The ESOMAR Global Prices Study, which is run every two years, aims to provide insights into the price of research around the world, in particular the differences in pricing that exist between countries, between types of projects and over time. This iteration of the project is based on quotes provided by 735 agencies across 119 countries (up from 633 agencies and 106 countries in 2012). The agencies taking part in this study represent over 33% of the total amount spent on surveys ad qualitative research, according to the ESOMAR Global Market Research 2013 Report.

The project is based on a set of dummy projects for which participating agencies prepare bids. This year, quotes were submitted in response to a standardised set of seven projects, six consumer research projects (four quantitative, one qualitative, and one utilising online communities), one B2B project and a set of commercial tariffs for staff time and a presentation. Although the fieldwork was conducted in a variety of currencies, the study is reported in terms of US dollars (unless specifically indicated otherwise), using the exchange rates that prevailed on 1 March 2014. The data were collected between February and April, 2014.

The Complexities of Global Research
The study confirms, again, that the world is a complex place. Not only do prices vary between one country and another, but the available research options also vary. Online access panels can reduce costs compared with face-to-face and CATI (telephone), but online research is not available in every market (and may not always be appropriate in each market, even if it is available).

Similarly, face-to-face is not widely available in every market either, particularly in the larger, more developed countries. For example, across Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines, 23 agencies quoted to conduct a straightforward U&A project as a face-to-face in-home test, but only two quoted to conduct it online. By contrast, across Australia, Canada and the USA, 28 agencies quoted to conduct the same project online, but only three quoted to conduct it face-to-face in-home.

Other complexities highlighted by the projects include differences in what the term ‘nationally representative’ means (more on this later in the report), different approaches to incentives and taxes, cultural rules about who can interview whom, and differences in whether services such as bank accounts even exist for some groups of potential research participants. 

Executive Summary

This executive summary is divided into two parts: the overall picture in 2014 and changes from 2010 to 2014.

Overall Picture

  • Online is cheaper than CATI, which tends to be cheaper than face-to-face, when all three are on offer.
    • Online is about 70% the cost of CATI, and CATI is about 80% the cost of F2F, when all three are an option.
    • When looking at F2F, in-home is cheaper than CLT (central location testing) in about 70% of cases.
    • The cost savings for online focus groups compared with F2F groups are much less than the savings offered by online surveys.
  • The gap between the most expensive and the least expensive countries is huge.
    • On average, the most expensive country in the study will cost nearly nine times as much as the least expensive.
  • At the level of regions e.g. Europe, Latin America, there are a few difference in median prices
    • Because most regions contain high and low cost countries.
    • However, there are differences between sub-regions, for example between those countries that joined the EU before and after 2000
  • The most expensive markets (eg, the USA, Switzerland, France and the UK) tend to be countries that are rich, developed and with high costs of living.
    • The key markets tend to cost about twice as much as the global median.
  • The least expensive markets (eg, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Serbia and Bulgaria) tend to be less developed countries with lower per capita income.
  • The data from Japan suggest that a market that has moved heavily into online delivers lower costs for online but higher costs for other modes (but more cases are needed to determine whether this is a general pattern).
  • The data from Japan suggests that the market has moved heavily into online deliveers lower costs for online, but higher costs for other modes (but more cases are needed to determine whether this is the general pattern)
  • The development of mobile research appears uneven, with some of the more mobile responsive coming from advanced, intermediate and developing markets
  • The study investigated what agencies understood by the term “nationally representative” and the results show that the term is interpreted in different ways by different agencies.

Key Changes from 2010 to 2014
The key changes should be considered in the light of inflation within each country, exchange rate differences and the performance of the US dollar. In terms of the US dollar, between 2010 and 2014 the inflation rate was a little over 8%.

  • The key message is that there is more stability than change over the last four years. This includes:
    • Stability in terms of which countries are the most and least expensive.
    • Stability in terms of the prices for research methods.
  • One key difference that is emerging within the overall structure of stability is the fact that
  •  CATI is the only mode that seems to be increasing in cost across projects and across countries.
  • The number of countries and agencies online continues to increase, a trend which has implications for the cost of research.

If you’re an ESOMAR member you can read the full article in MyESOMAR in the digital copy of Research World. If you are not a member of ESOMAR you can join and receive a free copy of Research World 6 times a year or alternatively you can sign up for a subscription of the magazine in our publications store.