The market for market research agencies has increased by 14%, so the need for new talent is greater than ever

After a dip during the covid years, market research agencies were looking at growth again in 2021 and they are now looking forward to a brighter future. This is evident from the latest edition of the Mood & Statistics Indicator Survey, a study by the professional association CUBE. These results are the signal to the association of market research agencies to put more effort into community building, into the strengthening of ties between agencies and into the positioning of the sector.

CUBE, the association of the major Belgian market research agencies, has just published the results of its Mood & Statistics Indicator Survey. This study consists of two components. The first, the Statistics Indicator, focused on the size of the Belgian market research sector. 18 out of 24 CUBE members filled out this questionnaire on their word of honour. The second, the Mood Indicator, gauged how the agencies viewed the future. This online questionnaire was also completed by 18 CUBE members. Both parts of the survey ran in 2022.

Increase in turnover and in number of FTE’s

For 2021 the sector of Belgian market research agencies shows an overall turnover of  147 million euros or a rise of 13,7% in relation to 2020. This is a significant improvement on last year, when respondents reported overall revenues of  132 million euros for 2020 – a decline of more than 11% in relation to 2019. Regarding employment: according to the survey the sector counted a total of 584 full-time employees (FTE) in 2021, an increase of 8,4%. In 2020 the sector employed only 508 FTE’s.

The market research agencies sector has regained its pre-covid level”, says Tom De Ruyck, president of CUBE. “The agencies have clearly recovered, despite today’s unstable economic situation. Moreover, they anticipate on growth and are looking for people who can achieve this growth.” “Both these results are in fact underestimations of the actual situation”, adds Luc Eeckhout, CEO of PhiMedia (the market research agency that carried out the survey). “Lots of smaller agencies did not take part in our survey or are unwilling to share their turnover figures with the market. Also, lots of freelancers operate in this sector. They were not included in the survey, either.”

The war for talent is the greatest challenge

First of all, from the second part of the survey, the Mood Indicator, it is clear that the market research agencies see a bright future for the sector and for their company, respectively 55,6% and 83,3%. They regard the war for talent as the greatest challenge facing them if they are to achieve growth: 50% of respondents is highly concerned about finding the right talent for their organisation, while 44% is moderately concerned. “Finding the right people for the right position is an enormous challenge to market research agencies”, Luc Eeckhout comments. “It has become even harder now that new data-related and digital competencies have are required in order to handle the digitisation of the sector. Such profiles are increasingly hard to find and to retain.”

Sector in full transformation

Our sector is not always top of mind with talents and recent graduates”, the president of CUBE concurs. “This will pose challenges. Making the whole range of salaries more attractive, to both junior and senior profiles, is another task on the to-do list. Especially to the young, working for a well-known advertiser or a large consultancy firm may seem a more alluring proposition. But they are often unaware of what a wonderful training ground a market research agency can be to kick-start a marketing or business career. The customer knowledge circulating in market research agencies on a daily basis helps you build the foundation required to become a good marketeer or consultant.”

Finally: in order to enhance the positioning and exposure of the sector, CUBE is launching a number of initiatives this year: collaborations with universities, lectures, a student & young talent programme and promotion of the career opportunities on offer at agencies. “Research is a sector in full growth and transformation”, Tom De Ruycke concludes. “It is now much more tech-driven than a couple of years ago. This results in a wider range of options for seniors and mediors  from the broader marketing sector, but also for talent that is not yet  employed in the sector.”

Full results are available to CUBE members. Contact to receive the results.