This is a question I have been asked a few times this year and at the moment all I have got is a rough guess. The ESOMAR 2009 Global Report suggests that Qual was 14% of all research (by revenue) in 2008, with quant being 80% and ‘other’ being 6%. But it does not break the qual down by online versus face-to-face versus telephone (e.g. tele-depths). The total value of research in 2008 was estimated as US $32 billion, which would put qual at $4.5 billion.
My guess is that globally online qual is about 4%, and I would be surprised if it were actually less than 2% or more than 6%. I formed my estimate by looking at the total value of qual research (from the ESOMAR research), the number of groups run by some of the key suppliers, and then making two big guesses a) what proportion of the total these suppliers constituted and b) what the end charges to clients were.
About 30% of all research spend is in North America, but my feeling is that over 50% and perhaps over two-thirds of all online qual is in North America.
I would be really interested to hear other people’s estimates?
What about MROCs?
At the moment I do not think that most MROCs are counted as qualitative research, never mind as online qual. However, I would argue that the vast majority of MROC-based research is qual, it is after all based on ongoing conversations. From what I see, MROCs are already bigger in revenue terms than ‘conventional’ online qual. If MROCs and other new developments such as much of netnography were added to qual, then qual would be bigger than 14% and online would be a larger part of that larger pie.
The need for a change
Counting values and working out which technique go where matters because influence and innovation often follow the dollars. At the ESOMAR Online Conference in Chicago last year, Bill Blyth of TNS made the point that many of the NewMR techniques (such as MROC) were not currently scalable in a way that could support the industry as we know it (i.e. 50% of the industry is the largest 10 companies, and 80% of it quant). If the new techniques take-off in popularity but do not become more scalable the industry in total could be under pressure, even if some researchers find their companies doing better.
Do people feel 4% is a reasonable estimate for online qual?
Do people think that MROCs should be counted as qual?
Do people think it matters as much as I seem to think it does?