How the Emergence of Platforms is Revolutionizing Market Research

Published Jun 14, 2022

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This interview with Nathalie Perrio-Combeaux and Patrick van Bloeme, co-MDs of Toluna and Harris Interactive France, was originally published in MyEventNetwork.


We are currently seeing an increase in demand for market research and insights. Is this a sign that the demand-side approach is gaining momentum? 

Nathalie Perrio-Combeaux: Indeed, the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated certain trends and proven the importance of being a sounding-board for consumers—who are once again at center-stage. With the volatility and complexity in consumer attitudes, there is now a greater need to listen to their voices on an ongoing basis. What was taken for granted in the past may no longer hold true today.

This new reality has put us closer to decision-making circles and has strengthened our industry. The paradox here is that the quest for insights is intensifying at a time when budget constraints are ever-more stringent, thus creating tension and the need for agile, simple solutions.

So the recent context is creating new requirements?

Patrick van Bloeme: Our clients have realized that we are going from upheaval to upheaval. The current geopolitical situation is causing prices to rise; but in the future, uncertainty may well stem from climate change or a different type of crisis altogether. Thus, it’s imperative to closely monitor the consumer’s voice on an ongoing basis. The good news is that it is now much simpler to do this.

What are the most recent technological innovations that are helping to accelerate the digitization of studies?

P.B.: Evolutions have been both technological and organizational in nature. By developing platforms that democratize access to studies, save time, and cut down on intermediaries, we have made research more accessible to a larger audience. As a result, project and insight managers now play an even more central role in the process through access to innovative methods and solutions. This also reduces data treatment time and associated costs.

Researchers use a blend of approaches to gather insights, but the emergence of technological platforms has truly revolutionized the sector. We are currently witnessing a highly interesting transfer of competencies, which is positively impacting agility. Because of this, we have a greater focus on consultancy and providing recommendations, whereas insight teams have become more strategic.

Could this be described as a “ready-to-wear” approach to studies?

P.B.: Our platform does include solutions for standard requirements, but this doesn’t prevent us from tailoring studies within the platform to the specific needs of our clients. I would say that our Toluna Start platform could be described as customizable ready-to-wear.

In partnership with our clients, we can create personalized questionnaires that are then integrated and deployed on our platform. In fact, one of the aspects that sets us apart from our competitors is the ability to adapt questionnaires, as our clients do not all have the same expectations or specifications. The development of this solution has given rise to a different business model, with clients paying a subscription to use the Saas platform and a fee for our consultancy service.

Is there a risk of consumer fatigue from all these studies?

N.P-C: We abide by stringent protocols in the management of our 40 million-plus panelists worldwide. We make no compromise when it comes to quality, which is the subject of constant monitoring.

P.B.: It is true that we are asking more questions of consumers than ever. It is our responsibility to find solutions to ensure that we do not create a feeling of saturation, while at the same time, helping our clients obtain the insights they need. This may entail asking fewer questions, but on a more frequent basis, as we know that questionnaire length is key to the respondent experience. But the good news is that, on the whole, consumers/citizens are keen to share their opinions!

What are the most common research topics for Toluna and Harris Interactive? What trends do you see emerging? 

N.P-C: Pricing—since the beginning of the year, in particular—as well as usage and attitude studies. In-depth understanding of markets, the path to purchase, and behavior also remains of crucial importance. Furthermore, research into new consumption trends and lifestyles has intensified since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and require close monitoring.

Brand health and image, whether corporate or commercial, are also key areas of focus. So, too, is the perception of brands’ CSR, as an ever-increasing number of businesses are making this a focal point in their strategy and is a topic consumers hold closely to heart. Furthermore, UX and the digital experience are also in the limelight.

Although NPD and innovation was the subject of extensive research prior to the health crisis, understanding the markets prevails today. Nonetheless, innovation is likely to undergo a new cycle in the near future.

Toluna / Harris Interactive will be holding its Simply Smart event on 24th June. What is the program of the event? 

P.B.: The Simply Smart event will focus on markets and customer needs, and it will also provide an opportunity for us to present our vision and the Toluna Start solution. Our objective is to reflect on the market shifts we have just discussed and enable clients to share their experiences with one another. We called our event “Simply Smart: Insights, the challenge of simplicity” because the real challenge is to make studies simpler despite the increasingly complicated context.

Proceedings will begin with Jean-Luc Chetrit, Director of l’Union des Marques, who will talk about simplicity in marketing in general, both with regard to brand practices and claims. Then, we will present the results of a study conducted with the help of our clients, followed by feedback from Boiron, Philip Morris, and AXA Market Research Managers, among others. Finally, we will hold roundtables in small groups. Our aim is for event participants to feel inspired and seek to instill more agility in their own research practices.

N.P-C.: The Simply Smart event will also take place in other countries, as this is a global operation. Definitely not to be missed!

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