By Melanie Courtright 
The future of the Market Research industry is a frequently discussed topic. And so it should be; we’re a passionate bunch, it’s our livelihood, and there have been a number of pressures on the insights industry in recent years that have thrown up doubts about our future and sustainability. The industry has never been so much in the spotlight. Market research and, specifically, polling have come under increased scrutiny recently in the UK following the 2015 general election, and more recently the 2016 EU referendum and the 2016 US presidential election. Market research is also now frequently cited in PR and marketing campaigns – whether it’s the headline grabbing of the Sun Newspaper whose interpretation of poll data was called into question when it claimed that one fifth of British Muslims had “sympathy for jihadis,” or the use of statistics to support advertising claims.

I won’t go further into these issues as any regular (or irregular) attendee to Congress will understand the threats facing the industry. I see this as one of the reasons why ESOMAR Congress is so special. There is no other opportunity for the global research industry to come together and not only discover the ground-breaking and impactful techniques being used around the world, but also discuss the future of the industry and provide a platform in which to change, hopefully for the better.

At Research Now we wanted to make sure we were part of this discussion, so we were delighted to partner with ESOMAR and embark on the biggest survey to date exploring the public perception of the market research industry. Our aim was to provide some key market intelligence and benchmarking that ESOMAR, and the industry as a whole, can use when marketing the research industry to the public, in particular to ensure the public are aware of the positive impact research has across business and society.

We collected more than 6,000 surveys across four different online and offline research modes, in three major research markets; UK, USA, and Germany. I don’t want to give too many spoilers away of the results. Suffice to say, those in attendance at ESOMAR Congress can hear the key findings on day 1, September 19, in room 1 at 4:40pm. Those not attending will have the opportunity to download the report in the coming weeks or watch ESOMAR TV live on Channel 1 to keep up with the proceedings in New Orleans.

What I can say is the results show there are positives and negatives. Inevitably there are modal differences; online survey panellists have a broad understanding. However, CATI respondents provide some of the most telling data within the report. (There is some fascinating data behind the motivations of respondents, and equally there is some worrying data that looks at how people treat the surveys they are taking.)

That’s all I can reveal at this point. However, it does appear that we are losing the personal connection with our research contributors. This has the potential to be a serious issue for the industry, but we are taking the first step in addressing that. This paper provides a vital insight into the public, those that take our surveys, and those that don’t. It’s the first step in communicating the value of research. And although it’s ESOMAR’s mandate to promote and elevate research on a global platform, it is our responsibility and the responsibility of every researcher to also address these issues.

So, I hope you will join us next week to discover how people really feel about the industry and what we can do to ensure a bright future for the sector.

1Register for ESOMAR TV here and tune in to Channel 1 on Monday, September 19 at 4:40PM CST


Melanie Courtright is EVP, Global Products and Client Services at Research Now.