Why is market research so expensive and so slow?

Market research is nearly always sold as customised to your needs

Because it is assumed that every situation is a bit different and customising the study is therefore essential. But is this really necessary and is this that the best way? It certainly keeps it high cost. It also slows things down as the survey has to be designed and the results need custom analysis.


Image from www.techiemania.com

If you ask for a custom study then the market research provider will offer it.
Agencies do this because they believe it is what their clients want. And we all like to feel our unique circumstances are being attended to. So studies are presented as customised and custom flexibility is provided.


This is most obviously true of high end market research firms. This is not surprising it is in their interests to provide a good service and charge accordingly. But surprisingly it is also true of self-survey software like survey gizmo and survey monkey. They present their product as something that you can customise to your needs. The whole emphasis is on flexibility and customisation.

But is customisation the best way?

Yes it is easier to flex it to your market situation. bUt it also leads to market research forms and their clients endlessly reinventing the wheel and learning from mistakes that others made before them.

Maybe it would be better to stick with proven best practice

This has learned from the mistakes of others in the past. This means using fixed formats of research recruitment, survey design, data collection, analysis and reporting. So this is not just in how you manage the study and the analytical tools but also extends to exactly how the study is delivered, analysed and reported. Fixed survey formats also have the potential to reduce the human error factor (dodgy presentations!) and create more reliable insight and decision making.

Now in reality many research studies use proven methodology and repeat it many times. But a lot of customisation is allowed in how it is done and delivered. Is this wise?
How many formats should there be. Maybe not very many.

The only point of market research is help you make a decision

Thus you reduce the risk you make the wrong decision. The goal is not to gain an insight (often stated as a goal) but to make a decision that transforms your business performance. When you examine all the research that is done for business organisations. It all boils down to three decisions. Maybe there are only a few formats needed.

  1. Ask what should the business be doing e.g. change the product, message, service, packaging, media to meet customer needs (e.g. U&A, trend data, exploratory research).
  2. Ask how well the business is doing what it should be doing? Know how to do a better job to delight customers. (e.g. tracking studies, retail audit, customer satisfaction).
  3. Decide which product customers will buy more of or pay more for? (e.g. concept test, market test).

There are lots of different ways of tackling these questions.

Discovering which is the best , standardizing the method and making it even better offers the prospect of much better research at much lower cost and with much greater speed.

This would benefit existing market research users. But it would also enable smaller businesses to access tools that were previously kept back for large firms. Presently smaller firms are left to build their own surveys in self survey tools and make all the mistakes that a novice will stumble across.

Web technology makes this feasible. It enables standardisation, it reduces cost, it opens up new ways to collect data, it makes things quicker.

So far the market research industry has struggled in its use of the web. It has not sought to change the business model which remains based around high cost personal service. Market research has treated the web as a replacement for face to face quantitative fieldwork. Other industries have been more ambitious. Maybe market research can go much further than it has.

At Differentiate we are working on how to make a contribution to this kind of breakthrough change.  Any comments or thoughts would be really helpful.