About the Industry

Current size and structure of the MR industry worldwide

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Given the difficulty of defining what we include in 'market research', it's very hard to get a figure for how large the industry is worldwide. Global association ESOMAR says in its recent report that industry turnover grew by 3.5% in 2015, or 2.2% after allowing for inflation to an absolute market value of $US 44.3bn. This was an improvement on real-terms growth of just 0.1% in 2014.

In looking at trends it's important to keep a constant scope, ie in this case not to include a raft of new activities which were around but not measured last year, and in consequence say that the sector has grown more than it has. ESOMAR splits out revenue from newly included sub-sectors, suggesting that 2015 saw 'additional analytics revenue' of $US 4.6bn. Tables give separate 'new analytics' revenue for the US and UK, noting that in the latter, the analytics sector is making a big contribution to the economy - an increase of $US 2.3bn between 2013 and 2015. This at least partly explains why the UK has pulled away from its continental neighbours in the last few years (see below), as ten years ago the gap was narrowing (and indeed very narrow, such that at one point we expected to lose second place before 2010).

North America has also overtaken and pulled away from Europe as a whole in recent years, and gained overall market share as the table below shows. Note that the strong dollar pushed figures for other regions down in 2015, but also that Asia Pacific and Latin America, often cited as the fastest growing regions for MR (along with Eastern Europe where separated out) have not shown much of a rise even between 2011 and 2014.

MR turnover in $US billions

Source: ESOMAR Global MR Report 2016

Europe N. America Asia Pac LatAm Africa Middle East
2011 16.3 14.7 5.9 1.9 0.40 0.27
2012 15.7 15.1 6.2 2.0 0.41 0.27
2013 16.2 18.7 6.0 1.9 0.43 0.29
2014 18.6 18.9 6.1 1.9 0.40 0.34
2015 16.7 19.4 5.8 1.7 0.36 0.38

North America was the fastest growing region in 2015 turnover grew 3% in the USA and 7.6% in Canada, although the US accounts for well over 90% of the continent's total revenue.

Global market research turnover and growth rates per region
Global market research turnover and growth rates per region

Generally the global outlook for 2016 was positive, with a majority of firms in 68% of countries saying they expected the industry to grow in 2016, while 20% expected no change and 12% expected decline. Companies in a similar proportion of countries (>60%) said they had experienced some net growth in 2015.

Leading Markets - The UK Research Sector - The USA, and the Major Firms Worldwide

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All articles in the 'About the Industry' section written by Nick Thomas of MrWeb during July - October 2017, and © MrWeb Ltd 2017. Thanks to GRIT, ESOMAR, the AMA and the MRS for stats and tables used.

About the industry - contents...

1. What is MR and how is it changing?

A comprehensive guide to what we do, how it's changing, and who else does similar stuff.

2. The global industry today

The supply side: revenues, rankings and company info, full listings.

3. Careers in MR

An introduction to the career ladder, activities, salaries and choices.