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  • Glenn Kessler

Navigating Tides of Change: A 30-Year Journey in Market Research

As we reflect on the dynamic landscape of the market research industry, it's evident that the last 30 years have been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. In this blog post, I, as the CEO of HCD Research, invite you to join me in exploring the seismic shifts that have shaped our industry, with a particular focus on the transformative events of the last four years.

Weathering the Storms: Adapting to Unprecedented Challenges


9/11 - 2001: A Paradigm Shift

The dawn of the new millennium brought about seismic change, none more impactful than the events of September 11, 2001. The market research industry, heavily reliant on central location focus groups and face-to-face interactions, saw an immediate upheaval. The fallout from this earth-shattering event compelled large companies to halt air travel, disrupting our traditional research methodologies. However, as the world slowly regained its footing, so did the research industry, marking a pivotal moment in our journey.


The Great Recession - 2008 through 2011: Economic Juggernaut

A decade later, the economic juggernaut of the Great Recession brought research to a standstill, leaving both small and large providers grappling with its aftermath. Media, PR, advertising agencies, and communications research witnessed a shift as large companies sought bundled services from media conglomerates. Budgets were frozen, and the ripple effects reached pharmaceutical research, causing unprecedented challenges. The extended payment terms adopted during this crisis have since become a standard industry practice, posing ongoing challenges for research vendors.

COVID and Post-COVID: The Unpredictable Rollercoaster

Fast forward to March 16, 2020, when the world was blindsided by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research plans were canceled or modified to adhere to health safety requirements, reshaping the industry's landscape overnight. Face-to-face methodologies took a back seat, making way for the rise of online research as the new standard. Yet, just as expectations were set for a post-COVID surge, the logistics crisis of 2022 and global uncertainties led to frozen budgets and a decline in various verticals.

Navigating the Near-Term Future


As we gaze into the near-term future, certain trends emerge, reshaping the way we approach market research:


  1. Evolution of Research Platforms: Expect more sophisticated modeling capabilities as research platforms continue to grow, potentially replacing the need for traditional research vendors in templated study areas.

  2. Shift in Budget Control: Some companies will witness a shift in budget control from research managers to higher-level management in marketing and procurement, signaling a new era in financial scrutiny.

  3. End of "Use it or Lose it": The traditional December practice of "use it or lose it" is fading away. Budgets are now subject to meticulous scrutiny, reflecting a change in financial management strategies.

  4. Rise of "Research Plus": The concept of "Research Plus" gains prominence, where market research companies not only provide data but also offer tactical and strategic advice based on research results.

  5. Transformation of Research Models: Research companies will evolve from the traditional project model to a consultative approach, anticipating research needs and offering advice in areas of expertise.


In conclusion, our journey through 30 years of market research has been marked by resilience, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to understanding the evolving needs of our clients. As we face the future, these lessons learned will undoubtedly guide us in navigating the ever-changing currents of our dynamic industry.



Glenn Kessler

CEO, HCD Research



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