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Is MRX Finally a Term of Innovation?

Commentary featured in the 2021 edition of Greenbook’s GRIT Report.

Signs are showing that Market Research is now a product-led industry. Having nearly 2 decades of supplier-side experience building and growing products, I have a long view into an industry that for eternity was considered lagging in terms of innovation. Consolidation often led to innovative startups getting bought and dismantled or run into the ground, just to leave old tactics in place. It was an industry of ‘we have always done it this way’. In 2002, after starting at Decipher, I spoke to a group in relation to online data collection and the future. I was thoroughly debunked as spreading witchcraft, with claims this could never lead to valid research. I could have also cleared a forest with the quantity of paper-based crosstabs I was producing for research clients to leaf through and search for insights. The inefficiency of manually searching through 500 pages of numbers for key findings is something most new researchers can not comprehend.

It is fun to think back to when digital online data collection was thought to be a fad. The resistance to the cloud, to digital insights, to AI and machine learning have all faded. In the last 5 years, there has been a mounting title wave on the supplier side, with firms transitioning to product-led offerings choosing innovative, agile approaches to solving the consumer feedback issue. Empathy has become a term, and innovation has led small and large firms alike to want to get closer to consumers with more accuracy and greater scale, with an eye on understanding better consumer intent.

Examining the GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative Suppliers this year, it is very apparent this trend is accelerating. Look to organizations like Dynata and Toluna, both with rebrands and both invested in instant insights platforms to drive new revenue and near-immediate and differentiated solutions. We have seen staples like SurveyMonkey recalibrate and emerge as Momentive, strategically driving innovative and re-imagined products like GetSatisfaction. The unlikely pair of FocusVision and Confirmit have reinvented themselves as product-led Forsta. Traditional service firms have used consolidations to drive new opportunities, such as Schlesinger and Omnicom/Interbrand, each ushering in change and innovation, offering leading-edge solutions to solve both qualitative and quantitative research needs. Digital marketplaces from Zappi and FuleCycle have evolved, combining revolutionary tech to introduce new agile approaches.  And let’s not overlook the amazing rise and successful IPOs of Qualtrics and Cint; both leading the way with products to generate buyer demanded innovation.

I should not glass over the list of leaders like Ipsos and Kantar, who have admittedly driven innovation for years. I would also be remiss to not mention that in nearly every discussion over the past year with various firms, including the Top 50, there was some discussion of AI and machine learning, which reportedly is bringing new life and improved ROI to research processes. Along with AI, organizations were also discussing scalable automated insights, new data sources, and data integration and security.

Looking across the rest of the Top 50, it is undeniable that market research has turned the corner from laggard, service-based only, to product-driven; emerging as a leader in innovation. MRX is now driving one of the world’s most coveted resources, data, and the insights it provides. At Canvs, I’m excited to continue driving product-led momentum as we innovate AI and NLP to improve time to insight from unstructured data.


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