Many of the governments in Europe are scrambling to avert a financial collapse, with a downgrading of their debt as the most likely trigger. Many governments in Europe have announced massive cuts in public spending. For example, in Spain public sector salaries have been cut by 5%, in France and Greece people are going to have to work for two more years before retiring, and in the UK most parts of the public sector are facing 25% cuts (instead of the 20% cuts planned by the previous Labour government).
Several market research voices have expressed fears that this will impact on the Governments’ spending on market research, warning that market research might be seen as an easy target.
However, this raises the question about what sort of cut a Government ought to make to market research during a phase of austerity measures?
About a week ago I was speaking to a UK fire and rescue service and they were rolling out their plans to consult the public about how to implement 25% cuts. Whichever way 25% is implemented, in the UK it will mean fewer firemen, fewer policemen, some people will be colder, some people will be hungrier, austerity measures will hurt (as they will in much of Europe).
I hope nobody in the research industry would try to put forward the idea that market research should be spared at the cost of essential services?
Equally, it is not for market researchers to put our neck on the chopping block. I believe we need to look for ways in which the suppliers of market research to the public sector can:
- Enable the public sector to mobilise public crowdsourcing to help maximise the cuts in waste and minimise the cuts in key sources.
- Look for ways that enable the public sector to get 70%-80% of the value of a piece of research for say 50% of the price.
- Work with buyers to find efficiencies, for example more webinar debriefs, more use of online research (much public sector work is still face-to-face in Europe), in the UK not translating questionnaires into Welsh for national studies (for a year or two only), and perhaps avoiding any temptation to implement or require ISO standards (which many researchers believe will be expensive and will not improve the quality of research).