In search of the right price for your research

How to benchmark your research projects with ESOMAR's Global Prices Study

5 min read
5 min read
In search of the right price for your research

It is no surprise that prices for research change over time, but the impact of technology, recent economic crises and the aftereffects of the pandemic have made determining the price for market research projects harder. This presents a great challenge to agencies who need to ensure they are pitching their prices at the right level. If agencies pitch their prices too high, they will not win the projects. If they pitch them too low, they will soon struggle financially.

The best reference point for agencies wishing to benchmark their prices has been the biannually published ESOMAR Global Prices Study for many years. For example, the 2021 edition highlighted how the trends identified in previous editions of the study not only continued but also saw an acceleration: the prices for analogue methodologies are rising in all the regions while the opposite is observed for online methods over the years. Another key finding was the negative impact of the lockdowns and restricted travel opportunities on the “human factor”. This is evident from the sharp drop in prices of all types of professionals. In total, the report shows which countries are more expensive, and which are relatively less, along with what sort of projects are the most expensive, and what the cost of one methodology (such as telephone) is compared with another (such as online).

In recovery

The 2022 Global Market Research report has projected a K-shaped market recovery. In other words, different countries are recovering at different rates from the pandemic. Against the backdrop of numerous industry-wide trends including the internalisation of research and the booming number and range of self-service platforms, it becomes even more pertinent to determine the right price.

The 2023 ESOMAR Global Prices Study

To help agencies benchmark their prices, ESOMAR has already launched a new edition of the Global Prices Study. The fieldwork has already started for this, and we are welcoming more agencies to participate. If you have missed our initial invitations to participate, you still have the time to rally your team to answer the questionnaire (more details at the end of this article).

Eight archetypical projects

In this edition of the Global Prices Study, we are gearing up to cover eight research projects that represent a diverse range of the things research providers offer. The first project is a simple U&A project, with an easy-to-reach sample, with options to collect the data via F2F, telephone, and online. All of the studies in the Global Prices Study have to be designed to make sense in countries like USA and Australia (where there is relatively little face-to-face research) and in Indonesia and Bangladesh (where there is relatively little online research). Another project that is researched is a focus group project, looking at finance, banking, or accounting services, with options for face-to-face and online focus groups.

The agencies who participate in the study receive the description of the eight projects and indicate which of them they would normally quote for and then state for each project (and for each option within the project) what they would charge. In effect, these prices are what they would charge for a one-off project without a discount. To make the information comparable from country to country, the pricing is based on what they would charge to a local client (i.e. it does not include translation or international travel). Agencies can quote in their local currency, and the final results are converted to US dollars to make them comparable.

Why should agencies take part?

The first reason for an agency to participate in the Global Prices Study is to create a benchmark for them to assess their pricing. The study is anonymous, and the data provided by the agencies are stored and analysed as per the ICC/ESOMAR code. The study reports the median prices for a project in a country only if we have received at least three quotes from different agencies operating in that country. All the agencies who take part in the study will have access to the forthcoming Global Prices Study 2023 online version which includes the possibility to benchmark anonymised output data at global, regional, and local levels. 

Ensuring Quality

Most research industry studies seek to get as many people to answer as possible. This is NOT the case with the ESOMAR Global Prices Study. We are looking for a wide range of companies from a wide range of countries, but to receive answers from only one person representing each company/country. The ideal participant in the study is somebody who is responsible for pricing projects and issuing quotes. 

With the larger agencies, we try to work with a single coordinator who can help gather prices from several countries. This helps the agency benchmark its prices against the market with even more consistency.

The final step in ensuring quality is the research team, comprising ESOMAR staff, a project mentor (Ray Poynter, ESOMAR President), and the Sounding Board consisting of Chee Ngai Ng, John Smurthwaite, Joris Huisman, Joy Uyanwune, Priya Lobo, and Sarah Michell.

Participate Now!

If you’d like to be able to benchmark your company against the market, click below to share your quotes. The link will be open until 19 May (Friday).

If you have any questions, write to us at

If you are in connection with agencies in your market, tell them about this project, and make sure that they are getting on board so that everybody has the best possible benchmark to work with.

Ajitha Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan
Junior Data Analyst at ESOMAR