SampleCon 2022 was hosted at the elegant Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California. This year’s conference seemed like a return to normalcy. People from over 25 countries could attend without restrictions for the first time in two years. COVID was not mentioned, and everyone was in the mood to socialize and talk shop. As in previous years, a couple of recurring themes was the topic of many conversations and sessions, including data quality, the talent pipeline, and online sample consolidation. However, if SampleCon 2022 had to be summarized in one word, it would be acquisitions. But let’s start this conference re-cap with a familiar pain point – fraud.
Despite technological innovations to reduce fraud, data integrity remains a concern within the sample industry. This year has been the worst on record for data quality issues, or so it seems. A consensus emerged during the conference that the industry does not have the proper data collection metrics, which is true in some ways. It is also possible to argue that data quality issues result from a lack of uniform industry guidelines.
Online sample companies have their own fraud metrics that don’t always align with other providers. Fortunately, the industry is innovative, and companies like Research Defender license software solutions to mitigate the risk of fraud. However, if there aren’t centralized best practices on how to eliminate fraud from sample, the industry is still vulnerable to attacks, which can have an impact on providers, panelists, and ultimately clients.
As with many industries, the Great Resignation still impacts the online sample industry. The pool of qualified candidates is shrinking, and companies are competing for the same candidates. During the conference, many conversations were held around the water cooler and most agree that resolving the talent shortage long-term will require an intentional effort to get more college students interested in data science. But that doesn’t solve the immediate need, which is a good segue to another force moving on the online sample industry – consolidation.
Acquisitions have accelerated in recent years. Larger market research firms are acquiring smaller ones, resulting in layoffs in some instances. Sample companies needing talent may be able to offer job opportunities to these job seekers, and since they have insights experience, there’s a shorter learning curve.
The market research industry has recently experienced a lot of flux. Kantar acquired Qmee and Schlesinger, who acquired 20|20 Research in 2020, and most recently, Addison Research, announced another acquisition during the conference. Dynata acquired Branded Research, and the list goes on and on. The consolidation of these market research firms also impacts online panel companies. Will Dynata remove Branded Research from the Lucid (acquired by Cint) exchange? That remains to be seen, and is a question many will ask of similar scenarios. Online panels require a massive investment in technology and implementation. A panel can dry out if not maintained, so the infrastructure must be there.
Nonetheless, there is plenty of opportunity for new online sample providers because they can establish community databases, a skill that large companies are not as well-versed in. So it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. Stay tuned!