Consumer Insight Benchmarking 2009 - Boston Consulting Group Report

The Boston Consulting Group released an excellent report on the state of client-side (in house) market research departments. You can read it all here.


1. Only 35% of executives describe their in-house MR function as “best in class.” (see page 4)

2. Although corporations should strive to move their MR departments from “order takers” to a “source of competitive advantage”, “almost 90% of the companies…follow a more traditional approach to market research” (Translation: 90% are stuck in “order taker” mode.) (see page 4)

3. “On average, only 20 to 35 percent of a company’s market-research budget is devoted to strategic studies.” (see page 5)

4. There is a CLEAR need for what I have described as “Insight Management”
– getting the most out of past research and mining it for synthesized insights. From the report: “Money is spent on research reports that languish on dusty shelves because the data rarely yield actionable plans. Many companies accumulate such a quantity of research and data that quality is inevitably elusive, each study providing a limited, tactical perspective on the consumer, with little integration of synthesis.” (see page 6)

5. Answering the “So What?” Question. While 73% of MR staff said they consistently answer the question “so what?” about the data they provide, only 34% of the business staff thought they closed the loop and answered this question. (see page 14)

6. Tactical, Not Strategic. Unfortunately, 59% of market researchers agree with the statement “we spend the majority of consumer insight time and effort on decisions with near-term impact.” This means that MR departments are completing numerous small studies and not given the time to explore the bigger picture. This also creates a low status cul-de-sac for MR departments as it is difficult to have solid strategic input when tactical, short term studies are the focus. (see #3 above)

7. The Rise of Polymaths. Interestingly, the report suggests that a desired “strategic foresight organization” (the final, 4th phase of an MR department’s evolution) will employ a more diverse range of researchers from statistics, anthropology, sociology, marketing etc.

In its entirety the BCG report paints a fairly stark picture of the current situation. It is true that market research needs to evolve, but corporate cultures will need to support this evolution as well.

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