This October, ThinkNow sponsored IDEAS AMAI 2022, one of the largest conferences for the insights industry, particularly for LATAM market research. The Mexican Association of Market Intelligence and Opinion Agencies (AMAI) works to maintain data quality and transparency in market research in Mexico. The event marked AMAI's 30th anniversary, and the mood was festive.
The format of this year's event was different from previous years as it focused on small group sessions led by industry insiders who shared insights from their careers. The objective was not to sell or argue about the best research method but to listen to and learn from speakers and colleagues.
Here are a few takeaways from some of the sessions.
There was a sense of camaraderie and collaboration at AMAI 2022. Researchers gathered to share experiences and learn from some of the best in the field. Access to such diverse perspectives helps broaden our vision of the industry, the companies we represent, and the clients we serve.
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!
Over the past two years, the growth of online sample has been extraordinary, almost too good to be true. Cint purchased Lucid for 1.1 billion dollars. Prodage acquired Pollfish for an undisclosed amount, rumored at $70 to $85 million. There is a lot of money flowing into the industry right now, but the challenge is determining whether or not the growth is artificial, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, consumers stayed home for two years, turning to the Internet for everything from food and clothing to streaming media services. As a result, e-commerce experienced record highs, spiking 48%, and streaming viewership surged.
“Lockdown stocks” like Facebook (Meta), Amazon, and Peloton enjoyed record-breaking stock prices, and cryptocurrencies rose in popularity.
But the world is re-opening, and fears about the pandemic are waning. People are yearning for in-person experiences, so they’re getting out – back to work, school, gyms, concerts, and restaurants. Beloved pandemic pastimes like Peloton, who is coping with slowing demand for its indoor stationary bikes, are just trying to survive.
Similarly, requests for online sample spiked during the height of the pandemic. When the pandemic canceled in-person focus groups, the online sample industry benefited from the shift to virtual environments. Consumers had more time to join online panels and take surveys at home. As in-person research activities resume, will we see a slowdown in online requests for sample or in survey participation?
Lucid successfully launched the first programmatic exchange sample platform in the market, which spurred competition as new entrants rushed to copy the model. The biggest companies created their own exchange platform or are leasing the exchange software to create their own exchange platform. This process has become known as ResTech (Research Technology). But post-pandemic normalization of the industry could jeopardize the future of these innovations. Not many companies are focused on maintaining actual panels, which are the bread and butter of online sample. The cost of panels has increased, especially those with a multicultural focus. Hispanics panels are very costly and don’t fit the exchange model at the average CPI rate.
So, it’s possible that the online sample industry is rethinking its dependence on panels, that they are leaning into exchange platforms and survey programming instead. However, panels need people to generate responses and aggregate data. This year, 2022, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, will be very telling. We'll see if panels are still relevant or if exchange platforms will be the main means of sample collection.
The online sample market was thrust into the spotlight late this year with two big announcements. Cint acquired Lucid for a whopping $1.1 billion, and Zendesk acquired Momentive Global (Survey Monkey) in a $4 billion deal. These two acquisitions underscore the growing popularity of research technology and validate the value of data insights. This is a win for all parties involved, including online sample providers like ThinkNow, who have delivered quality sample and multicultural consumer insights for the past ten years. (more…)
Just as the market research industry began returning to normal, COVID-19 made a comeback as a new variant called “Delta.” As a result, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and several other states are struggling with high infection rates, delaying workers’ return to the office or requiring them to work remotely. Google, for example, is giving employees the option to work from home, although they could experience pay cuts. (more…)
After 18 months of virtual interactions due to COVID-19, market researchers and industry insiders reconnected in-person this month in sunny Pasadena, California, for SampleCon 2021. Held at the luxurious resort, "The Langham," it was the best way to bring the conference back and regain a sense of normalcy.
From day one, you could hear and feel the excitement of new trends in the online sample industry. The consensus – business is good. (more…)
If passenger volume at airports across America is any indication, domestic travel in the U.S. is rebounding from the pandemic, a hopeful sign that COVID-19 is in our rearview. But it's not just air travel that winks at a return to normalcy. Millions of Americans are vaccinated, and the majority of states have lifted restrictions. Madison Square Garden, for example, experienced its first sold out concert since the onset of the pandemic when the Foo Fighters took to the stage on June 20th to play for vaccinated fans, an impressive feat considering New York's struggle to contain the virus in 2020. Other industries are powering back as well, like the online sample industry. (more…)