State of the Union — Online Sample Edition 2021

Last year around this time, I published “The State of the Union — Privacy Law’s Impact on the Sample Industry” sharing my views on how privacy legislation impacted the sample industry in 2019. Since then, the world has radically changed. A worldwide pandemic sparked a global health crisis. Social and political unrest upended the status-quo, and Joe Biden was elected the 46th President of the United States. The election was so bitterly contested that it resulted in a violent attack by extremists on the U.S. Capitol. Many are wondering how we can collectively move forward.

Looking ahead, as President Biden takes office and prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address next month, I thought it fitting to recap how the online sample industry changed over the last twelve months, focusing on two areas: the shift to digital and emerging business opportunities.

The Online Sample Industry Booms During the Pandemic

In March 2020, the American Stock Market dropped 11,000 points following nationwide lockdowns to combat the spread of COVID-19. As businesses began to shutter, many online sample companies were forced to close multi-year tracker studies, cancel live projects, and furlough employees to keep cash-flow out of the red.

But as consumers gradually began shifting in-person activities online, the online sample industry quickly benefited. Market researchers transferred many qualitative and quantitative studies online to replace in-person focus-groups, interviews, and customer observations. This transition accelerated the shift to digital that was already happening in the online sampling industry, but now it was out of necessity, not curiosity. The digital migration created new business opportunities and modernized the industry.

“Survival of the Fittest” Separates the Winners and the Losers

“Survival of the Fittest,” one of the major tenets of Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, suggests that as the environment changes, only strong organisms survive. This principle was in full effect in 2020, as the pandemic forced the market research industry to pivot to stay afloat or risk going under.

Unfortunately, exposed and over-leveraged online sampling companies soon disappeared and were replaced by larger companies with more robust technology and product ingenuity. But for the few companies who did manage to survive, business has never been better. Online samples became a high-priced commodity as industry protocols shifted to accommodate health precautions. New survey tracking instruments were developed to expedite the data collection process and discern patterns and trends more quickly.

Going forward, online sampling companies will need to continue to innovate to keep selling their products and adjust to market demand.

Key Takeaways

Despite a global health crisis, a shuttered economy, and socio-political unrest, the online sampling industry turned what could have been a disastrous year into one marked by growth. In 2020, online samples quickly became necessary in the absence of in-person events, catapulting many sampling companies into the limelight as market researchers turned to digital instruments for qualitative data.

As we look towards the future, one thing is clear. Digital is here to stay. In 2021, online sampling companies who wish to remain competitive will need to incorporate innovation and technology integration into the core of their business operations to keep pace with the next normal. Even post-pandemic, after most Americans are vaccinated and gatherings resume, some habits formed during the pandemic, like a reliance on Zoom to communicate, may not return to pre-pandemic levels. This is especially true for providers who see the cost savings and the greater access to qualified respondents. The question is, will you be ready.

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ThinkNow is an award-winning technology driven cultural insights agency. #ThinkNowMRX

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ThinkNow is an award-winning technology driven cultural insights agency. #ThinkNowMRX

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