Read this In-depth Review and Comparison of Top Market Research Companies to Select the Best Market Research Firm for your Business:
What is Market Research?
Market Research can be defined as an attempt at understanding consumer behavior. This involves gathering data systematically about people or companies – a market – and then analyzing it to better understand the needs of that group of people/companies.
This type of research can be undertaken by the company itself (i.e. in-house) or by a third-party agency specialized in market research.
What You Will Learn:
Market Research Companies
Advantages of conducting business market research include:
- Identify problem areas in business.
- Identify changing market trends and associated business opportunities as well as new areas for expansion.
- Understand the existing customer’s needs and comparative analysis of services offered to customers vis-à-vis competitors.
- Develop effective strategies and make well-informed decisions about the services.
- Set achievable targets for sales, business growth, and the latest product developments.
There are two types of market research: Qualitative research and Quantitative research.
- Qualitative research is focused on descriptive words and symbols. It usually involves questioning consumers about their product or service consumption experiences or observing them in a marketing setting. The data collection methods used in this case include in-depth interviews, focus groups, bulletin boards, uninterrupted observation, and ethnographic participation/observation.
- Quantitative research is the one that looks to quantify a problem which often involves statistical analysis since it requires significant attention to the measurement of market phenomena. It collects data through audits, points of purchase (purchase transactions), surveys in different modalities (online, phone, paper), and click-streams.
The two ways through which data is collected include Primary Data and Secondary Data.
- Primary data is the original data that is collected first hand by the researcher. The most common primary research tools are surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and observation.
- Secondary data is the data that has already been collected and is readily available. This data is pre-existing public information, for instance, the data shared in public sources like magazines and newspapers, government statistics; commercial sources like paid industry reports; and internal sources i.e. the market data that the organization already has in-house.
The procedures that are used to analyze the data collected include (but not limited to) product testing, market segmentation, advertising testing, usability testing, key driver analysis for loyalty and satisfaction, awareness and usage research, and pricing research (using techniques such as conjoint analysis).
Below are the top 10 Market Research Companies by revenues (2018):
|Company||Turnover (USD bn)|
Upon comparing the revenues of the top 5 Companies for 2019 as well, these 5 Companies have been observed to retain the top slots with some minor changes in the rankings.
Market Research Company Types
Market research companies can be large corporate companies, small business companies, or product-specific companies. These companies are usually categorized based on clients they take up rather than based on market research work they undertake.
#1) Syndicated market research firm: Such companies look at the market requirements and then prepare their reports accordingly. These research reports are for the open market rather than for specific companies.
#2) Custom market research firm: Such firms offer customized market analysis basis for the client’s needs.
#3) Specialty market research firm: A firm with a focus on one specialty falls under this category. Such firms are involved with an in-depth analysis of the client’s specific requirements, for instance, conducting market feasibility studies for a soon to be launched pilot product.
#4) Online market research firm: These firms are considered to be useful for online marketers, bloggers, and online e-commerce portals. They connect the brands/website owners with their desired users while also conducting online analysis at the same time.
This online analysis enables the website owners to land up on top in search engines, understand the gist of their brands in the online community, and thereby improvise their existing product lines. Brands, for instance, taking a cue from the ‘trends’ showcasing top websites like Twitter and Facebook.
Pro-Tip: Once the said company has decided to hire a market research firm, the following factors need to be considered before choosing the one:
- The extent of understanding of its sector by the market research firm.
- Capabilities of the market research firm – qualitative/quantitative/both.
- Timelines expected by the company vs. promised by the firm.
- A clear understanding of the company’s research objectives and methods to be used by them – focus groups vs. survey vs. secondary search.
- The company’s scale of project and affordability as a market research agency usually does not takes on projects with a budget below £3,000. So, for small-scale field research, the best option may be a freelance researcher.
- Cost calculations as a majority of market research firms charge per hour. However, researching the published material is considered easier than conducting focus groups and surveys.
FAQs For Market Research Firms
Q #1) Which is the best methodology for undertaking Market Research?
Answer: Depending on the needs and objectives of the market research i.e. measuring or exploring, the company can choose between focus groups and in-depth interviews as part of a qualitative approach or online surveys as part of a quantitative approach.
Q #2) Should the research be done as in-house or get expert help?
Answer: The first question that arises once a company has decided to undertake market research is whether to conduct the study in-house or do it using a third-party help. While hiring a third-party market research firm ensures confidentiality (for surveyed customers) and expertise ait increases the overall cost allocated for a project.
The ideal solution therefore of hiring a market research firm or not boils down to the cost/benefit analysis. Once the company is aware of its research budget, which as per Philip Kotler, is 1-2 percent of company sales, it can compare the cost of hiring a marketing research firm with the cost of paying one or more of its employees to do the work.
The end objective of the study expected should also be kept in mind.
Q #3) How much does market research cost?
Answer: Costs vary greatly depending on the scope and methodology. A professional survey usually starts from £1,000 while in-house research costs not much money but time.
A 1,000 complete telephone survey will be costlier than a 100 complete online survey while 50 in-person interviews will be costlier than 10 in-depth interviews conducted over the phone. A 10-question survey targeted at 200 general consumers will be less expensive than a 40-question survey targeted at 800 B2B C-Level decision-makers.
Q #4) How much time does market research take?
Answer: Qualitative research takes comparatively lesser time for completion than a quantitative one.
An email survey is completed (~75%) usually within 24 hours of the initial invite and an online survey project can be done in ~2 weeks while focus groups (using 2 groups) and in-depth interviews typically last 4 to 5 weeks owing to the time involved in recruiting participants in addition to the fieldwork.
List Of Top Market Research Companies
Comparison Of Market Research Agencies
|Company||Core Services||Geographical Spread||Number of Clients||Revenue (USD bn)||#Employees|
|Nielsen||Measurement and data analytics - Consumer purchasing measurement & analytics; media audience measurement & analytics||100+ countries||20,000+||6.5||46000|
|IQVIA (formerly QuintilesIMS)||Advanced analytics, contract research services, and technology solutions to the life sciences industry||100+ countries||8000||4.5||58000|
|Kantar||Brand & marketing communications research through quantitative studies and qualitative research - social media monitoring, consumer and shopping behavior, advertising effectiveness, public opinion||90 countries||-||3||30000|
|Gartner||Research reports, proprietary tools, briefings, membership programs, and peer networking services||100+ countries||15600||3.4||15173|
|Ipsos||Survey-based research for companies, brands, and institutions||~90 countries||5,000+||2.2||18130|
Review of the top market research companies:
Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, offers measurement and data analytics services on a global scale. It claims to cover more than 90 percent of the world’s GDP and population through its services.
The services delivered include marketing and media information, analytics, and retailer and manufacturer expertise related to what and where consumers buy and what consumers read, watch, and listen to. The Company caters clients primarily from the CPG, media, and advertising industries.
Headquarters: New York, United States
Founded In: 1923
Employees (2018 and 2019): 46,000
Core Services: Measurement and data analytics – Consumer Purchasing Measurement & Analytics; Media Audience Measurement & Analytics. The former includes Retail Measurement Services, Consumer Panel Measurement, and Analytical Services while the latter includes key activities of Planning, Activation, Audience Measurement, and Advertising Effectiveness.
Revenues (2018 and 2019): USD 6.5 billion
Clients: Top clients include NBC Universal/ Comcast Corporation, Nestle S.A., The Coca-Cola Company, Twenty-First Century Fox, The Procter & Gamble Company, and the Unilever Group
IQVIA, formed through the merger of IMS Health and Quintiles, is a Human Data Science Company serving the life sciences industry. The company has been able to integrate information, analytics, domain expertise, and technology through its IQVIA CORE solution, thereby enabling its clients to tap into a deeper understanding of human behaviors, diseases, and scientific advances.
Headquarters: North Carolina and Connecticut, United States
Founded In: 2016
Employees: 58,000+ (2018); 67,000 (2019)
Core Services: Research & Development Solutions, Technology & Analytics Solutions, and Contract Sales & Medical Solutions. The Technology & Analytics Solutions offerings include Technology platforms, Analytics and consulting services, and Information offerings.
Revenues (Technology & Analytics solutions): USD 4.1 billion (2018); USD 4.5 billion (2019)
Clients: The company serves other companies from the life sciences industry including pharmaceutical, consumer health, device and diagnostic, and biotechnology. Nearly all of the top 100 global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, measured by the revenue, are its clients.
Some of the clients identified include Noble Analytics & Consulting, Minerva Surgical, PatientPoint, Young & Ellison LLC, Providence Health and Services, Nova Biomedical, and Georgetown University.
Kantar, a part of WPP, is a data, insights, and consulting company. The company offers its services across the entire lifecycle of sales and marketing with research solutions ranging from in-depth qualitative research expertise to the latest AI-based technology.
In April 2019, Kantar unified all its legacy brands, including Kantar Consulting, Kantar IMRB, Kantar Health, Kantar Media, Kantar Public, Kantar Millward Brown, Kantar Worldpanel, Kantar TNS, Lightspeed, all country-specific brands into Kantar. Further, WPP sold Kantar’s 60% stake to Bain Capital in Dec 2019 and hence shown as discontinued operations by the WPP group as of Dec 31, 2019.
Headquarters: London, UK
Founded In: 1993
Employees (2018 and 2019): 30,000
Core Services: Research capabilities include Consumer Panels, Data Solutions, Managed Services including Survey Design & Fielding, DIY Solutions, Panels & Audiences, Virtual Reality, Eye Tracking, and Behavioral Sciences.
Revenues: USD 3.4 billion (2018); USD 3.0 billion (2019)
Clients: Kantar serves over half of the Fortune 500 companies. Some of them include Diageo, Volkswagen, Unilever, SAB Miller, PepsiCo, European Commission.
As a member of the S&P 500, the company is engaged in providing research and analysis solutions to the computer software, hardware, communications, and related information technology industries.
The company research services are offered through a subscription-based model that includes on-demand access to published research content, direct access to a network of approximately 2,300 research experts located globally, and data and benchmarks.
Headquarters: Connecticut, United States
Founded In: 1979
Employees: 15,173 (2018); 16,724 (2019)
Core Services: Research, Conferences, and Consulting. Research service is offered to clients through reports, briefings, access to its research experts, proprietary tools, peer networking services, and membership programs.
Revenues (research segment): USD 3.1 billion (2018); USD 3.4 billion (2019)
Clients: Gartner serves 73% of the Global 500 companies. It serves 15,600+ distinct organizations in more than 100 countries, Coca-Cola Bottling Company United being one of them.
Ipsos is a market research company offering advertising, media, public opinion, marketing, and social research services.
Headquarters: Paris, France
Founded In: 1975
Core Services: Brand Health, Creative Excellence, Clinics & Mobility Labs, Innovation, Ipsos MMA, Ipsos UU, Market Strategy & Understanding, Social Intelligence Analytics (excl. pharma and the public sector), Observer, Customer Experience, Mystery Shopping, Market Measurement, Quality Measurement, Retail Performance, Audience Measurement, ERM, Media Development, Corporate Reputation, Public Affairs, and quantitative and qualitative research services for Pharma sector
Revenues: USD 2.1 billion (2018); USD 2.2 billion (2019)
Clients: Some of the clients include Budweiser, Clorox, Ad Council, and Zillow.
GfK is a market research institute engaged in conducting consumer response tests, providing data as well as analysis of consumer purchasing behavior, and tracking retail sales data for consumer technology products.
It has been able to provide one of the world’s largest retail panels for technical consumer goods and user experience (UX) research and design for a large number of devices and interfaces.
As of October 2018, Ipsos acquired four global divisions of custom research business of GfK: Customer Experience; Experience Innovation; Health; and Public Affairs.
Headquarters: Nuremberg, Germany
Founded In: 1934
Revenues: USD 1.6 billion (2018)
Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) is engaged in providing big data and predictive analytics solutions to CPG, retail, OTC healthcare, and media companies. The company claims to be catering 95% of CPG, health and beauty, and retail companies in the Fortune 100 list.
Headquarters: Illinois, United States
Founded In: 1979
Revenues: USD 1.2 billion (2018)
Dynata is a provider of first-party data contributed by business professionals and consumers. The company claims to be one of the largest providers of technology-based research solutions and online panel data based on opted-in data.
The company is a result of a merger between Research Now and SSI that happened in December 2017 and was rebranded as Dynata in January 2019.
Headquarters: Texas, United States
Founded In: 1999
Revenues: USD 0.509 billion (2018)
Westat offers research services to help clients in improving outcomes in health, social policy, education, and transportation. Westat undertakes studies on health conditions, employment, medical expenditures, science, technology, and earnings.
Headquarters: Maryland, United States
Founded in: 1963
Employees: ~2,000 (only HQ)
Revenues: USD 0.506 billion (2018)
Intage offers marketing research services as well as marketing system solutions and consulting services based on data obtained from custom research and panel research. The company primarily serves consumer goods clients, companies from the services sector, and government agencies.
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan
Founded In: 1960
Revenues: USD 0.489 billion (2018)
Nielsen, Ipsos, and Kantar are the three top picks for a majority of research offerings globally. In retail measurement, Nielsen along with Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) are the two major players while consumer panel services and analytics services witness Nielsen, GfK, Ipsos, Kantar as the major ones.
For audio audience measurement, Nielsen, along with Kantar and GFK, are the global players while in television audience measurement, Nielsen, Kantar, GfK, and Ipsos are the major ones.
The emergence of new technologies, particularly software technologies associated with artificial intelligence and machine learning, has a significant impact on the research market. Further, the very nature of the research conducted has changed owing to the advent of other technologies such as virtual reality.
Companies like Ipsos and Nielsen have already adopted artificial intelligence and machine learning while IQVIA has adopted machine learning.
Time taken to research this article: 25 hours
Total companies researched: 20
Total companies shortlisted: 10