When the ultimate space cadet and entrepreneur Elon Musk, tells the world in an on-stage interview that, when entering new businesses, “I do zero market research whatsoever,” you know you are in interesting times.
2019 had more twists and turns than the latest Netflix blockbuster. New players invested in the industry: private investment firm Bain Capital acquiring a 60 percent share of Kantar and SAP buying Qualtrics for $8 billion.
There was also a changing of the old guard: GfK sold a chunk of its business to Ipsos and some former rivals joined forces with the merger and integration of Research Now and SSI.
So, what’s next for the sector?
Market research industry consolidation means customers may have less choice – with fewer, bigger research platforms. By default, consumer package goods, financial, telecommunications and media & entertainment corporations may soon do all their testing – from ideation to business analysis to commercialisation – with a single research partner, leading to bigger brand and firm partnerships.
Double down on technology
Technical advancements mean that research-savvy brands become less dependent on services and double down on tech with two key strands immerging:
- Automation based on best practice techniques. This will ensure maximum efficiency, enabling users to focus on interpreting what the results mean and their business implications
- AI and machine learning will provide opportunities to mine data more efficiently and effectively as data from both primary and secondary sources grow
The upside of the global innovators: speed, rigour, agility and quality
The benefits of doing more research with fewer partners are apparent: greater consistency across results and, possibly, less financial outlay.
Technology means clients can now have the speed, rigour and agility they require. Actions can be deployed from the results, at the pace consumers now demand.
Speed remains a constant. What was fast last year may not be in 2020 but research has also to offer the flexibility to fit with iterative innovation processes.
Agility means using tools and techniques which factor speed and rigour into the process, at the same time, so work of a high quality can be delivered at a faster pace.
As technology continues to evolve and standardise, a benefit of industry consolidation should be that the end data will be more actionable, faster and better quality.
The Down Side?
Industry consolidation offers well-known challenges. Consolidated industry sectors can have relatively high barriers to entry, lack of differentiated products, and potentially few, well-established brands with high profit margins. It can also mean that larger firms end up with more business, potentially stunting creativity and competition. In the market research sector, single partner testing without the checks and balances of diverse inputs could result in worse and not better decision making.
Consolidation in the car industry has seen relatively few global manufacturers frantically buy share, interestingly it is still Mr. Musk’s technology-driven Tesla which boasts a higher MarCap than competitors General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.
It’s the same in the market research industry where only the truly, technology-based businesses will thrive on a global scale.