Our Take: What The Recent M&A Activity In The Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) Space Means For The Market Research Industry

 

Over the past two weeks, the EFM vendor landscape has heated up once again with a round of mergers and acquisitions. Last year, we saw the mergers between Vovici and Verint and Globalpark and QuestBack. Now we have news of SMG and Locately (August 16) and Confirmit and CustomerStat from MarketTools (August 22). These mergers make sense and are in line with how I see the EFM vendor landscape evolving.

Part of this evolution revolves around enhancing the EFM suite of products and bringing new feedback channels into the mix — like mobile. This goes beyond purely enabling the viewing of online surveys on a mobile browser. It encompasses offering mobile apps, enabling the collection of qualitative data, capturing mobile behavioral data, and even leveraging location to unearth insights about consumers. That is exactly what SMG, an EFM vendor that focuses on customer experience analytics, did by acquiring location analytics market research firm Locately. Confirmit did the same last year by acquiring Techneos to create a stronger mobile offering for its customers.

Another part of this evolution is the move of EFM vendors to address the rise of “voice of the customer” (VoC) hubs. This is in response to the increasing emphasis on putting the customer first; many organizations are now looking for ways to consolidate all of their data into a VoC hub. When Forrester began its coverage of the EFM vendor landscape in 2010, we saw two distinct categories of vendors — one set that built solutions catering to market insight professionals and one set with solutions aimed at customer experience professionals. In the past two years, we have seen a shift toward VoC hubs, especially among the EFM vendors focused on market insights professionals: They are enhancing their product offerings to include satisfaction and loyalty initiatives. Vision Critical started this movement with the rollout of its Customer Experience Management (CEM) solution. We now see this with Confirmit and its acquisition of CustomerStat, a satisfaction and loyalty solution.

What does this mean for market insights professionals? The good news is that they have access to more data collection tools from one source to aid them on their path to building a 360-degree view of their target customer. But does this added value come at a price? Can these vendors serve and support two different and distinct markets equally well? For example, will the product road map of the EFM vendors still offer a robust suite of market research tools? Will they invest in market research innovation? How will vendors handle the different frameworks that market insights professionals use to understand the consumer versus those that customer experience professionals use?

It’s going to be interesting to see how these EFM vendors balance their old and new target groups. Will they continue down the path of servicing both groups’ needs or will they prioritize one group over the other?

These are just some of the questions that cross my mind as I see this evolution toward a single group of EFM vendors. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think? Will market research still be fully served by these EFM vendors? Will this create room for new blood in the survey space?

Comments

Hi Roxie, I wanted to quickly

Hi Roxie,

I wanted to quickly thank you for your thoughts and post! Great observations, as usual.

You'll not be surprised to hear that we have been having similar discussuions internally for quite a while.

Here's our take: Whilst it's certainly true that the roots of Confirmit are in the MR space, we see more and more convergence going on. 90% of the Confirmit platform is currently shared equally between our professional MR users and our VoC/CEM users.

In MR circles nowadays, you hear a lot of talk about "the broader footprint". Whilst the Esomar estimate of the size of the MR market is some $31Billion, by some other measures it is at least double that - and we certainly believe that a strong technology platform can and will serve both segments equally well.

There are some differences at the edges, of course, but they are relatively small.

We *do* see already a substantial, and growing, overlap between market insights professionals and customer experience professionals.

So, we strongly believe that joining forces with CustomerSat will drive benefit for all of our customers. We remain very focused on the needs of *both* groups becuase in the end, we see strong and accelerating synergies!

Pat Molloy, CSO, Confirmit

Common Ground

Roxana raises some very valid points in her blog post and good quality “food for thought”. Building on the comment’s that Pat’s posted, we also see a large overlap between EFR and MR, however we would also highlight that there are distinct differences between these two groups, both in their approach to insight gathering as well as the benefits from utalizing intelligent technology to assist with these processes.

In summary: EFM/CX is really about delivering a highly personalized customer experience – something that had been eroded, and is now returning. Remember when you would fill up at your local gas station; the guy at the pump not only greeted you by name and new your car, he filled your tank, cleaned your windscreen and sometimes even checked the oil level for you. That was great personalized customer experience! However due to increasing costs, businesses have over the years moved towards streamlining processes and as a result often the quality of the customer experience declined. However, today the informed and empowered customer/consumer means that their views and associated experiences are now firmly back on center stage. Thus, it is vital for both the work that MR conducts as well as the key reason that EFM/CX is increasingly important strategically. And why we monitor the evolving needs of both MR and EFM/CX and will continue to do so.

Common ground: To deliver these strategic customer/consumer insights, intelligent feedback software is being harnessed to gather a combination of solicited feedback from customers/consumers and panels, unsolicited feedback collected in social media, as well as gathering insights from customer engagement in communities, thus providing an incredibly powerful toolset for customer experience management professionals and market insight professionals alike.