Market Research as a Career: A Glimpse of Market Research Industry

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Marke Research as a Career
Tags: , , , , ,

I started to “research” the market research industry from this April when I was actively looking for a relevant internship. Though I’m far from being an expert, my “research findings” did help me win the internship opportunity at Forrester Research. In this post I’m going to show you a snapshot of market research industry from a career-oriented viewpoint.

To make it clear, I created a diagram to show you what market research industry look like in my mind. Traditionally, market research firms can be assigned to two categories: research-focused firms and consulting-focused firms. Most of the research-focused firms will do both syndicated industry research and one-on-one consulting, while most of the consulting-focused firms don’t provide syndicated market research. From a firm’s products and services, it is easy to tell whether it leans to research or consulting. For example, Forrester is a research-focused firm with 70% syndicated research and 30% consulting projects.

A Snapshot of Market Research Industry by Jessie

Most of the research-focused firms will have their own expertise, that is to say, most of their research will focus on one or two industries. Based on my knowledge, Gartner, IDG and Forester Research are well-know for their authority in technology industry; IMS Health, SymphonyIRI Group are experts in health care market research. There are also some research-focused firms that don’t have a focused industry, like GfK Custom Research and Communispace. I prefer to call them “marketing research firms” since their research aims at generally exploring customer insights instead of predicting industry trends.

In consulting-focused market research firms, typically, there will be two major departments: account management team and data analysis team. People in the management team work at the “front desk”. They are the “communicators” who interact and maintain relationship with the clients. Their colleagues in the data analysis team will spend most of their time with computer, dataset and statistical analysis. They are the “techies” who ensure the research designs are optimized and the research findings are correct. As shown in the diagram, some top consulting-focused market research firms include Kantar Retail, Westat, and Datamonitor.

It is worth noting that there is an emerging new type of market research firms with the popularity of social media, online community and big data. Communispace is probably the most fast-growing market research firm on online community . Founded in 1999, this firm has been providing online consumer insights communities for market research for more than 10 years. The idea of online community makes market research even more powerful because it helps to identify various market segments for a product, service or brand. Crimson Hexagon is a good example of big data analysis firm. It helps the clients to get customer insights by analyzing relevant tweets, facebook posts and data from other social media. Thanks to big data analysis, market research, at its first time, is able to target each single individual instead of a big group.

Hope this post can give you a basic understanding of the market research industry. I’m planning to write more about the industry in the future, introducing the top market research firms one by one. Which firm would you like me to introduce first?

  1. Cynthia says:

    I’d like to hear more about Communispace.. )
    btw, I couldn’t share this post on Facebook. looks like Facebook share button didn’t work.

  2. Xue says:

    haha i am more interested in the unconventionals..

  3. Dick says:

    Great segmentation. But one thing you left out: client side market research. Vendor side, you get to do all the work you mentioned because someone can pay for it. Client side, what you do will depend on how much budget you have. Microsoft, for example, has a substantial research budget and can pay a Millward Brown or Harris 1 million dollars for a single survey. On the other hand, I interned at a shoe company this summer where the research budget was $0 so I had to design ways to get consumer insights without paying for anything. This involved regular trips to gyms and accosting people on the street. Conjoint analysis and multi country branding studies would be great to do but they cost money.

    • Thanks very much for your comment, Dick. You are correct. In-house market research is definitely a big part of this industry. My segmentation in the diagram is more of market research agencies. Just a few days ago, my class had a great pannel with 3 experienced market research professionals, two of whom are working in-house. Budget indeed influence their research approach dramatically, but they also mentioned sometimes they would outsource the research to agencies. I shot a short video of the pannel, if you are interested and wanna check it out, you can find it by this link

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