By: Bo Mattsson
In 2005 Cint released an exchange platform to offer market research companies the ability to drastically reduce their supply chain management costs when it came to accessing survey panels.
At that time, most was done over the telephone, but online was a growing phenomenon. The major drawback within online, however, was that the supply chain hadn´t evolved and being entirely manual, it was suffering from a ‘black-box’ mentality. Everything from procurement to the deployment and managing of projects was handled via email, regardless of the number of suppliers involved, which all communicated bilaterally with the buyer each time there was a change, or a mistake. Overall, this meant literally hundreds of emails on each project, and to make matters worse, the industry didn´t view size of project as a decision point for handling projects differently. A $1.500 project was managed in pretty much the same way as a $50.000 project.
I can´t say we were extremely successful in driving this change, the industry continued to focus on external sample costs, rather than internal inefficiencies . The Nordic markets took it to its heart, but Germany, the US, the UK were steadfast in their managed services beliefs. Something that has drastically changed during 2013.
We currently have DIY customers in over 43 countries, all using either our user interface CSA2 (with more options, but less user friendly) or Access (somewhat less flexible but much more user friendly) or through the API´s to find target groups, get a trustworthy feasibility check done, obtain pricing – and if all signals are green, deploy and run a project in any of the 50+ markets the platform currently can handle. DIY within Cint grew by 70% this year, which is fantastic and proves there is merit in doing things correctly and proves the power of actually giving buyers full control, transparency and the possibility to significantly reduce costs for the existing supply chain solution. DIY revenues are now close to 60% of revenues, which puts us far and above any other company in this sector (on the other hand, we have been at this since 2005, so anything else would be somewhat strange).
At the same time, the number of active individuals in the 1000+ panels that are run on the platform, is approaching 12m. Regardless of what is happening in the industry as a whole, we are still mostly DOI, invite-only, panels, paying incentives and sticking to quarantine rules. The reason why we can afford that, is the fact that we are not, and never have been, vertically integrated. Cint doesn´t have any panels, neither do we try to develop services that takes us closer to the end client. We are an agnostic, horizontal solution that strives to make the life of the market research firm easier and help lessen the internal cost for procuring, deploying and running external projects.
Another very clear trend this year is the high interest in our API´s. Those were introduced in 2010/2011 and after a fairly slow start, we today have over 50 successfully implemented partnerships, with market research companies as well as survey tools, enabling them to entertain our services within their own solutions. Since we are an open-ended platform, they see us as we would like to be seen. They can bring on any supplier that they would like to interact with, enabling them to gain enormous advantages when it comes to scaling their business and extract the same value for a fraction of the existing supply chain management cost. The main advantage for the supplier is obviously that they retain the control and the relationship, while getting rid of a lot of the cost associated with marketing, selling and managing samples.
Slowly, but surely, this industry is starting to look like any other vertical, where suppliers and buyers strive to find the most efficient way of doing business.
So far as I can understand, these trends have also awakened the traditional online panel providers. It seems that both SSI and Toluna are getting an exchange driven model out sometime next year, and Toluna has already shown an alpha of their Sample Express as a DIY tool for professional buyers (looking, by the way, very much like our own Access). I take these examples as a proof of our own concept. The more firms that are out there creating this entirely new market, the better for us. Being the odd man out is never an easy task, so from our point of view it is an obvious advantage the faster more companies change their mind-sets. Margins within the managed services business are becoming unbearably thin, forcing suppliers to re-think of how to get to market and how to manage their assets. Forward-looking buyers are also looking to manage a great number of suppliers in a much more efficient way, and during the next year I believe these two congruent interests will merge.
2014 will be a year of pivotal change within the data collection business, and we will be spearheading that change, something I am truly looking forward to.