Changes in the market research industry have already occurred. Comparing to the traditional offline methods, the online research has recorded trend growth in the last four years, and clearly, it will not stop growing in the years to come.
According to the ESOMAR Global Market Research Report for the year 2011, the total share of online researches has been 26% (2% more than in 2010). Far below are the research methods like telephone survey (13%) or face-to-face (11%), which are still dominant in Serbia. In absolute monetary terms, the online survey cashed in 8.71 billion dollars on the global markets in 2011 (app. two billion more than the annual budget of the Republic of Serbia).
But where stand the countries of the West Balkan? In the latest ESOMAR Global Market Research Report, there is no data for countries like Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia or Albania, because these countries do not have their representatives in ESOMAR, according to small number of their members in this association. Nevertheless, the data on total share of online researches in neighboring countries are: Croatia 4%, Hungary 7%, Romania 9%, and Slovenia 10%. The highest shares of online researches hold far stronger economies: New Zeeland 38%, Canada and Finland 35%, and Sweden 34%.
Based on this percentage, we can assume that the share of online research in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Macedonia is somewhere below 2%. Why is that?
Being mostly underdeveloped, with high rate of illiterate or poorly literate population (not to mention the functional illiteracy, which stands for the lack of computer skills) and prevailing elderly population (an average age of 41,5 years in Serbia), we can conclude that these are the main reasons for such a small share of online researches in overall market business in these countries. But what about 3.5 million Facebook users in Serbia?
So, this cannot be the main reason. We should be looking for it in an unstructured market of marketing services in these countries. In previous years, there has been a coarsening of Serbian market of marketing research. Firstly, the Strategic Marketing and Puls made a coalition in order to get a better price. Then the Ipsos bought them both and made the largest agency in the West Balkan. Afterwards they incorporated Synovate. On the other side, great Nielsen bought the MEMRB worldwide, and took the whole retail market for itself. If we add the Gfk, we can conclude the market of research services in Serbia and in neighboring countries.
Three big companies, Ipsos, Nielsen and Gfk today control 90% of Serbian market. The rest of 10% goes to all other agencies that are diminishing.
However, the Big Three doesn’t make much of a competition. Gfk does not conduct social or public opinion research, which is reserved for Ipsos, and with close relations to the former regime, Ipsos got almost every job it could possibly get from the ministries, state agencies, municipalities and international organizations. The third, Nielsen, is doing its job, which is retail research, while the other two do not interfere in its business.
In this constellation of power, where there is no classic monopoly, but each of the three companies is in fact the monopolist in its field of research, none has the reason to develop online research market, as innovative, competitive branch, using up-to-date methodology that significantly increases the speed of survey responses, and at the same time, decreases the price of research projects. Why would they charge twice the lower price than the standard face-to-face, if there still are those uneducated clients whom they could charge full field research price? Just for comparison, the last price studies of ESOMAR indicate that the average price of phone survey is 30% lower than face-to-face, and the price of online survey is 50% lower.
To conclude, an online research has not been the core competence for none of the three largest companies. Only when they have to, they offer this research method to their clients, even though in most cases this method is fully justified. As SWOT analysis tells – all weaknesses of the market represent someone’s chances. The empty space will definitely be fulfilled, because no matter how reluctant, we cannot escape from the world trends and industry trends.
See you all in the future!