Syndicated Research vs. Custom Research: Balancing ROI and Cost

Perspectives / by Ryan Baum on October 8, 2019

Syndicated Research vs. Custom Research: Balancing ROI and Cost

4 minute read

Market research isn’t just the core of your company’s marketing strategy. It’s a foundation for your business to stand on. 


A more holistic understanding of the ways your customers think, feel, and act is critical for keeping them happy and bringing new ones into the fold. Pair that with an understanding of where you fit into the market, and you’ll be in a much better position to dazzle your audience.

The two main types of market research are syndicated research and custom research. Each has its place in solving marketing and business problems, and each comes with specific strengths and challenges. 


Picking the right tool will have a big impact on your ROI. If you use syndicated research for problems that are too specific or unique, you could run into issues. On the other hand, you might end up overspending if you use custom research for problems that can be better addressed by existing syndicated data sources of similar scope.


Because you’ll almost certainly come across both types at some point in your career, let’s explore the situations where each one shines for solving business problems.


Syndicated research helps you get smart quickly


Businesses looking to move quickly often use the broad insights from syndicated research as a starting point. Syndicated studies inspire confidence because they’ve achieved market acceptance. Many companies use the same data and compile it for their respective use cases, so you can trust that it’s valid.


Typically, syndicated research companies collect data in specialized areas and sell it to companies for their specific use. These studies can be either broad or narrow. Examples of popular syndicated research include MRI’s national study, Simmons’ National Consumer Survey and studies from Nielsen, IRI, and Kantar/TNS.


These studies usually cover an entire industry, but many specialized efforts cover a specific segment of information (e.g. Nielsen TV ratings or IRI for point-of-sale tracking). This makes syndicated research especially valuable for understanding the dynamics of an entire market or segment, which is necessary for brand positioning, competitive intelligence, and initial marketing strategies. 


Identifying overall trends allows you to brainstorm points of entry into new markets and contribute to ongoing product development, all for less cost than a custom study of the same scope. 


Many syndicated research companies also offer custom research in many forms. They might offer customized solutions, custom cuts of the syndicated data they provide, or a custom meta-analysis of that same data. 


Fusing syndicated sources unlocks their full potential


Of course, broad, sweeping data and general market trends may not get you as far as you need to go. Syndicated research is plentiful, but you can only get answers to questions that others have previously asked. It typically doesn’t allow for customization or deeper insights into your target audience. 


For several years, research companies have begun to connect syndicated solutions with other syndicated and custom studies to bridge this gap. This is typically done by including linking variables in multiple studies from the same company in order to more easily connect them in a statistically valid manner.


Today, advances in AI and machine learning have expanded our ability to connect previously siloed data sources in new and innovative ways, either through data fusion or audience projection analysis. Even when there are no obvious common connections between the studies, this allows for a much wider and deeper analysis of the data, beyond the initial planned use cases.


Helixa customers who subscribe to Total Consumer View can layer syndicated data from MRI and Simmons onto existing analyses or use questions from those surveys to extract previously unavailable insights. 


For example, patterns in MRI consumption data could be used to define audiences based on purchase behaviors, which can then be connected to their favorite influencers. We can get even more granular, breaking down favorite influencers by category and taking a closer look at the consumers with both the purchase behaviors and influencer interactions to uncover other interests. This adds a new depth of insight that can inform potential partnerships.


There are many more use cases and applications for this type of statistical analysis, but the main takeaway is that the arrival of AI and machine learning in market research has made it possible to connect dots in ways that other methods of analysis simply can’t match.


Custom research lets you ask your questions your way


To dive deeper and illuminate more specific or complex consumer preferences, businesses often resort to custom market research. This can take the shape of custom brand trackers, segmentation studies, or even qualitative focus groups to understand how people react to new concepts.


Custom research allows for near-complete control of the process and direction of a given project. You can test specific business questions and ensure the inclusion of metrics you care about. However, there’s a downside. The specificity of custom research makes it difficult to extrapolate data to other questions or situations.


Using standardized surveys with a company that provides this type of service can help. Otherwise, you won’t have anything valid to benchmark your findings against, and that context is critical to understanding your results. A rating of 70 out of 100 could be bad, good, or excellent depending on the frame of reference.


On top of that, planning, executing, and analyzing a custom research project typically takes time – from a few days to a few months or even years. The cost is also highly variable, from an affordable one-time online survey to brand-tracking studies that run for years and cost millions.


A new solution for a quickly shifting research landscape


Helixa isn’t a custom research solution. We aggregate useful syndicated data sources with observed online behavior to create a new solution that replaces some custom and syndicated studies and returns results in minutes. The depth and breadth of our insights, the speed of our platform, and the timeliness of our data sources come together to create an exceptionally strong solution that quickly addresses a variety of market research problems.


We compare and contrast competitors down to a level of detail no other syndicated study can capture. If you want to discover the market for gluten-free beer brands, we’ve got you covered. Our platform also gives you the power to build personas with a level of detail no other tool can match, bringing them to life in a way that your boss and clients will love. 


Determine the right approach for your specific problem


Syndicated and custom research solutions are excellent ways to gather intelligence about your markets. Each approach has its strengths in answering a variety of questions for strategists and researchers. If you need competitive comparisons, market-level information, or specific media and consumer information, syndicated solutions are the way to go. On the other hand, if you need to dig deeper to understand previously unexplored concepts, you’ll need an approach only custom research can address.


If you want to make both syndicated and custom research solutions work smarter, Helixa is uniquely positioned to provide specificity and detail at the earliest stage of your strategic process. The insights gleaned from our platform connects the dots in often unexpected ways to help determine which syndicated studies to buy or which questions remain to be explored through custom research.


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