Will Online Panel Companies Kill Market Research Agencies?

What if an online data collection company starts providing market research services? Will they effectively put traditional market research agencies out of business? This may seem a far fetched reality to some but one cannot deny its possibilities. With shrinking markets and harsh recession onslaught – every new dollar earned is a lease of life for companies. Therefore in coming few years many online panel companies might be tempted to move beyond current services to attract more clients. This article illustrates the possibility and aftermath of online panel companies expanding to incorporate complete market research service suite.

I know you are still not taking me seriously.

Let me throw an example: survey software companies have never sold online panels primarily because a large chunk of their revenues come from online panel companies – who may not like one of their vendors to be a potential competitor.

But things are changing – with recent acquisition of Market Tools by Survey Monkey now a survey software company is providing online panels.

I know you are a big skeptic and will pass it off as a one of a case or that Survey Monkey business model is different. But the bigger question is that if one company has done it what will stop others to follow the path?

To deny probing further in the possibility of online panel companies taking over market research agencies jobs will be foolish.

Let me elaborate it a bit more:

A typical research project have 3 major components – first is the designing of the project, second will be collecting of data and lastly to present relevant insights.

Now please don’t be offended if I say that the last part of providing insights has slowly but steadily being taken over by the Consultancy companies like McKinsey and Bain – in the name of insights market researchers are actually just providing quantifiable metrics of the client’s gut feeling.

Where client is expecting insights most researchers are shelving out boring mammoth presentations which at the end of the day don’t make any sense. In simpler words researchers have stopped being BOLD in their approach.

Today a researcher acts more like an astrologer who publishes daily horoscope – making random statements and playing safe all along. Often you will hear researchers making statements similar to clueless weatherman – ‘it may rain tomorrow’ – clearly showing the inability to take a firm stand and then backing it up at all cost.

To sum up – where a management consultant is telling clients ‘what needs to be done’ – most market researchers are stuck with ‘whatever you feel like hearing’.

Adding to the problem is more and more reliance on the outside vendors to collect data. Although many market research agencies have in-house data collection facilities but there has been going trend to outsource it.

Now if insights are taken up by consultants and data collection by vendors – a typical market research agency is effectively left over with designing questionnaires or to put in a positive light coordinating the project.

Are clients comfortable with burning huge stack of cash to just coordinate their research projects?

I am sure NOT!

Earlier when market was good no one really cared but today clients are scrutinizing every dollar spent closely. It will not be long before they will realize the futility of hiring a market research agency and instead may prefer the data collection company to design the questionnaire and get the data collected.

Another big issue is that many traditional market researchers are still unaware of a simple fact that design of a questionnaire where data is collected online is entirely different if it were to be conducted face to face.

With access to respondents getting tougher every day – online data collection will be the dominant methodology in coming decade – as mentioned earlier will it not be safer to get the questionnaire designed from online panel company than from a MR agency which is still stuck in archaic methods?

Interestingly there are some online panel companies which have a separate market research unit just not to antagonize their market research clients – but what is stopping many other to follow suit and open their own MR units?

The warning bells for a typical market research agency has already begun ringing – they may dismiss it as just a rumor started by Akshay Kanyal but this will be quite a fatal mistake!

Therefore it will be wise for MR agencies to put in real efforts to give more and more valuable insights to the clients – if the demarcation line between a MR agency and data collection company reduces – the former will have trouble sustaining itself.

Please do take some time to put your thoughts in the comment section below.

Akshay Kanyal

Akshay Kanyal

Akshay Kanyal writes survey research reviews on his popular blog Online MR. He’s an avid blogger, brand consultant and a content marketing expert, helping business owners to craft content that sells.

He provides content marketing advice to start-ups and innovation driven companies. He can be contacted at editor@onlinemr.com

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