Market Research In A Recession

It won’t come as a big shock that the UK market research sector, like the majority of other industry sectors, isn’t recession proof and has been hit, at least to some extent, by the current recession.

The key takeaways from a recent ‘State of the industry survey’ by RSM are as follows:

  • Six out of ten researchers have seen their budgets decline and only one in 20 has experienced an increase
  • Research activity in most sectors is expected to experience a net decline, most significantly in the automotive and media sectors
  • Most research methods will feel the impact of recession, with face-to-face hit hardest (48% expect to spend less on face-to-face research and only 6% expect to spend more).
  • Web-based data collection will continue to increase, although at a reduced rate compared to previous years.
  • The current discipline of carefully prioritising expenditure and ensuring the best possible ROI is expected by some to become common practice

This particular piece of research got us talking internally and we came up with the following trends that we have seen within our world at B2B International:

1. There are less market research specialists in corporates than ever before

Gone are the days when every corporate had a market research manager. Increasingly we are being commissioned by non-market research specialists — marketing managers, product managers, marketing directors and the like. This means that the briefs we receive are sometimes woolly and impossible to achieve (especially in timescales and costs). Timings are a real bugbear within B2B International as we never want to compromise quality although our clients often seem to be being leaned on by their management in terms of timing leaving unrealistic timescales to collect and analyse the findings. However, the recession has resulted in companies becoming keener to understand the pressures their customers are facing – a greater recognition of the interdependence of theirs and their customers’ success.

2. Every job is put out to a long tender list

Gone are the days when we used to visit a client to take a brief and proposals were submitted from just three companies. Nowadays clients bash their briefs out to (sometimes) dozens of agencies. The competition has never been fiercer and prices as a result have been driven down with clients sometimes placing too much emphasis on cost rather than quality

3. We need to be increasingly imaginative about research methods

Gone are the days when we used to do surveys based on a simple research method. Increasingly we are given complex problems that have to be answered with a range of different research tools. It is not unusual for us nowadays to mix online surveys with telephone surveys and qualitative with quantitative.

4. We are required to be strategic consultant’s as well as data collectors

Gone are the days when market researchers simply researched a market. Today, in business to business markets we are expected to be familiar with all the business and marketing frameworks that traditionally were the ground of McKinsey and Bain.

5. We are increasingly required to use multidisciplinary teams

Gone are the days when a sole researcher could carry out a market research project from beginning to end on their own. B2B International has brought together a diverse team with specialist skills ranging from pure research backgrounds through to statisticians, computer programmers and consultants that can act in an advisory capacity upon completion of a project

As usual, during any recession, research providers who supply quality and value throughout the difficult times will emerge stronger and fitter. However, with organizations continually looking to measure ROI on every pound spent, is the competitive landscape for business to business research changed forever?

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