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Winners and Losers of the Online Sample Industry – Pandemic Edition

August 18, 2020 Author: Art Padilla

Over the past six months, economic instability has sent shockwaves through the global marketplace, causing some industries to crumble and others to thrive as e-commerce and digital interactions increase during the pandemic.  

For example, technology companies like Amazon and Facebook have seen massive spikes in their stock market prices, advertising revenue, and the number of users. While more traditional brands like Hertz and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as most brick and mortar companies, were not so lucky. They suffered massive profit losses as a result of people sheltering in place and abandoning their normal routines.

The pandemic has similarly carved out clear winners and losers in the online sample industry, with COVID-19 accelerating the push for digital collection methods. As a result, larger companies with more advanced technology have started edging out smaller competitors, hoarding market share and tipping the balance in their favor.

Let’s take a closer look on which online sample companies are winning and losing in my opinion.

Losers - Small Online Sample Re-Brokers

Undoubtedly, small online sample re-brokers have suffered the biggest blows during COVID-19. Without having their own panel management technology or API platform, these companies haven’t been able to compete with larger industry players who can gate data and manipulate re-sale value. While these companies could easily turn a profit by re-brokering samples and taking on hard quotas in the past, the pandemic has now challenged this business model. From now on, sample re-brokers will have to implement their own proprietary API technology and modify their business strategies to survive.

Winners – Cint

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cint is emerging as a clear winner and industry leader. Since COVID-19 began, Cint has successfully licensed its panel management software to two major market research firms, Kantar and GFK. They have also acquired one of the largest sample API networks in the industry, P2Sample, putting them in a dominant position in the online sample space. Combined, these power moves have helped Cint secure a significant portion of the survey supply market and elevate their overall influence.

Split Down the Middle - Lucid & Dynata

Lucid and Dynata are interesting case studies to look at, as neither has fallen nor risen in response to the pandemic. However, both companies are implementing widescale changes that could have unanticipated advantages in the future.

Soon after the pandemic began, Lucid was forced to make significant layoffs, causing a delay in their streamline sample process. However, many aspects of their business have since been automated, which could increase efficiency down the line.

Dynata, a byproduct of several different acquisitions (Research Now, SSI, and Critical Mix to name a few), has recently experienced setbacks in innovation and technology as a result of bureaucratic red tape. But recent acquisitions of Market Cast and NRG’s operations department have put them in a favorable position to outsource their operations department to market research firms and cut down on costs. What Dynata lacks in speed and efficiency, they can easily make up through partnerships with market research firms, helping to shield them from further economic damages from the pandemic.

The Takeaway

Although the current economic climate has caused significant industry disruptions, there are still ways in which online sample companies can weather the storm and minimize the pandemic’s adverse effects.

While small online sample re-brokers have struggled to survive, companies like Cint have led the way with innovative licenses and key acquisitions. Other companies like Lucid and Dynata have taken their punches in stride, making critical adjustments that played to their strengths and helped fortify their positions amid economic uncertainty.

Based on these companies’ failures and successes, the analysis is clear – proprietary technology, leveraging assets, and automation will be vital to surviving the COVID-19 economy.