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If you typed the title of this blog article into Google, it might be fair to say that the question ‘How much does market research software cost?’ is too vague, but that doesn’t mean that there are a number of key question you can ask yourself to help you identify your real needs and to buy astutely.
So, let’s work through the five key questions, you should ask yourself.
1.What is the true cost of using a software product?
The licence fees
The most common licensing arrangements are to pay an annual licence fee, which is usually based on the number of users, or, for online data collection products, to pay a fee per completed interview. In some cases, usage may be a combination of these two types of fee. Of course, there may also be some add-ons for extra bells and whistles.
There are some free products, such as Surveymonkey, but they are usually inadequate for commercial market research or you soon find that you need to pay for the ‘full’ version with similar licensing arrangements.
Don’t forget the hidden costs…
However, there are some hidden costs and these can sometimes exceed the licence costs. Training costs may be low if a product is easy to use whereas a complex product may require formal training which will not only take staff time but may incur expensive external training courses. And, training costs may be a regular cost as new members join the team.
A product such as Snap will need a small amount of training whereas an online research tool that is driven entirely (or mainly) by script may need 3-5 days’ training at a premium price.
Labour costs can substantially vary too
Some products need well trained staff to use whereas other products need less skilled staff. However, staff might be able to handle a complex project in a quarter of the time in a more advanced product. We see this with MRDCL and QPSMR. Let’s say a MRDCL user costs US$100 per day and takes 2 days to complete a project whereas a QPSMR user costs £60 per day but takes 5 days, the total cost is US$100 less if it is carried out by a MRDCL user. Conversely, a simpler project make take a similar time in MRDCL or QPSMR. The question to ask yourself what is the balance of work and what level of staff can handle the tasks?
2.Will my needs grow or change?
Room for growth
Just as parents often buy children clothes that are slightly too big so that they have room for growth, it’s important that you buy software that has a little more than you need. It’s likely that clients will demand more as time goes on and new projects may throw up new tools. At the other extreme, there’s no point buying a product that does everything if your needs are fairly limited. It’s a bit like buying a Ferrari if you only car journey is a weekly trip to the local store.
Do you have many different types of surveys?
Only you can judge whether your needs are likely to change. Generally, if you are pitching for a range of types of work, you will need more flexible software, whereas if you are handling surveys of one type which are similar, you may not need much room for growth.
Sometimes two products are better than one
I have also seen customers segment their work into complex and straightforward using, perhaps, an expensive product for complex projects and lesser product for simple projects. Not only does this reduce staff costs, but for projects where you are paying a premium price for online surveys, it can be mean that you can dramatically reduce the cost of an online interview, for example.
3.Should I buy a solution where everything comes in one product?
In the 1990s and before, the fashion was to buy products with everything in ‘one box’, but that changed as market research moved from paper questionnaires that needed tabulations to various modes of data collection that needed tabulations, charts, automated reports, online dashboards, statistics and more.
All in one software has its advantages
Having everything in one system means that you don’t have to move data around between software packages – something that may or may not be easy to do. In my view, you should check to see if the software you are buying is Triple-S compliant (Triple-S is a standard for market research data supported by about 50 software suppliers that means you can move projects from one package to another).
If everything is in one package, it usually means you can produce tables and charts, for example, easily from your survey data.
Is there something special about your projects?
However, you may be better off buying specialist software. If you want complex tabulations, multi-variate statistics or need to automate thousands of reports, you may need specialist software. As mentioned in the first item of this article, look at the true cost of adopting another software product. It might or might not make sense.
4.Do I need specialist software?
If you think you need specialist software, you probably do! You might be able to survive with one or two software products, but if a specialist product means you can offer a faster service, a better service, reduce manual work or reduce errors, then often the additional cost of a software licence will be money well spent.
5.What if I make a bad decision?
As a software supplier, it might seem strange to advise people to have an exit strategy before you buy any new software product, but I think you should! We all make misjudgements in business and clients’ needs can change suddenly, so having an exit strategy is important. It’s best to consider how easy it is to move a project if it becomes more complex, bigger or whatever rather than thinking about it when it’s too late. Again, can you get the project out of the software (see Triple-S comments above). Is the data stored or exportable in a standard format? If the project specifications and data can only be used in a proprietary format, you need to be absolutely sure that you never want to move that project.
So, that’s our five key considerations, which hopefully will guide you to the right product or mix of products. We’re always ready to advise.