Every organisation is facing radically new business challenges as a result of Covid-19, and the role and remit of the insight function is transforming.

The knock on effect for suppliers not only means there’s less research spend to go around, but also the need for expertise, agility and speed has never been greater.  

A recent MRS report ‘Fast-Forwarding Research’ found that as well as understanding volatile customer behaviour, the insight function is now being called upon within many organisations to cover a broad set of operational activities as well. That means working with a wider cross section of stakeholders and decision makers as organisations grapple with homeworking and rapid internal digital transformation. For many agencies, even incumbents, this means building new relationships across an organisation to win new business. 

Not surprisingly, the research industry is transforming at warp speed to meet these evolving clients needs. 

Rob Hattrell, MD UK at eBay is quoted in the report: “We had to re-plan the business in the middle of the crisis. The entire sequencing of the plan was wrong and we’re rethinking all of our investments. In the immediate term the plan doesn’t make sense and the trade plans had to be started again. Everything you believe to be seasonally true is wrong. The playbook doesn’t exist.” 

In this time of crisis, the report found that many clients are leaning towards their trusted research suppliers who already know the company's technical systems and have a deep understanding of that business and sector. Newcomers must work even harder to get noticed and win work.

MRS accreditation is a clear signal to new clients that a supplier is established and ethical. Reflecting the values of the client has never been more important for suppliers if they are to align themselves with a new company. 

Many brands reported an acute sense of risk and accountability in how they respond to the crisis; customer perceptions formed now will have long term reverberations for those that get it right, as well as those that get it wrong.  

MRS has long worked with the Crown Commercial Services (CSS) and its previous incarnations to ensure that government procurement services use the Research Buyers Guide as a sourcebook of accredited suppliers. We’ve stepped up these activities over the past six months as we lobby CSS to:  

  • rebalance the payment terms and conditions for research suppliers, including being offered the option of being paid a bigger % 'up front' to assist with supplier cash flow
  • encourage ethical procurement practices, ensuring that quality remains the key consideration and not over emphasising price. 
  • promote and recommending MRS' Code and associated guidance, including the face to face data collection guidance which complements the government's safe working approach for post-lockdown activities. 
  • encourage government department clients to commission more research, to re-start any research projects put on hold as a result of Covid-19 and to publish details of their research and insight plans for the months ahead.

With over 2500 monthly unique visitors, the Research Buyer’s Guide website has doubled its reach compared to last year. These statistics underline the desire among research commissioners for reputable suppliers.  

MRS has been challenging the sector to become more inclusive so that it reflects the communities it gives voice to. By signing up to our CEO Inclusion Pledge suppliers have another means to align themselves with the values of their clients, and a sustainability pledge will be launched by MRS later this year. Suppliers can now be filtered in the Research Buyer’s Guide by those that have signed up to these critical initiatives.    

This is certainly a difficult time for everyone and every business, but there is a silver lining for the research sector. The currency of evidence and insight is riding high at present as businesses and government tries to navigate this very turbulent period.

The Research Buyer's Guide is the only trusted source of accredited research agencies for the UK and Ireland.

If you're not listed and want to find out about our new competitive packages in time for the launch of the new website contact rbg@mrs.org.uk today.  

MRS is relaunching the Research Buyer's Guide in November with a new look and user experience - you can see the designs and find out more here.

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