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Top 10 Changes in MR Over the Past Decade

As we enter the 2020s, Dig looks back at the biggest changes to our industry over the past decade.

In no particular order…

1. Faster and cheaper, but what about quality?

For years it was generally accepted that there is a necessary trade-off between speed, price and quality. Sorry, but you can’t have all three.

This equation now seems to be broken (or at least breaking). Today, many clients are asking for all three. Even though their budget is “tight”, they often want results in days, and they want it packaged into a tight, visually appealing “story”.

Are such demands reasonable? Possible? Technology lets us execute studies faster and cheaper than ever before, but the end product inevitably suffers when we take away the time to think, be it upfront thinking during design, and/or in the interpretation and presentation of results.

Dig’s POV:

We’ve done a lot to satisfy the demand for “cheaper and faster”. Sometimes we simply sharpen our pencil, and work late nights and weekends. But we’ve also built some incredible proprietary R-based tools that democratize our analytics.

No longer does everything have to go through our data science team. Analysis like TURF, network maps, and driver analysis can be done by anyone in the company. And for situations when you need results in hours, we built Upsiide (see #2).

2. The emergence of DIY platforms

Inexorably linked to “faster and cheaper” is the tectonic shift to do-it-yourself (DIY) research.

At the start of the last decade, a few pioneers introduced us to fast and cheap self-serve models. A decade later, companies like Zappi and Methodify have made DIY commonplace.

Dig’s POV:

We embraced this change and built our own DIY SaaS platform: Upsiide (“Tinder for Ideas”).

For as little as one thousand dollars (not a typo), clients can launch their own survey and get results through a leading-edge dashboard in less than an hour (not a typo). Curious to learn more? We would love to give you a walkthrough of the Upsiide platform.

3. Programmatic sample

In the last few years, enabling us to go “cheaper and faster”, sample has followed other industries like media has gone, programmatic. Sample aggregators such as Lucid have driven down CPIs to a fraction of what they once were. And by leveraging multiple panels, fieldwork can be completed in much less time.

Dig’s POV:

 A key reason why Upsiide projects can be done so quickly and cheaply is our API integration with Lucid.

4. Big data analytics

Over the last decade “Big Data” has become, well, really big. Clients are sitting on mountains of customer data and have started to dig for insight diamonds. This shift in attention (and budget) has had a profound impact on traditional research suppliers who have relied principally on primary survey data.

Success will come to firms that are able to combine primary and secondary data, revealing WHAT people are doing and WHY.

Dig’s POV:

We have done many sophisticated studies that merge primary and secondary data. We helped a retailer identify which of its customers are high-value at a competitor. For a telecom client, we developed an attitudinal and behavioural segmentation from survey data data and appended transactional data, then we tagged millions of customers in their database using only transactional data.

5. Industry consolidation among large firms

The past decade saw consolidation among some of the biggest brands in the world of Market Research. IPSOS merged with Synovate, and then absorbed GfK (or part of it). Research Now merged with Critical Mix and SSI to become Dynata. Millward Brown and TNS are now Kantar. The list goes on.

Dig’s POV:

We can’t help but think this trend reflects the difficulty that industry giants have innovating, and generating organic growth (not a concern for Dig: 5-year CAGR of 31%).

For a visual summary of this article, download our infographic here.

6. The dominance of mobile

One of our partners recently shared data showing year-to-year, the proportion of new panelists who attempt to complete their first survey on a mobile device. As recently as 2015, that figure was in the 20% range. Today it is well over half. And if you want to hear from GenZ or Millennials, mobile is mandatory.

Can you believe that until recently, for some studies we would identify the respondent’s device and then only proceed if they were on a computer?

Dig’s POV:

All of Dig’s methodological innovation is “mobile-first”. Being “mobile-friendly” is simply not good enough.

7. Increased focus on consumer behaviour

Nobel laureate and founder of behavioural economics Daniel Kahneman published a ground-breaking book Thinking Fast and Slow way back in 2011. Ever since, our industry has embraced behavioural economics. How many times have clients asked what “System-1” tools do you have?

Dig’s POV:

Much of Dig’s innovation is rooted in behavioural economics. Yes, we still ask people what people think, but we love to see how they behave.

8. A flood of investment funds

This past decade saw a deluge of outside investment into the world of insights. In 2019, software giant SAP paid $8 billion in cash for Qualtrics; that was more than 20 times Qualtrics’s revenue (revenue, not earnings!). Soon after, Bain Capital agreed to buy 60% of Kantar for more than $3 billion cash. And according to “sources”, Dynata is reportedly up for sale for more than $3 billion (cash, no doubt).

These are three high-profile deals, but countless other smaller transactions have reshaped our industry, helping newer, smaller firms raise their profile and quickly gain market share.

As we start the 2020s, private equity firms are sitting on a staggering $1.5 trillion of unspent capital, or “dry powder”. Surely we have only just begun to see the impact of outside investment on our industry.

Dig’s POV:

Since day 1, Dig has run as a profitable business. Today, we compete with venture and PE-backed firms that are focused on growing share, and not their bottom line. This presents challenges for how to innovate and how to price studies.

Recently, Dig opened the Private Equity curtain and had discussions with some leading firms. Getting money does not seem to be the difficult part. Agreeing on the right valuation and finding a partner that can truly accelerate growth is the key.

9. Qual has been redefined

Can you remember the first time you encountered an online focus group? It was probably about a decade ago.

Today, thanks to ubiquitous broadband, smartphones in every pocket, and some incredible new technology platforms, digital qual looks nothing like it did. In addition to online groups, we leverage social media, client communities, mobile diaries, video interviews, to name a few.

Traditional in-person qual still plays a critical role, but for many clients, online is now the starting point when considering qualitative research.

Dig’s POV:

Led by Patricia King, Dig Insights VP, our qualitative team is on the leading edge of online qual.

10. Breaking down borders

No longer are multi-country studies the exclusive domain of multinationals like Ipsos. By partnering with global panel companies, relatively small consultancies can operate on a global scale.

Dig’s POV:

Dig is truly an international consultancy. In 2019 we conducted Upsiide projects in more than 30 countries.

And with our diverse and multicultural team based in Toronto, the world’s most multicultural city, we are ideally positioned to add far more stamps to our corporate passport.

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