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Research and Results 2018 – An Industry in Flux

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I visited the 2018 Research and Results last week in Munich, a tradefair I’ve been visiting every year since 2010 – so it’s interesting to note what’s changed.

Here’s what struck me in 2018.

Global Reach – but where’s the Local Touch?

R&R has grown to become the most important global MR tradefair. This year in particular the large number of exhibitors from all over the globe struck me – many of them were data providers, some were tech-driven companies looking to crunch large data streams and make them more manageable. I’d say at least 50% of the companies there I had never heard of.

All good – just a bit anonymous, transactional.

A lot of the most innovative global MR suppliers were also absent, at least as exhibitors – a check against the GRIT Q1/ Q2 2018 global Top 50 supplier ranking revealed only a handful exhibiting, with a much longer list not doing so.

Is R&R becoming a global data marketplace? If yes, then digital disruption beckons.

Sellers in Abundance – but Buyers?

There were sellers in abundance this year, more so it seemed than in the past – including online access panel providers, translation services, tech specialists. I repeatedly found myself in first-time contact situations with people from Asia and central Europe who invariably wanted to sell their panel solutions. This was particularly true of the networking event on the evening of the first day.

Where were the buyers? I had the impression that there were fewer clientside buyers than in previous years strolling through. More importantly, there seemed to be less full-service agencies exhibitors present.

This potential buyer-seller disconnect is something to watch-out for: if there is an over-abundance of sellers, fewer buyers, then the raison-d’etre for the conference-cum-trade fair changes.

Value generation is driven from the top of the pyramid downwards – clientside MR commitment matters, and if the middle-tier segment of “full-service” agencies sees less reason to attend, then the model wobbles.

Data Delivery Everywhere – but what about Insights? Impact?

A quick flick through the exhibitor list revealed a myriad of MR service provider companies, a mixture of companies providing data – online access providers – data automation options, ways of handling data faster, in real-time; automation solutions were on display, as were AI options. The focus was on efficiency improvements.

The central concept of insights seemed to be under-represented – be it on insights generation, communication or activation.

Worse, there were plenty of global R&R newbies delivering data, but promising to deliver insights. Just having an online panel does not make you an insight company. It also muddies the waters, devalues the concept of “insights”.

Again, this is anecdotal – but the lifeblood of market research is actionable insights, our ability to have an impact on business behaviour, decisions. Inspiring people, helping stakeholders see things differently, maybe even helping them predict movements in the market place.

If insight voices choose to disappear, possibly to focus on the client-specific industry they are working in, and/or if full-service Agencies choose different, less visible options to market themselves, then the mid-term health of the MR industry will likely suffer.

To conclude: R&R 2018 proved a great place to meet all sorts of MR influencers from across the globe, to chat informally to other players in the industry, to get a sense of market sentiment, confidence, optimism.

I will continue to attend, but the reasons for attending are shifting.

Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.



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