Regional differences for main clients
The largest client sectors worldwide are heavily influenced by the peculiarities of the USA, a market dominated by the pharmaceutical industry (the only region in the world where this is the largest client) and Media and Broadcasting. In all other regions of the world, the main client sector is consumer non-durables (FMCG), ranging from 18% in Asia Pacific, around 30% in Europe and Latin America, and even higher in Africa and the Middle East.
Other manufacturing sectors, such as consumer durables, are prominent in Latin America (particularly due to the weight of Mexico) with a share of 17%. It is smallest in Europe (2.9%) and Asia Pacific (4.9%), where it lost ground steadily over the past 4 years, presumably due to a shift in data providers to media agencies and increased non-established methods of data collection. The public sector also remains an important client in Asia Pacific with a share of 14%, thanks to the prominent role it plays in China (20%), Australia (25%), South Korea (44%) and New Zealand (22%). Lastly, not-for-profit and other international organisations are particularly important in Africa and the Middle East, with a share of 24% and 16%, respectively. The non-profit sector is particularly large in Nigeria (25%), Lebanon (80%), and Iraq (50%).
At a global level, though, the consumer non-durables sector seems to be losing ground in relative terms, even though its yearly expenditure increased from US$ 13 to US$ 15 billion between 2018 and 2021. Reasons for this shift could be attributed to two trends playing out simultaneously.
Firstly, the industry experienced a surge in research from other sectors such as IT and telecommunications (which grew from 5% in 2018 to 8% in 2021) which challenged the hegemony of research commissioned by consumer non-durables clients. Their combination with growing, and new types of research projects such as consumer/user experience and CRM systems helps explain this trend further.
Secondly, we find other emergent trends such as the increased usage of in-house research through platforms and self-acquired data, or a sense of caution in expenditure after the pandemic, particularly for a sector with relatively low margins for profit.
As a result, the information and communication super-sector (which includes advertising, telecommunications and ICT, and media and broadcasting) briefly became the largest global client in 2020 with 29%, only to be surpassed by the manufacturing super-sector (consumer durables, pharmaceutical, and automotive) in 2021, both at 28%.