Ad hoc and panel research struggle for popularity
A look at the trend of study designs over time shows the instability of the past couple of years as well. The uncertainty experienced in the wake of the pandemic froze research temporarily while clients and agencies alike reassessed the situation at hand. The only types of projects that remained were longer-term commitments between the parties, such as panel research, which came to represent the largest share of study designs in the year 2020.
Panel research slowed somewhat in 2021 to 39% of total turnover, while ad hoc research gained momentum and grew by two percentage points to 32%. This type of study design, the most popular in 2018, has steadily lost ground in favour of panel research. The lack of a downward trend, however, shows the prevalence of both, and their title of most popular design will likely swap places repeatedly in upcoming years.
Self-serve platforms were recently added as a new type of study design. This type of flexible contractual arrangement, whether with end research clients themselves or with other research providers, allows for a wide array of studies which could not possibly be categorised under the other labels. While at just 3%, self-serve platforms still represent a small portion of the total, their potential is made ever clearer by the enormous amounts of capital that have recently poured over the sector. As mentioned in the ESOMAR’s Global Top-50 Insights Companies, this is one of the fastest-growing industry segments from 2021 and shows no signs of slowing down.
We look forward to seeing how the different elements of the industry come together in upcoming years to move the dials across methodologies, project types and study designs. The growth of more technological solutions may open up the opportunities for more in-house research, thereby boosting the global share of self-serve platforms or may simplify the continuous tracking of consumers. These and other questions will be tackled over time.