Think back just a few years and you’ll reach an era when, if you needed to find an expert in market research, your only opportunity was hiring a costly agency or foregoing the whole idea and making 6-figure decisions based on gut feelings.
However, the gig economy caught inertia, changing everything—and not just food delivery or taxi apps.
Due to a global pandemic, the remote work revolution responsible for benefits like attending client meetings in payjama pants brought another gift: an increase in freelance specialists, including those in market research and customer insights.
In other words… the Sydney, London or Auckland insights agency with a 5-figure retainer is now challenged by the same folks who used to run those agencies. However, they now work remote and independently.
Why the shift?
Beyond the rise of remote work, these experts know the data and have made a decision accordingly; there is an increasing demand for customer insights and data-based decision making. They know clients are looking for cost-effective, agile data experts—and want to ditch the agency model.
These experts also see another trend: according to Morgan Stanley, 50% of the US labour force will be freelance in just 6 years.
There are benefits for insight specialists, but what about for you, the one searching for someone with the expertise you need to make informed decisions? Here are some of the most compelling.
Agility and Scaling: Partnering with an independent expert allows you to hire when (and if!) you need to; no more retainers or staff salaries when your needs come and go. By having an on-demand resource, you can meet the requirements of a large project and scale down when it’s finished.
Cost-Effectiveness: It’s no surprise that an agency or consulting firm is going to be expensive; their high overhead, large margins and business models require it. However, an independent specialist offers a lean option with far less overhead.
Plus, with remote professionals now available anywhere in the world, you can reach affordable yet highly-qualified experts in places you wouldn’t expect.
Hire Whenever: Your finance or HR team may not green light hiring someone or onboarding an agency… however, an independent expert is not considered additional headcount. Plus, it’s easier to convince your CFO to cover a valuable yet cost-effective, occasional resource than signing a retainer.
Global & Niche Reach: Need a specialist in Canadian skincare consumers or an expert in emerging markets? By hiring on-demand, you have a global team not confined to a specific geography, industry or consumer base. You can tap into professionals who have on-the-ground cultural and economic expertise—whenever and wherever. Particularly helpful when considering market expansion or a new product, you’ll know if and how you can make your new venture a success.
Specific Skills: Someone who offers you insights into building a new product and it’s features may not be the right person to give you a “yes” or “no” answer on a merger, campaign or large scale business decision. However, with access to independent experts, you have the right person for the job and the decision at hand.
Of course, whenever a new idea emerges, be it independent market research experts or TikTok dance challenges, there may be hesitation.
If you’re accustomed to in-house or agency options or have tried to analyze consumer insights on your own, hiring an on-demand expert may bring up concerns.
First, you know the big names in consumer insights, the firms that have a good reputation. But finding your dream data expert? Many of them are working behind the scenes, so finding the right person could be a challenge. Yet that’s a key reason Insights Exchange exists: to pair clients with vetted, qualified consumer insight experts. While you can dig around the Internet or ask for introductions, there is significant time investment over working with our team.
And, when you trust your project to someone, quality is a priority. You need quality insights to confidently move forward. That’s why, when we onboard a new, independent specialist, we perform extensive due diligence, checking their references, background and ensuring they have 10+ years of impressive experience. When you’re choosing someone to work with, it does pay to ask about relevant previous projects, their initial thoughts on the task and their experience working within your market, industry or consumer niche.
Finally, you may fear the onboarding and ramp up time. How can you bring someone up to speed on a business or idea you’ve spent months or years considering? Fortunately, independent experts are accustomed to jumping in and quickly understanding the project, asking questions and utilizing their expertise to know exactly what to do next. When in doubt, simply ask: what do you need from us? They can handle the rest and work autonomously.
If you review the past 12 months of your business history, you’ll agree: things have changed. Consumers buy and behave differently. Trends come and go rapidly. You have more opportunities and threats. Your team is seeking more data than before to bring objectivity and stability as they navigate the turmoil.
It’s why Disney, Xero, Panasonic, Weight Watchers (WW) and WOOP have begun working with Insights Exchange; consumers have changed and these companies need a new, data-driven way forward. While the current world scenario is challenging, this is a moment of opportunity for companies seeking a lean, dynamic new strategy, which is gaining momentum; a 2020 Intuit study found 80% of large US corporations plan to embrace “flexible” or freelance labor.
If you have a project on the horizon, a decision you want to make with confidence or are simply curious what a consumer insights expert will bring to your team, get in touch with me at email@example.com or add any questions in the comments below.