2012 Market Research Buyer Survey – Go Direct!

More corporations are working directly with on-line panel companies; independent agencies jostle for position in a static market

In March 2012, Asia Research conducted its 5th annual survey of corporations who engage external market research agencies. What is most notable in this survey is the increase in usage of on-line panel companies and the high usage of DIY research among clients.

In 2012, 41% of market research buyers in corporations in Singapore are going direct to on-line panel companies for their survey requirements and around a third are using DIY research e.g. Survey Monkey. The trend of insourcing research has been observed by Asia Research over the years, and this year independent research agencies appear to be losing out most as a result of this trend. Since corporations can most easily in-source ad-hoc research, it is here where independent firms might be losing out – in 2012, 59% of corporations had used independent agencies in the last year, a fall from 80% two years earlier.

Type of Research Vendors Used in Last Year

Chart 1

 

Overall, client budgets for research among Singaporean corporations are about the same as compared to 2011, with 21% reporting higher budgets and similar number (20%) reporting lower budgets (the remainder stating the same). While the size of budget increase / decrease was not asked in the survey, these results show a much cooler market for research in 2012 as compared to 2011 when post-recession spending on research grew substantially. Some report clients tightening their belts as uncertainty over the global economy, particularly the European crisis, results in more cautious spending.

Despite the slowdown, market research vendors have not responded with great urgency. Less than half of corporations (45%) have been ‘sold to’ through sales calls, with most clients relying on personal contacts to find out about new agencies. Clients are also reaching out to agencies through other channels – over half of clients (and increase from earlier years) have found out about new agencies through networking seminars and conferences. For this reason, Asia Research held its inaugural seminar in October 2011 being one of the largest gatherings of market research buyers in Singapore. Advertising works too, with about a third (35%) of clients finding out about agencies through media.

Only half of research buyers have dontevaluated a new agency in the last year, e.g. through credentials presentations. Of the large agencies, the most active in business development has been Millward Brown.

Clients in Singapore are generally quite cautious about hiring new firms with only 30% of clients having cheap strattera no prescription hired a new agency in the last year. Despite the fall in the usage of independent market research firms, most of the new agencies hired in the last year are boutique agencies, and the list of hired agencies is highly fragmented. Of course the list of these new hires now includes the on-line panel and fieldwork companies with GMI, Research Now and i-Link among the companies hired by corporations in the last year.

Brand performance

Again, through the survey Asia Research measured the awareness and usage of the main research vendors in the market. Nielsen’s and TNS’s position has not changed much in the last year with both retaining around 40% market penetration. Despite the merger of Synovate and Ipsos, the market penetration of the new combined entity remains the same suggesting they shared a common client list prior to the merger. Millward Brown though has significantly increased their market share in the last year, and it was noted that Millward Brown had been the most active in terms of their new business development over this period.

Among the independent firms, Acorn continues to focus on a smaller number of large clients, e.g. in the financial services sector. Kadence International has over the years significantly increased its market penetration having been one of the fastest growing independent companies in Singapore.

Agency Awareness and usage in Singapore (main brands only)

Chart 2

 

New players coming into the rankings are ORC International and Market Probe, who have been aggressively growing their business, and the relatively new BDRC Asia who have built substantial brand awareness in less than a year, and who have secured large accounts in both the B2B and B2C sectors.

Other independent firms have retained similar market penetration in the last year. The Leading Edge, who had grown from 4% to 10% market penetration from 2010 to 2011, have now fallen back to just 2% market penetration.

In summary, 2011 to 2012 was a year of client direct engagement in on-line research, and churn within the market for independent agencies. Somewhat a static year too, with many of the big players guarding their territory, and with client budgets flat if not actually hiding net falls in research spend, we look forward to doing this survey again in 2013 where we hope to see a more robust industry. We thank all clients for their contribution to the Asia Research survey.

NOTE: full survey results, including data from other Asian markets, are available on a commercial basis from Asia Research. Please contact surveys@asia-research.net for more information