How We Ranked Market Research Companies
To provide you with the most accurate and detailed selection of companies for market research, we knuckled down and performed some solid research of our own. These are the methodologies we used to narrow down and curate our list of top research partners.
Market Research Types, Services and Specialities
Before we delve into the different types of market research types and services, it’s important to make a distinction of market research vs. marketing research.
While market research is based on investigating markets, i.e. customers, consumers, distribution, etc., marketing research is concerned with investigating issues related to marketing, including consumer behavior, advertising, and everything contained within market research.
That said, market research agencies differ in many ways. Some focus on one type of research or industry, while others offer a broader range of services to a larger client base. Market research is an industry where versatility is key. While providing a specialized service can be beneficial, we looked out for companies that offer a more comprehensive selection of resources to tackle any type of market research.
While we did not discount companies that offer specialized services or cater to a niche market (pharmaceutical market research companies are one such example), we did use this information to classify the different types of market research and the categories they fall in.
Moving on to the types of market research, there are four main categories, depending on the purpose they ultimately serve.
Awareness – This is the process of letting the market know that the product or service exists. The top market research companies will do this through a variety of methods such as awareness, attitude and usage research, public relations research, and advertising research, among others. All these can ultimately help the client discover various market opportunities and tap into them effectively.
Targeting – The process of identifying the target segments with the highest profit potential. This is done through market segmentation, positioning/branding research, and industry & competitive analysis.
Retention – This is the process of optimizing the marketing messaging, offer, and/or price that will close the sale. The best market research companies accomplish this through customer satisfaction and loyalty research, customer communication testing, usability testing, and customer experience and insights.
Acquisition – The process of generating repeat purchases from current customers through concept testing, product optimization, pricing research, advertising research, and usability testing.
Case Studies & Portfolio
We take a look at the company’s previous work during our ranking process. We ask the firms under consideration how they have helped past clients achieve results and provide solutions to their marketing efforts. If the research company is reputable, they should have plenty of examples of their previous work and point you to clients whose goals align with what you are trying to achieve. We also look for past customers we can speak to directly and learn more about their first-hand experiences with the agency.
In addition to learning about the past work and experiences of research companies, we also want to know what their customers are saying. We check on reviews and testimonials online to see if there is any notable feedback. While positive feedback is considered a plus, we also look at any negative experiences customers may have had.
While no company can make everyone happy all the time, we want to see if they know how to handle negative feedback and if/how any issues and incidences were resolved. With this information, we can establish the company's level of customer satisfaction, their depth of expertise, and their experience. Only market intelligence companies with a proven track record made our list.
Data Collection Methods
We look for companies that use multiple methods to conduct research and achieve results. That said, data collection methods are typically categorized in two ways, as described below.
Primary research is original research conducted by a person or market research company. The aim is to collect data specifically for your current objective and comes in two forms.
This research is exploratory in nature and typically includes data collection methods like surveys, questionnaires, uninterrupted observation, one-on-one interviews, ethnographic participation, alongside experiments, and field trials to gather data.
This type of research looks to quantify a problem by collecting data. This usually happens through different market research methods which include focus groups, audits, in-depth interviews, points of purchase, and more.
Secondary research involves searching for existing data that has already been collected by other parties. In some cases, this might also include other market research companies. This data can be available in the following ways:
Public domain data – This refers to material and information owned by the public, not an individual. These works are not protected by intellectual property laws and can be accessed and used by anyone without special permission. These are usually free, useful resources from organizations like government departments, public libraries, etc., and as such, are easily accessible for research agencies.
Commercial sources – These are highly valuable sources available to the public, but usually at a cost like subscription and association fees. This includes research made available by organizations like trade associations, banks, financial institutions, or publicly traded corporations.
Internal sources – Internal sources are market research sources that already exist and are collected in the business's database or file system. Internal sources include information that has already been collected and stored by the market research company for future use.
We believe that the more resources a firm has access to, the higher the guarantee on data integrity. We present ourselves as a prospective client to find out about the firm's on-site facilities and resources. Our purpose is to verify to what extent they outsource their services and whether they partner with reputable companies.
For instance, an on-site call center means that the agency can monitor all fieldwork and quality checks sufficiently. This means that the same firm that is handling your project is conducting the actual research activities. The top market research firms should feature all the required services to conduct research and manage projects.
Technology has changed the market research industry in various ways, not in the least in terms of advanced data collection and subsequent analysis. Any top market research firm worth its salt should make use of the latest suite of technology, including all digital methodologies like online panels, online focus groups, and mobile ethnography. These online methodologies have many advantages, including convenience and cost.
Custom Study Design Capabilities
We look for industry research companies that will offer expert advice on the best approach and methodologies for your unique project. We give better rankings to those that are willing to create a custom solution for your needs and objectives. The best in the business will take the time to build a custom research project for every client. Top companies also know that no one method is superior, but rather, will apply multiple tools and data sets to achieve repeatable results that their clients can act upon.
The findings are only as good as the methods, data, and processes used. We look for consumer research companies that make sure they use high-quality data. The agency should be adept at screening unwanted respondents and spot those likely to cheat surveys. They should also be skilled at devising concise, efficient, easy to follow surveys, and limit bias. Comprehensive and unbiased surveys translate into higher-quality findings. With this information, you can then find potential problems and alter your product or service to better suit your customers.
Whether verbal or written, communication is key for any sort of collaboration and the market research industry is no exception. In the most basic sense, market research firms must be able to communicate with the research subjects regardless of medium effectively. What's more, the company must be able to present the findings to its clients in a well-documented, informative, actionable, and visually appealing report.
Project Management & Reporting Process
We look to make sure that the top research companies we ranked have proven processes to source data, gather information, and create insights. The firm must look beyond the data by drawing conclusions and putting the results into the context of the client's situation. We speak to past clients and ask for sample reports to determine which companies deliver results that contain real value and insight for your business.
While we strive to include the best market research firms, that usually doesn’t mean the cheapest or the most expensive. We make sure that they fall within the industry standards in terms of pricing. In the case of higher fees, we look at the firm’s approach to market research and estimate whether it presents a good value for the larger investment.
Things to Consider When Hiring a Market Research Company
We’ve done the research for you and have provided you with our ranking criteria and methodology. Our work, however, doesn’t end here. We’ve also listed some useful tips to guide you through the final selection and hiring process of your future market research partner.
Define your Goals and Challenges
When on the lookout for a market research firm, defining your goals, objectives, and challenges from the start will help you understand your research needs and choose the best company to help you achieve this and eliminate any unsuitable ones.
Consider Agencies Specialized in Your Industry & Size
Looking at a company's experience and expertise in your industry is vital to understanding your product, your goals, as well as challenges. For example, if your business is in the healthcare sector, it would make sense to only consider medical market research companies, rather than hire a jack of all trades.
On that note, consider your organization’s size as well. Smaller businesses may want to approach small agencies that offer customized services on tighter budgets. If your business, however, needs a broader range of services, a small vendor might not be up to snuff. If that is the case, consider one of the largest market research companies, as these may be a better fit for your needs.
Consider if the Agency is a Cultural Fit
No two companies are the same, even if they offer similar services or target the same industry. Ultimately, when choosing a market research partner, you must find one that is a good cultural fit. Chances are you will be forming a long-term partnership with the research company, so its values, culture, and ethos need to be compatible with yours.
Define Your Budget
Ask each company to provide you with a proposal, highlighting the kind of research they would suggest, estimated timelines and costs, and examples of past projects. With this information, you can determine a more specific budget and eliminate the vendors that fall outside of it. That said, you shouldn't choose a partner based on cost alone as cutting corners might ultimately undermine the accuracy and usefulness of the results. Instead, you should focus on market research companies that understand your needs and objectives, and can meet them within your budget frame.