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Market research tumbles down, down, down, with online surveys now king

What's happening to market research in Ireland these days? That's the big question research expert Robin Challis (pictured) asked of the marketers who regularly run surveys. For starters, the business, like most of the economy, is finding it tough. They used to say research bobs along happily in bad times as well as good. Not now.

Agency business was down on average 20pc last year. That's on top of the 20pc the year before. Also, Challis says, research is done faster. Several respondents pointed out that marketing and research processes are turned around much quicker than they were before. While it could take four months to produce a TV ad, today it can be done in four weeks. Measuring an ad's effectiveness online can yield results in a week.

Online surveys are sweeping the board. The trend is helped by marketers demanding that consumer attitudes and ad effectiveness are properly tracked. Economic pressures are forcing marketers to play safe and tracking is a useful tool. Another is global statistics. Top management is more interested in stats than they are in "soft" branding.

Qualitative studies – that's where questions are asked 'why' rather than number-crunching, that's quantitative's job – is down. 'Qual' is far from dead, but it's being squeezed. With digital marketing, there's an urge for people to jump to social media. But the jury's out on digital research. Online focus groups have not taken off to any great extent.

Challis says a trend to watch out for is where media agencies are replacing researchers in providing metric measurements like site visits, click-through and Google analytics.