The 2022 lattice of research methods

20 March 2023

Quantitative passive methods dominate the research data-gathering landscape, with 56.5% of global spending

3 min read
3 min read

Companies and methods rarely go hand in hand. This is demonstrated each time a company claims to merge qualitative and quantitative research or when an established firm feels that it should be recognised for its strong tech-enabled product portfolio.

The data required to tackle each research “problem” may be gathered through very diverse methods, and companies were never limited in using them!

A full-service agency may use purely technological research methods, while an analytics firm may require established ones for a specific project. Quantitative agencies may add qualitative methods to their toolbox, and face-to-face companies may complement their offer with passive collection.

The richness of the industry is captured in ESOMAR’s Lattice of Research. This visualisation, first developed in 2020, shows that research methods can be categorised under each of three axis:

  • Not only the well-known quantitative or qualitative but also

  • Established or tech-enabled depending on whether they are proven and long-standing (the first) or came about thanks to technological advances (the second) and

  • Active or passive, depending on whether or not a direct and real-time interaction exists between insights professional and respondent.

The usage of diverse research methods by most, if not all, of the industry’s players are shown in ESOMAR’s Global Market Research report. The resulting breakdowns will become more refined as countries increasingly include all three sectors of the insights industry since the competitive arena is the same for all.

At a global level, quantitative passive methods dominate the research data-gathering landscape with 56.5% of global spending. The graph below clearly shows a well-known challenge for tech-enabled methods: their application to qualitative data gathering, now at less than 3%. The difficulty lies in successfully capturing the nuance that exists in the subjective opinions of individuals, one of the most difficult areas to automate and leverage through technology.

ESOMAR’s 2022 Lattice of Research Methodologies

lattice of research 2022

The regional breakdowns

A look at the regional breakdowns shows the variation in the types of methodologies used around the world. Further detail at a country level can be found in ESOMAR’s Global Market Research report.

But, can you spot the region with the most active users of established quantitative methods, such as face-to-face and telephone? Could you identify which regions have gravitated over time towards passive tech-enabled quantitative methods such as online traffic, web analytics or social media monitoring? Does the relative prevalence of qualitative methods in regions like Latin America, Africa and the Middle East surprise you? And how about the large share of tech-enabled methods in Europe and North America?

ESOMAR will continue to monitor the global insights activity in its reports so that the wider industry can keep the pulse of this exciting journey.

asia pacific
latin america
middle east
north america
Xabier Palacio
Senior Manager at ESOMAR's Intelligence Unit at ESOMAR