Navigating Post-Pandemic Research Trends in the Insights Industry

This article, an excerpt from ESOMAR's Global Market Research 2023 report, explores how project types and study designs are evolving over time and identifies trends that were already growing and have accelerated.

5 min read
navigating post pandemic research trends in the insights industry

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to recede, parts of the industry are gradually returning to more familiar territory. In 2022, research projects primarily focused on maintaining the known client base through CRM-related research. Contractual agreements between agencies and their clients became more flexible as ad hoc research increased, moving away from the traditional panel setting. Furthermore, the interest in understanding new customers, which had emerged during the pandemic, shifted back to a focus on sales as new product development regained some momentum. This report explores how project types and study designs are evolving over time and identifies trends that were already growing and have since accelerated.
Here, we provide an edited extract. The whole chapter can be found in ESOMAR’s
Global Market Research 2023 report. 

Project Types – Purpose for Research
Despite showing a decline in its share of 27% since 2018, market measurement projects increased in 2022 and became the second most popular type of research globally. If this trend continues in 2023, market measurement projects may overtake customer satisfaction and CRM research to become the most popular type. Currently, CRM research and customer satisfaction remain the most common project types. Qualitative data from ESOMAR’s Global Users & Buyers of Insights 2023 report indicate that these types of studies are often outsourced when the required methodology is sophisticated or when in-house expertise is lacking.

Opinion research and polling, despite several notable elections in 2022, have continued to decline on the global stage, losing up to 25% since 2018. This decline may be due to technological advancements making these projects cheaper or stagnant public sector investment.

Employee satisfaction projects, though originating from a smaller base, have been one of the fastest-growing project types. Despite cooling down somewhat post-pandemic, their global share more than doubled between 2018 and 2022.

The prevalence of projects focused on understanding customer behaviour and opinion varies globally. In Northern America, these three types of projects—market measurement, CRM, and customer satisfaction—account for 44% of total spending, highlighting the region’s particular focus on market measurement compared to the rest of the world.

Study Design – Contractual Scope
As market confidence is gradually restored and the impact of the pandemic fades, certain practices are recovering, such as the commissioning of individual ad hoc study designs. Having lost its position as the most common type of arrangement in 2019, ad hoc studies are poised to challenge panel research once again in 2023.

The internalisation of the insights function is reflected in the resurgence of omnibus surveys. Companies are commissioning individual questions within these large studies to justify lower investments in agencies. This type of design, which saw a decline in 2020 and 2021, regained ground in 2022, representing 10% of the total.

Self-service platforms, allowing for discretionary research and not fitting into previous setups, accounted for more than 4% of global spending in 2022.

A regional analysis of the two most prevalent study designs—ad hoc and panel research—reveals varying economic and social realities. Regions with higher volatility may prefer ad hoc studies due to shorter-term commitments. Conversely, other regions are moving away from the "research freeze" experienced during the pandemic, which had favoured longer-term panel research. Europe and North America are the only two regions with a consistently lower share of panel research compared to ad hoc studies, both at similar levels of around 30%.

Curious about the state of the Insights Industry? Get your copy of the Global Market Research report today.

Xabier Palacio
Senior Manager at ESOMAR's Intelligence Unit at ESOMAR
Lilas Ajaluni
Market Intelligence Analyst at ESOMAR