Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Do-It-Yourself Research is on the Rise

Roe vs. Wade, Gun Control, Immigration & Capital Punishment. 

It wasn’t that long ago where a simple conversation about Do-It-Yourself Online Research (DIYOR) among the Market Research community felt like a heated debate with the same intensity of the aforementioned topics.

For all intents and purposes, let’s not debate the pro/cons and the validity/invalidity of DIYOR within this space. These topics and arguments are already well documented and discussed. Instead, let’s take a look at the industry’s past, present and future.

DIYOR began in the late 1990’s and moved past the introduction stage of the product life cycle in the late 2000’s. Its current fragmentation of companies resembles the fragmented Market Research Industry where a handful of major players are accompanied by a majority of smaller companies.

DIY Research is in the growth stage of the product life cycle

The DIYOR Industry, as well as the NewMR Industry in which it is a subset, is presently within the growth stage of the product life cycle as revenues are increasing year over year.  Some suggest the industry is cannibalizing Traditional Research. However, relatively recent worldwide sales figures suggest that NewMR is supplementing Traditional Research, not cannibalizing it.

Some of the major players in the DIYOR market are beginning to behave as if operating within the maturity stage of the product life cycle and are buying competitors, forming partnerships and extending product lines. This behavior seems relatively quick as only a few years have passed since the industry outgrew the introduction stage.  Though, perhaps the move to maturity for some isn’t so quick after all since first and foremost DIYOR companies are technology companies that exist in an ever-changing market.

In terms of present offerings, two key factors have yet to normalize in the DIYOR market: Service & Price.

Service and Research Design in the market range from truly unaided services to aided / self-guided services. DIYOR vendors in the unaided market provide the technology for customers to field quantitative and qualitative studies, but do not assist the questionnaire design process and provide the results of the survey as raw data without data analysis services.  Whereas aided / self-guided companies provide a full suite of self-guided questionnaire design templates as well as data analysis applications. For an extra fee, some aided / self-guided companies can provide an experienced researcher to help design customers’ quantitative and qualitative projects. And of course, there are DIYOR companies that exist somewhere between both ends of the spectrum.

Both services and prices widely vary in the DIY Research market

The relative price of service in the DIYOR market increases or decreases relative to the amount of service provided and overall price points display a fairly wide variance in the DIYOR market.  Charges range from free, to charging per respondent, to charging per month, to charging per year, to charging with sliding-scale credits, to charging for a basic user profile, to charging for an intermediate user profile, to charging for an advanced user profile, to charging for enterprise services, etc., etc. Get the picture?

It's going to be a challenge for consumers to truly evaluate all the different price points, at all the different offerings, for all the different users, at all the different levels of service.  Without a doubt, the rising DIYOR industry is in need of a solid pricing study that will ultimately optimize and ease consumers' purchasing decisions.

So what lies in store for the DIYOR industry? My humble prediction is within the next 5 years, larger full-suite, self-guided DIYOR companies will continue to purchase smaller DIYOR companies that display attractive technology and operate within a niche of the market, in order to add to their portfolios of services. Customers by this time will have determined for themselves which product offering at particular price points makes the most sense.  This combination of vendor consolidation and educated pricing from a consumers point of view will ultimately streamline the DIYOR industry as a whole and normalize its product offerings and prices. 

In your opinion, where is the DIYOR industry heading in the next 5 years? Please comment below.

Chris Ruby is an award-winning Marketing Research & Consumer Insights Executive with Fortune 500 consulting experience. His niche is the ability to turn complex data into compelling stories that induce a call for action among key decision-makers. His work has been featured by MRA, MRIA, IIR, Norstat Times, Chadwick Martin Bailey & the Optimization Group. Keep up with Chris Ruby by following him on Twitter @ChrisRubyMRX or by reading the Chris Ruby Market Research Blog.

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