A recent study (which included The Research Society as a partner and more than 20 other organisations) collected the views of 640 buyers and users of research in the largest study of clients this year. The key findings from the study were:
- There is a shift towards more research projects being conducted internally, leading to a prediction that within a couple of years about 50% of research products will be conducted internally. Key drivers in this change include the need to be agile, the democratisation of insights, and the growing range of self-serve platforms.
- The key current challenges, in 2020, are COVID-19 related, including the reduction in budgets and the problems in terms of face-to-face research and meetings with colleagues and suppliers.
- The key challenges over the next couple of years include COVID-19 related issues, but they also include data related concerns, such as data ethics, data integration and big data.
- The focus of interest is on simple research, conducted efficiently and cost-effectively, as opposed to the more innovative tools such as neuroscience, passive monitoring, and voice assisted research.
The study included 32 responses from buyers and users of research in Australia, and the key points to highlight from Australia were:
- The share of projects that are conducted internally is even higher in Australia than the rest of the world (52% versus 40%). Further, 39% of the Australian clients reported that the internal share is growing, which is similar to the global picture.
- 71% of Australian clients reported that the quality of internal research was good, and 58% said it had improved. These are similar numbers to the global picture.
- 94% of clients in Australia said that internal research was suitable for ‘short-term tactical questions’ (which is even higher than the rest of the world’s 85%). External providers were seen by 77% of organisations as being relevant to ‘solve strategic business issues’ – which is very similar to the 74% for the rest of the world.
- Australian users of research expect to be doing more research projects in 2021 (72%), higher than the global total at 59%. However, 38% said their budget had fallen in 2020 and 22% said it would fall in 2021 (these are similar numbers to the rest of the world). The key message is the need to do more with less.
- External agencies were seen to be good at providing speed (69%), quality (81%) and relevance of insights (69%). However, like the rest of the world, agencies were seen to score less well in terms of their ability to ‘convince your team’ (44% top 2 boxes).
*note, all of the points about Australian differences highlighted above are statistically significant at the 80% or higher level.
Of course, numbers can only say so much, so we asked these buyers and users to describe in their own words the challenges they are facing in 2020 and the challenges they expect in 2021.
There were several strands represented in these open-ended comments, and each strand below is highlighted by comments typical of that line of thinking.
- Agile “Managing Internal Projects workload as a research team that is transitioning to an increased influx of shorter-term projects.” and “We are moving to agile so new ways of working to embed insight in an MVP iteration process will be a new challenge”.
- Budgets and Resources “Funding for external research and resourcing for internal research” and “Covid-19, low budget”.
- Challenges to the perceived value of research “Justifying research spend” and “Senior scepticism regarding research”.
- Data Quality “I’m highly sceptical of panel data” and “Quality of sample for quant studies.”
The big picture?
COVID-19 and the financial pressures it has created have had and are having a massive impact on society, research, and the users of research. However, the scale of the COVID-19 related problems should not distract the insights industry away from systemic and structural issues. The value of research needs to be evidenced, the quality of the data needs to be ensured, and the industry needs to facilitate the growth in agile research by accommodating and facilitating the shift to democratisation and the shift to more research being conducted internally.
The partners in the study were: ABEP (Brazil), ADM (Germany), AIM (Chile), AIMRO (Ireland), AMAI (Mexico), ANISE (Nigeria), ARF (US), ASBPM (Brazil), CEISMU (Uruguay), CRIC (Canada), Confirmit, IA (US), JMRA (Japan), MOA (Netherlands), MRSS (Singapore), NewMR, PUMa (Germany), Potentiate (Australia), QRCA (US), QUIRKS (US), RANZ (New Zealand), SAARF (South Africa), SAIMO (Argentina), The Research Society (Australia), and the Vietnam Market Research Association.
Author: Ray Poynter, Chief Research Officer, Potentiate