This post is an adapted excerpt from our upcoming report, The Burtch Works Study: Salaries of Marketing Research Professionals 2016, which examines updated compensation and demographic data on over 700 researchers across the US, including how marketing research salaries vary by job level, region, industry, and client vs. supplier. Download the full report for free here – enjoy!
Rather than the rapid disruption we’ve seen in previous years and in other fields (such as predictive analytics and data science), the changes we have seen in the marketing research industry over the past year have resembled a moderate evolution. Many of the concepts and trends that we discussed in last year’s report are becoming more prevalent. For example, we observed ongoing hiring trends on the client side, such as building up teams at the junior- or mid-level, while scaling back hiring at the Director-level and above. We have also continued to see a trend towards innovative methodologies and more consultative approaches on the supplier side. On the hiring front, there are several developing trends that we’ve noticed during the past year:
1. Two Camps: Large & Comprehensive vs. Lean & Nimble
Among client side organizations, we observed an increase in two seemingly contrasting approaches to staffing research departments. On one hand, many large corporations have decided to forego building extensive insights teams in favor of a group that can be smaller and more nimble. On the other hand, some groups leverage a larger internal capability, focusing on adding more junior roles at the base of the hierarchical pyramid to run more initiatives in-house vs. relying on suppliers.
For those who have joined the movement towards smaller and leaner teams company-wide, some legacy corporations have abandoned their expansive suburban campuses and migrated to urban centers. There are several specific examples from our own backyard here in Chicago: McDonald’s, ConAgra, Beam Suntory, and Kraft Heinz have each moved (or are in the process of moving) their teams out of the suburbs to downtown offices.
2. Greater Emphasis on Soft Skills
Perhaps related to the movement towards leaner teams, companies seem to be placing a greater emphasis on soft skills when hiring. One explanation for this trend could be that each marketing researcher can make a greater impact and have a more significant effect on the morale of a smaller group, so skills such as strong communication and the ability to work as part of the team may be of increased importance.
Alongside this effort, we have seen an increase in the steps many employers take to vet researchers before bringing them on board. Assessments, assignments, personality tests, and other methods used to gauge a researcher’s competence, aptitudes, and work style have become more common in the hiring process, although it’s yet to be seen if their use results in more successful, long-term hires.
Researchers with a wide breadth of experience across industries and methodologies continue to be in high demand. We’ve also seen an increasing request for professionals with specialty skillsets such as customer experience, mystery shopping, multicultural or niche population experience, and digital expertise. Applications for and definitions of digital experience continue to be wide and varied depending on the team, but the increase in data from online sources – especially social media – has been driving an influx of opportunities for marketing researchers who can navigate the space and derive insights from this data.
The most sought-after researchers on the client side continue to be those who know how to work with external research partners, but have no problem rolling up their sleeves to be hands-on, drawing insights from the data and helping to translate what it means for the business. Marketing researchers seem to be drawn to insights teams within the gaming, e-commerce, and technology industries – industries which continue to grow – as well as some restaurant teams. Although CPG still has mass appeal among researchers, it continues to be a slow- to no-growth category overall.
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You can also check out our 2020 research & insights salary webinar below, where we shared highlights from our latest research, COVID-19 impacts on the hiring market, and other developing trends for 2021 and beyond.