The Asia Research Stakeholder Survey showed that 48% of clients put ‘faster turnaround of research’ as a ‘high priority’ for their research needs in the next year, and 37% also state it is a high priority to undertake more DIY research.
These findings reflect some of the challenges clients will face in markets severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, including lower budgets for research and having to deal with more volatile markets. This means that consumer insight will have to be cheaper, faster, and undertaken more frequently.
Online panel companies have long since moved on from just being providers of consumer access panels, and now position themselves as ‘data management companies’ providing a suite of services for clients to access and use survey and customer data.
Asia Research interviewed Ludo Milet, Managing Director of Toluna (Asia Pacific), to understand how data management companies are responding to new client demands for data.
Ludo comments that from around 2016, clients were looking more to automation in the reporting of data. Hence, instead of waiting on agencies to provide standard PowerPoint reports taken from data tables, dashboards were developed not only to increase the speed and accuracy of data delivery, but also to extend the visibility of data within client organisations, i.e. with more individual users of the data.
These dashboards lent themselves well to more templated types of research, e.g. brand trackers that generally followed standardised questionnaires. However, clients increasingly looked to a wider range of research that can be delivered seamlessly without the involvement of research agencies, including pre- and post-product/advertising testing and more general surveys, e.g. usage and attitude studies.
With more client organisations developing internal insight departments, much of the design work of surveys can be undertaken by the in-house research teams. Toluna has invested in a new platform that allows clients to script their own surveys, select their audiences for research, launch online surveys, and have results delivered automatically and in real time through a single platform.
A key component of the new platform is making the scripting that much easier for researchers who lack the programming skills of more complex survey-hosting software. This requires the data management companies to understand more about the nuances of survey design and combine this with better usability. While Toluna has avoided becoming a full-service agency in their own right, in 2014 they acquired Harris Interactive, with full- service sector expertise and award-winning research designs. This design expertise helped Toluna to develop a platform for more tailored surveys that can also include ‘quick communities’ and online qualitative research, al- though the main demand is for more standard quantitative surveys.
While these solutions might be seen as a response to the new demand for research in a COVID-19 research world, Ludo comments that Toluna had anticipated this demand prior to the onset of the crisis, and they have been undertaking product development to meet this anticipated need since 2015.
Ludo also discussed the current impact of COVID-19 on their business. Like most companies, staff have been forced to work from home, which generally suits sales and account management personnel, but puts challenges on the data processing teams, who need more interaction with teams. There are also additional pressures on staff in some markets such as Hong Kong where staff usually live in small apartments which mean that ‘stay at home’ directives can be more stressful, and also in India where they have large data processing teams but where there is quite a severe lockdown environment.
But the future looks bright for the data management companies – based on Asia Research’s stakeholder survey, 70% of clients expect to go direct to panel companies in the next year (up from 40% currently), and among these, 68% state they will use them more than before COVID-19.