Technological advances are giving researchers new tools with which to help their clients, but also fuelling fresh competition for insight budgets.

We talk to Didier Truchot, chairman and CEO of Ipsos, Gerhard Hausruckinger, speaker for the Management Board and Chief Commercial Officer at GfK, Mitch Barns, CEO of Nielsen and Travyn Rhall, CEO of Kantar Insights, about how the world of insights is adapting.

By Jo Bowman

Didier Truchot, chairman and CEO of Ipsos

We don’t think the big question is about whether we’re doing more ongoing studies versus custom, or syndicated versus one-off. We think it’s all about how you position yourself with solutions that meet or beat clients’ expectations. Our clients, whoever they are – public institutions, corporations, media agencies, and so on – need a flow of information about markets and people – and we can see from the recent US elections that understanding people is no easy art! So it’s all about providing interesting and useful insight, because if it doesn’t get used, there’s no point doing it. If we’re really being client-centric, we’ll get away from comparing different segments of the market and understand what they’re ready to pay for.

New technologies bring both positives and negatives. New developments enable start-ups to move into our market with a different offering, and in many countries there’s a lot of money around to support them. That’s good for them and a challenge for us. On the positive side, there are technologies that help us do a better job – to simplify our processes, speed up our activities and lower prices. We can store and analyse information better, and there are new ways of working. We’re also developing new initiatives and services coming out of behavioural sciences, and putting things together in new ways for our clients.

Many of the new entrants have been successful because they’re highly specialised, with one or two services, and those that diversify their client base or their offer too quickly have problems. At the same time, it’s true that our clients want to integrate information from a profusion of sources, and we need to be able to manipulate and contextualise it, to show them the value in it. There are more and more opportunities to link information coming from the social networks with survey-based information, and not just verbal information but also photos and videos, which provide a lot of insight into what the consumer is thinking. Some aspects of what we do haven’t been evolving fast enough, but technology is helping us speed up our own innovation processes.

From a staffing perspective, that means we need to have specialist technical skills but also work in a consistent way; we need to do both at the same time and find the right balance between the two.

There’s still the same need for simplicity, neutrality, accuracy and speed; all of this is important. But I’d say clients need more to feel you’re close to their business and understand their needs at a time when the world is increasingly complex, competition is strong and the consumer is volatile. It’s a fascinating period!

Gerhard Hausruckinger, speaker for the Management Board and CCO at GfK   

There has been a decline in one-off surveys. Two reasons stick out: the rise of free or low-cost, self-service solutions, and a growing understanding that business questions can also be answered with passive data or data already held by market researchers or clients. And there are approaches that combine measurements from different angles, like our Crossmedia Link Panel. I believe a smart combination of surveys, panel data and passive measurement offers huge potential for our industry.

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