How research provides its own ROI – Discussing the change-over

globeI can’t hide I have a fondness for ESOMAR. Its mandate is quite well-summarized by the claim “Enabling better research into markets, consumers and societies”. So, promoting the industry does not involve to show its credits and knock its rough edges off. Promoting the industry means to improve it. I don’t want to discuss if it does happen or not… but, in times where paperboys way appears the only way to communicate, giving itself such a “plan” is a good starting point. Or not?

ESOMAR draws up its Global Market Research Industry Report, yearly. Data are a healthy outlook beyond national borders. Some of such data deserve a comment.
First of all, the industry shows first serious creaking; that’s so after a period when great research corporation seemed to be guarded against continual coming and going which are the daily condition for little agencies.  Absolute MR industry growth was 4.5% in 2008. If I was a journalist I could stick to such a fact which marks a growth, while global GDP did fluctuate around zero in any world area or stopped at 2% globally (ref. World Bank).

Other pieces of information are less encouraging. Inflation adjusted datum decreases at a cheerless +0.9%, with some notable regional differences (see below fig. 1): North America registers a curt -2.1% (adjusted), Europe lines up the average, while Latin America grows significantly (+13.4% absolute value, +5.6% adjusted; Latin America GDP grew 4% in  2008).

Italy is steadily the sixth country in the rank of MR income, but loudly separated from first five economies – USA, UK, Germany, France, Japan, which weight 67% of the market by themselves.

Fig. 1 – MR absolute and inflation adjusted growth in 2008 – % values

growth

Source: ESOMAR, Global Market Research Industry Report, 2009

Other datum I would like to underline (and it matters more to me) is about spend by research method: on-line interviews (quantitative) quota overtook phone interviews one (respectively 20% and 19% – in 2007 ratio was more than reversed: 23% phone interviews and 19% on-line interviews). Ref. fig. 2.

Note, it is not surprising: on-line researches are more diffused in more mature countries  (USA, Germany, Finland, Belgium, Japan)  or in countries where on-line recruiting is a cost-efficient solution to wide territories with relatively scarce and concentrated in few urban centers population ( Australia, Canada, New Zealand). Technological development is forcing a condition: not to have an email address is unworkable like not to have a phone number in late 70s.

Surprise is these data are partial. Italy, for example, is not comprised. Why?

ESOMAR collects data from industry national association and from independent organizations. In its tables Italy and France don’t figure. Is it a communication problem? Is it a different data bases problem? Does not ESOMAR matter about Italy (I don’t think so)?

There is a kind of hesitation in Italy at the moment to give certain informations, whereas by all appearance every form of disclosure is good accepted. Doubtlessly, in my country (like France) discussing about on-line research methods is a topic full of pruderie. No one talks dirty of them (not to risk to be considered not very up-to-date). Au contraire, I saw frequent aristocratic keeping distance from “on-line world” among industry professional and customers: “sample quality is not guaranteed, representativeness is questionable, respondent identity is uncertain” etc. etc. Deja vu. I imagine first phone interviews bred the same remarks.
Researcher’s “aplomb” seems to force poses other people could happily avoid: gurus who chat about press journalism disappearance thanks to Internet bursting in did not hypothesize nor explain free-press diffusion or case histories like our Internazionale (it is a magazine which offer foreign press translation, in 2008 it grew by 30%). Useless to say that more snob aptitude toward some data-collection techniques increases, more they are used. Fortunately, I add.

Let’s appeal to our ASSIRM (Associazione degli Istituti di Ricerca di Mercato, Sociale e d’Opinione, the Italian National MR Association): since 2009, let’s begin to popularize data able to speak with foreign countries ones; let’s mention explicitly spend for research methods; let’s handle, please, problems and capabilities by certain techniques; we can’t hide the fact that 69.7% of families is equipped by land line and 40% by broad band (but internet users are 55% of population – source: Italy communication Agency).

A first chance could be the ASSIRM Congress “The future of On-Line Researches in Italy” (Milan, November 10th). Months ago the working group began to organize it with an aim: not to plug us but “setting conditions to enable better research into markets, consumers and societies“.

Fig. 2 – Spend by research methods

method

Source: ESOMAR, Global Market Research Industry Report, 2009

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