Most syndicated research services are owned by the research companies that run them and, in the main, are continuous panels. The main problem for people wanting to make use of these services lies in identifying which services are available and who provides them. The Market Research Society Yearbook contains a list of providers of these services. In effect, syndicated research services are off-the-peg research studies.
Syndicated service firms collect and distribute information for many different users. The firms specialise in making available secondary information and other services at a lower price than it would cost a user of the information if the user had to conduct the study itself. An example of a syndicated service firm is AC Nielsen. Syndicated research firms can provide excellent information. For example, a producer of consumer package goods - inexpensive items that are branded, packaged and sold via self-service in grocery stores, mass-merchandise outlets and other retail stores - may subscribe to Nielsen's retail research services in order to get a variety of information about its brands and their comparative competitive performance with other brands. The manufacturer receives much valuable information, including:
• industry volume
• sales by package size
• competitors' sales
• local or regional sales
• inventory figures
• market share information
• distribution and out-of-stock figures.
The costs of conducting the research are shared among the entire client base.
Many brands are sponsoring questions on surveys about the use of competing brands. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Imperial Tobacco, Guinness and Premier Beverages have all taken the exclusive rights for a year on answers by consumers about their branded products. Information on specific buying behaviour remains the strongest element of lifestyle data.
There is currently very little interest in attitudinal questions. Clients are looking for specific information on potential buyers or buyers of competitors' products. There is less interest in attitudinal data than four or five years ago. This view is expressed at CMT, which runs the National Shoppers' Survey and markets a lifestyle database called Behaviour Bank. The managing director of the firm says that it tends not to get too involved in attitudinal questions over and above what they already ask, such as reasons for purchase. Questions that are very important concern whether the consumer buys on price, promotion or brand name or whether the consumer simply rotates products. The power of the grocery multiples and electrical goods chains has helped to stimulate the market for lifestyle data and manufacturers need to be able to understand what share of customers they have and what is stimulating purchase.
Geodemographic profile providers have been motivated to respond to the recent upsurge in interest in lifestyle data. CACI indicates that its base is in census data and that this is still very much needed, for example in retail planning. The advantage geodemographics still has over lifestyle is that it is based on data on every individual in the country whereas the closest that lifestyle can get is data for households from the MIC database, formed by pooling CMT and NDL's surveys. CACI, however, is among a number of suppliers that have developed and launched systems that draw on both sets of data. CensusLifestyle combines CACI's ACORN geodemographics with lifestyle data licensed from ICD. This enables bias to be taken out of lifestyle data. One new product to flow from this fusion of data is PayCheck, which enables marketers to predict the likely income for every postcode, something that has always been difficult to achieve in the UK.
In an effort to expand use of targeting and profiling beyond direct marketing and store planning, some suppliers are now combining market research products with lifestyle and census information. Taylor Nielsen AGB, for instance, is marketing 'SmartBase' that bridges the gap between market research and database marketing. By licensing data on 13 million households from MIC and linking it to the AGB SuperPanel, SmartBase combines both breadth and depth of information. MIC has information on 60% of households and has a match to 7000 of the households on the SuperPanel. A similarly complex process has been used by Equifax Europe to build its Dimensions database, which incorporates census, lifestyle and market research from MORI and other data sources.
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