from past experiences and refining the models that have proven successful in the past.

Let’s look at Publishers Clearing House (PCH). The company, a nontraditional supplier, has a very deep relationship with its audience, built on trust and transparency that makes its respondents comfortable sharing information and views for market research. As such, PCH has become a valuable independent supplier to organizations, including Cint, by expanding the reach of unique, validated respondents within the industry. 

Invest in new technology to evolve survey development and deployment 

The above PCH example demonstrates consumers’ current desire for evolved brand trust, user engagement and value proposition. While we might not have the answer as to what that exact value exchange should look like for every consumer and demographic group just yet, what we do have is the technology to help us get there.

Generative AI is exploding and driving innovation within every single industry, and market research is no different. It is proving useful in streamlining the process of collecting and analyzing data through its ability to predict potential outcomes and decipher connections between different variables within data sets. 

AI can explore connections between performance, consumer behaviors and attitudes that otherwise might slip through the cracks with the human eye. It also has the ability to identify potential fraudulent respondents faster and more effectively than legacy methods. As a result, organizations can adjust surveys faster than ever before to better meet consumer wants. 

Prioritize trust and safety, and work together to fight fraud 

In the market research industry, data security can be broken down into two categories: trust and safety. Consumers need to trust the value exchange: that their personal data is being collected for a specific purpose, and one that will also somehow benefit them directly. And that data needs to be kept safe, once collected.

When it comes to safety, fraud is a challenge that every industry grapples with, and the market research industry is no exception. Online surveys are seeing an increased number of ghost completes and bots, both of which are leading to skewed data. While it’s frustrating, there are industry-wide initiatives focused on solving it. Now is the time for suppliers, buyers, research platforms and technology providers to standardize server-to-server integrations that can eliminate ghost completes all together.

Where does the market research industry go from here?

The important thing to remember is that respondent pools are not drying up; the pipeline is just adjusting. The market research industry needs to adapt alongside consumers. Creating new opportunities for emerging suppliers, the evolution of survey development and the implementation of new technologies are all imperative steps. 

By aligning the needs of the industry with the shifting landscape, opportunities will continue to come along, allowing us to provide meaningful insights driven by real users in ways that we could only have dreamed possible a few years ago.