I just returned from presenting at CASRO. The topic was "Will In-sourcing Kill Full Service Market Research Firms." It was a review of the major economically driven trends around quantitative and qualitative research and why many of the online tool vendors for market research have had good years, while many full service research firms have not.
I was a bit jumpy about presenting to the CASRO audience, since it is almost all market research vendors, and I knew that some (who supply the enablers of in-sourcing) would like my presentation, and others (who are exclusively full service) would be less happy. As it turns out, the audience was gratifyingly enthusiastic. Everyone recognized that the self-service trend was indeed making some permanent changes in the research marketplace, but that full service would continue to exist in a slower growth form. Those who were on the full service side of the house were quite interested in discussing how to harness these trends to their advantage.
Now that solutions are finally available to "clean up" panels, will buyers at last insist that providers use them, or will a myopic focus on price continue to be the rule when on-line sample is used?
The use of online panels for market research was highly contentious at one time. Traditional researchers thought that they would be prone to the same problems as traditional off-line panels: filled with respondents that are not representative of the general population motivated by the desire to earn money taking surveys.
Despite these misgivings, online panels have taken off in the US (and are coming on strong in Europe.) Why? Because they allowed research to be conducted in one third the time at one fifth the cost. This allowed buyers to say to themselves, "ok, maybe its not quite as project-able, but give the savings it's worth it." Also, many panel vendors claimed to be doing something special to ensure that their panels were better, and indeed several of them did.