1st June 2024

Beyond the Giants: How Small Market Research Firms are Making Big Impacts

Beyond the Giants: How Small Market Research Firms are Making Big Impacts

Shifting Focus and Elevating Boutique Firms for Quality in Market Research

by Ariane Claire, myCLEARopinion Insights Hub

In my 25+ year career in market research, I've had the privilege of attending numerous conferences and events span the spectrum of research, marketing, data collection, and everything connected to gathering insights to propel people and businesses forward in their markets. These experiences have introduced me to extraordinarily brilliant and witty individuals and allowed me to witness the evolution of our industry firsthand through various sessions and seminars.

However, a recent experience highlighted a significant issue within our industry—quality. I was sitting in on a panel discussion focused on sampling panels and data quality. These discussions have intensified over the past few years, with many companies stepping forward claiming readiness to address these longstanding issues.

This long overdue initiative is led by some of the larger Panel and Sampling companies, yet ironically, they are the least suited to lead it. Here’s why: Despite their loud proclamations about honesty, transparency, and change, their actions often contradict their words. The reality is that for many of these giants, the bottom line still prevails, and the race to it involves cutting corners and reducing costs at the expense of quality.

During this panel, as I listened to one of the leaders—an articulate and seemingly earnest speaker—my work phone buzzed with a notification for a bid request from the very company this person represented. The irony was stark. The request detailed a 25-minute survey for architects, with a 15% incidence rate and a requested CPI of just $8. That’s all the information provided, and my request for more detail was ignored. This contradicted the speaker’s current advocacy on stage for shorter surveys, better compensation for respondents, and greater transparency in farming out sample requests.

This wasn't an isolated incident. It is a pervasive practice among these large firms, which have grown so vast that they’ve seemingly lost touch with the foundational elements of market research—PEOPLE and the relationships with respondents and clients. Their size and scope might allow them to overshadow smaller boutique firms, but these smaller entities have long been the bastions of quality in our field and have refused to join their race to the bottom.

It’s time to shift our focus to these smaller, boutique market research firms and sample providers. For years, these smaller firms have been overshadowed by larger companies. Yet, consistently they have not only met but exceeded the standards of quality and integrity that the market research industry desperately needs. These firms understand that true value lies not in volume but in the integrity of the data collected and the genuine insights derived from it.

So, as we navigate the future of market research, let us champion these smaller firms that refuse to compromise on quality. Let's support businesses prioritizing substantial, meaningful research over superficial, quantity-driven metrics. It is through their efforts that our industry can truly advance, rectify its shortcomings, and restore its commitment to excellence and ethical practice.

Ariane Claire, Panel and Research Director, myCLEARopinion Insights Hub

Q&A Session

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What specific measures can smaller boutique market research firms take to compete with the larger companies in terms of scalability and reach?

A1: Smaller boutique market research firms can adopt several strategies to compete with larger companies in scalability and reach:

By implementing these measures, boutique firms can enhance their competitive edge and appeal to clients seeking high-quality, specialized market research.

Q2: How can the industry as a whole enforce higher standards of quality and integrity across all companies, both large and small?

A2: To enforce higher standards of quality and integrity across the market research industry, clients can play a crucial role by focusing on the following:

By focusing on these areas, clients can drive the industry toward higher standards and ensure they receive reliable, high-quality insights.

Q3: What role do clients play in perpetuating the current quality issues, and how can they be educated or incentivized to prioritize quality over cost?

A3: Clients play a significant role in perpetuating quality issues by prioritizing cost over data integrity. Their demand for cheaper and faster results encourages market research firms to cut corners, compromising the quality of insights.

To address this, clients need education on the long-term value of high-quality data. Demonstrating how accurate, reliable data leads to better business decisions can shift their focus from immediate cost savings to the overall return on investment. Incentives such as case studies showcasing successful outcomes from high-quality research, industry awards for ethical practices, and certifications for quality standards can further encourage clients to prioritize integrity over cost.