GRIT 2021 – Ray’s Review

GRIT 2021Posted by Ray Poynter, 26 July 2021

The latest GRIT report is available from GreenBook and can be accessed here. Note, this review highlights the key messages from the report, it is not a replacement for accessing the report, nor does it contain the detailed information available in the report – this is just my take on the key messages.

Failing to meet client’s needs makes you stand out!

Buyers said 90% of projects met or exceeded the needs outlined in the project brief. That means that if you are one of the 10% which underperformed, it is going to be noticed – the bar is pretty high, indeed 37% of projects exceeded the needs outlined in the brief, according to clients.

It is the bookends that count – the start and the end of the project!

GRIT asked buyers of research about critical success factors (11 of them). The most important was ‘Understanding client’s goals and strategies’ (essentially the start of the process). The next two most important are ‘Communicating insights effectively’ and ‘Having the trust of the ultimate decision-maker’ (effectively the end of the process). The bits in between are less important (perhaps because most good agencies can do the middle bits?)

In an open-ended question, buyers were asked to define the characteristics that separate a job that exceeds the needs of the business from one that does not meet them. By some distance the top two mentions were better recommendations and better insights – again the result not the process. Things like quality of data, better sampling, and better technology did not rate very highly – perhaps because great data, sampling and tech does not help if the insights and recommendations are not great?

Lots of optimism and revenues are recovering

In 2020, after COVID hit us, optimism and revenues dropped, on average. Compared with before COVID both clients and suppliers now have higher levels of optimism about the insights industry. The optimism about participant’s own roles are similar to pre-COVID, and revenue trends are similar to pre-COVID.

When the clients with shrinking budgets were asked why their budgets had shrunk, the main reason was the same as in the previous two waves, i.e. ‘Company-wide budget pressure/cost-cutting’. The next two were higher this time ‘Company focus on profitability/margins’ and especially ‘Insights work shifted away from traditional methodologies’.

Automation continues to move forward

Buyers are continuing to adopt automation, across a wide range of fronts. For buyers the key uses of automation are analysis of social media data and analysis of survey data. For suppliers the key uses are analysis of survey data, analysis of text data, charting and infographics and sampling. But suppliers have a lower level of automation in terms of social media data. Note, GRIT consistently reports that buyers have higher levels of involvement with social media monitoring than is the case with suppliers – suggesting that many clients are sourcing their social media monitoring from non-MR suppliers.

The key benefit of automation for buyers is to be able to ‘Complete projects and initiatives faster’, ‘Do more with less’ and ‘Transform work processes throughout our organization’. For suppliers the picture was similar, but adding ‘Gain or maintain a competitive advantage’.

The value of marketing

One of the most popular aspects of the GRIT report is the listing of the most Innovative 50 suppliers. Two types of companies tend to populate the list: a) large companies (e.g. Ipsos and Kantar) who are able to leverage larger brand awareness and b) those companies who prioritise image building. A good example of the second group is a company I am associated with Potentiate, it entered the top 50 last year at 47, and this year climbed to 38. If your company wants to be rated more highly, you need to market more effectively.

The two key drivers of a being rated as innovative are ‘New thinking’ and ‘Innovative solutions’.

The big picture?

The main message from GRIT is that the insights world has largely accommodated the COVID pandemic shock. The main demands are faster research at a lower cost, and the main delivery is automation, which tends to imply platforms.

6 thoughts on “GRIT 2021 – Ray’s Review

  1. Interesting wrap-up Ray, and as I’ve not yet had a chance to read the full report I find this summary particularly useful. You mentioned that New Thinking and Innovative Solutions are two drivers for becoming a GRIT Top 50. Can you provide some examples of genuinely new thinking and innovative solutions that have been called out?

  2. thank you for distilling it to a quick read of what matters. Immensely invaluable and how all research reports should be structured.

  3. Hi Stephen, I really don’t want to steal the report’s thunder, but if you download a copy, you will find a discussion of the point about New Thinking and Innovative Solutions on the lower half of page 170.

  4. The big picture summary you paint is sobering – cheaper research faster, with automation the key. Wonder how the role of the human being slots in – on delivering strategic advice, in NPD exercises and more. In qual research – and I haven’t read the report – there’s still a lot of room for that kind of expertise.

  5. The big picture is only the big picture, at the micro level there are clients and situations which are going in quite different directions. A qual-focused, strategy offering agency should focus on growing its business, the direction that the bigger insights world takes is of less interest to an individual or angy agency with billings less than say $50million. BUT! if a client can get something that is 90% as good and is 10% cheaper or faster, they will tend to go for the cheaper/faster option, especially the faster one.

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