Market Research Buyer Satisfaction Amid COVID-19

market research buyer satisfaction
Shining a spotlight on GRIT Report buyer satisfaction findings

Earlier this year GreenBook Research released its Industry Trends Report on Insights Practice, which highlights trends impacting the insights and analytics industry. The report is based on findings from 1,071 market research buyer and supplier interviews. One topic of discussion in the report was market research buyer satisfaction – that is, how market research clients feel about the projects they have commissioned from their research suppliers.

Typically, buyer and supplier perceptions of performance are similar, but perceptions of key satisfaction drivers are less aligned between the two groups.

Buyer Satisfaction Ratings

The GRIT Report tracked data on research supplier usage within the industry, segmented by type of supplier (full service, qualitative researchers, data and analytics providers, technology providers, strategy consultants, and field service providers). Most buyers surveyed work with each type of research supplier at least sometimes. Interestingly, this year’s survey reported a decline in use of each of the six supplier types, with data and analytics providers and technology providers showing the largest decline (11% each). Report findings indicate more work is being done in-house by supplier companies and supplier budgets and volumes have been reduced because of the pandemic.

Buyers also are reporting less satisfaction with their research partners overall in every supplier category. Strategy consultants and data and analytics providers showed the greatest decline in satisfaction at 15% each. Technology providers, which showed the most promising results, still had a 2% decrease. GRIT suggests the drop in satisfaction by supplier type is largely due to the change in supplier type combination as a result of the pandemic. According to the report, “The potentially critical synergy derived from using a strategy consultant in tandem with a data and analytics provider may not have been sustainable in 2020, and the use of one without the other may not have provided sufficient value.”

Beyond supplier type, GRIT also measured several key performance metrics when considering overall satisfaction. A few metrics did show improvement in 2020 (4 points or more):

  • Managing scope or project specification changes (+6%)
  • Value for cost (+5%)
  • Reporting research results (+4%)
  • Recommending business actions based on research (+4%)

However, several metrics fell significantly (4 points or more) in 2020, contributing to an overall satisfaction drop of 4%.

  • Understanding the issue to be researched (-7%)
  • Implementing the research plan (-4%)
  • Conducting the research (-4%)

Buyer Satisfaction Drivers

Drivers of satisfaction were grouped into “strategic” and “tactical” aspects, each with their own subcategories. The strongest strategic drivers were conducting the research and understanding the issue to be addressed, which were the aspects that showed the largest deterioration in satisfaction since 2019. This helps to explain why overall buyer satisfaction was down, even though several metrics showed improvement (including reporting research results and recommending business actions).

In the tactical group, data visualization and adjusting to COVID-19 impact were the largest drivers. The addition of COVID-19 metrics explains some of the satisfaction decline seen – many suppliers are working with smaller staff, fewer resources, and expectations may be more difficult to meet with the pandemic.

Overall, reduced satisfaction in 2020 may not be surprising given the unprecedented times. It is noteworthy, too, that GRIT reports “when strategy consultants are a regular part of the mix, good (or, at least, better) things are more likely to happen.” Perhaps market research buyers who have trusted relationships with strategy consultants can lean into their consultant’s knowledge and agility and find methods to address new challenges faster. Ultimately, market research buyer satisfaction with supplier performance remains key to mutual future success.

Bonus read: A Look at 2021 Insights Industry Trends

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