MARKET RESEARCH LEAGUE TABLES: Quantitative leaps into action - The increased burden of recruitment and training is a top issue for industry leaders

The image of market research that comes most readily to mind for most people is the interviewer, armed with a clipboard or portable computer, putting questions to passers-by in the street. This is quantitative research, the numbers game.

The image of market research that comes most readily to mind for

most people is the interviewer, armed with a clipboard or portable

computer, putting questions to passers-by in the street. This is

quantitative research, the numbers game.

Admittedly, the terms bandied about in this industry can be confusingly

similar. Quantitative research (’quant’) - the subject of this article -

involves interviewing a large and representative sample of people in

order to produce an accurate view of the opinions of the whole


Qualitative research (’qual’), on the other hand, employs in-depth

interviews or discussions (’focus groups’) with much smaller numbers of

people. Its aim is to get insights into why opinions are held; it does

not attempt to suggest what proportions of the population hold which


Quant is the biggest segment of the industry, accounting for pounds

309m, or nearly 53% of the total turnover of pounds 587m reported by the

companies in this year’s survey. This is a slight reduction in share

compared with last year, when quant represented 55.5% of the total. But

that was a smaller survey, with only 75 participants.

We asked companies to break down their quantitative business between

consumer and business-to-business studies, and then to split it again,

in both of those sectors, between face-to-face, telephone, and postal

surveys. Their responses form the basis of the two main tables within

this article.

Distinctive elements

This highlights one interesting distinction between the consumer and

industrial sectors. Even though the techniques used are essentially the

same, business-to-business research relies more heavily on telephone and

postal surveys than is the case with consumer research. That’s because a

sample of business people is likely to be much more scattered than a

sample of shoppers, and also because pressures on executives’ time make

it difficult to secure face-to-face appointments.

Marketing calculates that face-to-face interviews account for as much as

two-thirds of the turnover generated from consumer quantitative

research, with telephone interviews representing 23% and postal surveys

11%. In business-to-business, the telephone represents about 58% of the


The face-to-face interview accounts for a quarter, and postal surveys

for 16%.

Among the companies that have backed the growth of telephone research is

Sample Surveys. It opened its first call centre in central London in

1995, but has since added two more in Offham and Medway, giving it a

total of more than 130 computer-assisted interviewer places. Icon opened

its own in-house CATI unit in January with 30 seats, since expanded to

more than 90.

Unfortunately, some of the biggest quant practitioners were unable or

unwilling to provide a breakdown between their consumer and

business-to-business operations. These included IPSOS-RSL, Millward

Brown, MORI, Martin Hamblin and Continental Research. One has to accept

that the way they keep their books may make it difficult to provide this

information. That is the reason for the smaller table which lists the

top 15 suppliers of quantitative research of all types.

The top few positions are similar to last year, except that Research

International (RI) has had to surrender the quant crown to NOP. Alone

among the bigger players, RI appears to have had a near-static year in

quantitative research (although Taylor Nelson’s improved return owes

much to the inclusion of turnover from the Harris Research Centre,

acquired as part of the Sofres deal).

Former RI chairman Peter Hayes has said in print that the bigger

research companies have been happy to surrender unprofitable business to

smaller competitors, and this may be part of the explanation. But new

chairman Laurent Guillaume has also indicated that some international

accounts which used to be co-ordinated from London, and therefore

counted as UK turnover, are now run by the group’s expanded US


Quant specialists are well represented in the tables of fastest growers,

on page 45. They include among the bigger companies: GfK Great Britain,

Continental Research, Isis, Opinion Research Corporation, Total, Simon

Godfrey (recently bought by RI), and Audits and Surveys Europe. And,

from the table of fast-growing smaller companies, Strategic Research,

Twenty Twenty, Paul Winstone Research and Business Development Research

Consultants - some of which are not quite big enough to make the cut on

this page.

Growing pains

Growth apart, there are several issues bubbling away in the quant


One of these is recruitment and training. There is a shortage of good

interviewers, almost certainly compounded by the growth of other

industries seeking similar recruits, such as field marketing and

telemarketing. Most interviewers are self-employed freelancers: no one

knows how many there are, or how many companies they work for.

A recent Market Research Society task group concluded that the burden of

recruitment and training was falling on a dozen of the biggest


They spend in the region of pounds 1.5m a year on recruitment

advertising, often in direct competition to each other. They spend a

further pounds 2m on training, only to see the majority of their

recruits poached by smaller companies which, the industry admits, don’t

have the resources to recruit or train.

The controversial recommendation that came out of the group was that the

industry should run a joint recruitment drive, allocating newcomers to

big or small companies according to their temperament. Later would come

an industry-wide basic training programme. This would mean smaller

companies picking up a share of the training bill, though at less cost

than if they were to do their own in-house training.

Early indications are that the bigger companies are warming to the idea

of saving money on recruitment, but want to defend their own training


’I think it is unlikely that companies with large field forces will join

forces for training,’ says Ivor Stocker, NOP’s managing director.

Meanwhile, three medium-sized operations - FDS (through its associate

ACE Fieldwork), IRB International and MRSL - have launched a joint

training company. This approach offers another route forward.

The issue is related to the question of quality standards in market


It is a condition of membership of the newly-formed British Market

Research Association that companies of more than pounds 500,000 turnover

meet the requirements of the Market Research Quality Standards scheme.

MRQS covers the total operations of a company. It includes a requirement

for regular training of field interviewers to agreed levels.

’It is a big expense, particularly for smaller companies, but an

excellent step forward,’ says Bob Peters, joint founder of consultancy

Twenty Twenty, and former head of research at Midland Bank.

But Peters believes clients are also pressing for higher quality in a

slightly different sense - actionable data. Much of Twenty Twenty’s work

is concerned with customer service and satisfaction studies. ’One trend

we have noticed is the move toward making customer satisfaction tracking

less passive and more of an actionable exercise. More use is being made

of our statistical experience to analyse the data.’

Similarly, MVA gets a lot of work from the public sector and the newly

privatised train services. Social and market research director John

Wicks says there has been a trend over the past year to winning projects

using analytical techniques rather than just the simple collection and

presentation of data. Local authorities are seeking research input to

help them prioritise services in a way that reflects public opinion.

The City Research Group has appointed Tony Hennessey-Brown, formerly

chief operating officer at NatWest Markets, as business development


’He’s helping us deliver a wider range of consultancy services to senior

management in international banks,’ says chairman Mervyn Flack.

Meanwhile, Manchester-based Business & Market Research has given a new

role of director of employee research to Andrew Brown, Gallup’s former

director of research and analysis.

These developments are about adding value to the service. Interpretation

and recommendations can be important to the client company, particularly

if it has no in-house research manager to perform these functions.

Adding value is a way of differentiating one consultancy from


This is important in an industry that is not short of capacity. There is

a widespread, though not uncontested, view that basic research skills

can now be taken for granted, and that it is in the quality of the

interpretation that the differences lie.

’What you are presenting at the end of the day is not the results of a

survey - you are trying to augment that with recommendations for the

future,’ says Steven Jagger, managing director of GfK Great Britain.

’It is a matter of changing from a data-collection business to a

consultancy business. That’s only possible if you have a broad marketing


Many researchers have trouble breaking out of their traditional research


Top 30 consumer quantitative research

Rk  Consultancy       Face-to-face   Telephone    Postal,       Total

                          (pounds)    (pounds)  including    Consumer

                                                 e-mail &     Quanti-

                                                 internet      tative

                                                 (pounds)     (pounds

    NOP Research Group  18,880,000  11,463,000  4,720,000  35,062,000

2   Research

    International       28,250,000   1,046,000  3,662,000  32,958,000

3   Taylor Nelson

    Sofres              13,971,000   5,239,000  2,619,000  21,829,000

4   BMRB International   5,236,000   4,364,000  2,327,000  11,927,000

5   Infratest Burke

    Group                6,167,000   3,925,000    561,000  10,653,000

6   Simon Godfrey

    Associates           8,422,000      17,000     34,000   8,473,000

7   MBL Group            4,782,000   2,187,000    377,000   7,346,000

8   The Research


    International        2,990,000     748,000  1,308,000   5,046,000

9   Marketing Sciences   2,486,000     633,000    316,000   3,435,000

10  FDS International    1,181,000   1,772,000    127,000   3,080,000

11  Isis Reserch           863,000   1,725,000    431,000   3,019,000

12  MMR Product &

    Concept Research     2,529,000           -          -   2,529,000

13  Surveyplan (Market

    Research)            2,246,000     152,000     30,000   2,428,000

14  GfK Great Britain    1,055,000     141,000  1,125,000   2,320,000


    (previously RAS)     1,890,000     384,000     32,000   2,306,000

16  Opinion Research

    Corporation          1,636,000     431,000     86,000   2,153,000

17  Hall & Partners      1,766,000           -          -   1,766,000

18  Sample Surveys       1,000,000     600,000    100,000   1,699,000

19  Business & Market

    Research             1,005,000     603,000     50,000   1,658,000

20  Total Research         325,000     976,000    325,000   1,627,000

21  Audits & Surveys

    Europe                 887,000     444,000     44,000   1,375,000

22  Parker Tanner        1,221,000     114,000          -   1,335,000

23  Icon Research &

    Consulting (UK)      1,028,000     184,000          -   1,211,000                 24

The Added Value Company    557,000     551,000          -   1,108,000

25  Conquest Research      851,000     195,000     49,000   1,094,000

26  MVA                    765,000     128,000    128,000   1,020,000

27  Pegram Walters

    Group                  535,000     238,000    119,000     891,000

28  Business Devt.

    Research Consultants       N/a         N/a        N/a     836,000

29  Scantel

    International          413,000     334,000     48,000     795,000

30  JRA Research           585,000     130,000          -     715,000

Top 30 business-to-business quantitative research

Rk  Consultancy       Face-to-face   Telephone    Postal,       Total

                          (pounds)    (pounds)  including    Consumer

                                                 e-mail &     Quanti-

                                                 internet      tative

                                                 (pounds)     (pounds

1   NOP Research Group   2,023,000   3,371,000  2,697,000   8,091,000

2   Research

    International        2,093,000   4,185,000  1,569,000   7,847,000

3   Taylor Nelson Sofres         -   5,239,000          -   5,239,000

4   Opinion Research

    Corporation            947,000   1,464,000    603,000   3,014,000

5   Total Research         976,000   1,627,000          -   2,603,000

6   Romtec               1,687,000     422,000              2,109,000

7   BMRB International     582,000     873,000    582,000   2,036,000

8   The Research Business

    International          748,000     374,000    561,000   1,682,000

9   BPRI                         -   1,009,000    505,000   1,514,000

10  IFF Research           540,000     864,400          -   1,405,000

11  Business & Market

    Research               149,000   1,254,000          -   1,403,000

12  Infratest Burke Group  561,000     280,000    140,000     981,000

13  Business Research

    Group                  190,000     571,000     95,000     856,000

14  IRB International      443,000     354,000          -     797,000

15  Resource

    (Marketing Research)         -     656,000          -     656,000

16  Pegram Walters Group   535,000     119,000          -     653,000

17  FDS International      211,000     422,000          -     633,000

18  Business Devt.

    Research Consultants       N/a         N/a        N/a     597,000

19  City Research Group     52,000     471,000     26,000     550,000

20  Kadence (UK)            73,000     436,000     36,000     545,000

21  Keith Gorton Services  261,000     261,000          -     522,000

22  MVA                    255,000     128,000    128,000     510,000

23  Sample Surveys         200,000     300,000          -     500,000

24  Audits & Surveys

    Europe                       -     488,000          -     488,000

25  Maven Management        95,000      95,000    238,000     428,000

26  Banner Corporation           -     421,000          -     421,000

27  Critical Research            -     366,000    41,0000     407,000

28  Accent Markting

    & Research             114,000     252,000     25,000     391,000

29  MSS Marketing

    Research               184,000      92,000     92,000     367,000

30  Abacus Research         39,000     315,000      8,000     362,000

Top 15 quantitative research

Rank  Consultancy                                Total          Total

                                              turnover   quantitative

                                                  1997       research

                                              (pounds)        (pounds

1     NOP Research Group                    67,427,000     43,153,000

2     Research International                52,314,000     40,805,000

3     Taylor Nelson Sofres*                 87,316,000     39,292,000

4     IPSOS-RSL                             25,572,000     20,458,000

5     Millward Brown                        47,910,000     18,206,000

6     MORI                                  18,194,000     14,373,000

7     BMRB International                    29,091,000     13,964,000

8     Infratest Burke Group                 14,017,000     11,634,000

9     Simon Godfrey Associates               8,481,000      8,473,000

10    MBL Group                             15,084,000      7,451,000

11    Martin Hamblin                        11,164,000      7,257,000

12    The Research Business International   18,688,000      6,728,000

13    Opinion Research Corporation           8,612,000      5,167,000

14    Total Research                         6,508,000      4,230,000

15    Continental Research                   4,189,000      4,063,000

*In addition to consumer and business-to-business quantitative research

shown in the other two tables, Taylor Nelson Sofres derives

approximately pounds 10m from media and healthcare quantitative work


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