Five Reasons Why the Market-Research Industry Is Ready to Join the Sharing Economy


he original version of this paper was posted in the Greenbook Blog

The “sharing economy,” also known as the “collaborative economy,” is rapidly spreading across key industries with tremendous success. Even more sectors are poised for leveraging “sharing” to catapult growth. Some of the most prominent of the sharing brands have quickly become household names, including Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, and Kickstarter, as they harness the Internet to connect like-minded partners and customers, while driving down costs. There are now – count ‘em! — 17 companies with revenues in excess of $1 billion that operate within the realm of the sharing economy, employing more than 60,000 people.

Market research is clearly one of those industries primed and ready to join the sharing economy to spur meaningful growth. The two most important pillars of successful sharing businesses — collaboration and technological innovation — are already cornerstones of our industry, reflecting market research’s readiness for serious sharing. Yet, despite the current level of innovation we’re enjoying, when nearly two dozen market-research leaders recently were asked how technology is currently impacting the industry, not a single comment even touched on integrating technology and the sharing economy for the industry’s benefit.


So, here are five key reasons why the market-research industry is ready to join the sharing economy right now:


1. Data has become less proprietary because of technology.

For many, the idea of sharing data (aka collaborating with competitors on research projects) sounds counterintuitive. One of my most memorable moments from IIeX is when a group of co-workers from a large CPG brand walked past a tall Collaborative sign, saying more loudly than they realized: “That’s not for us – we don’t believe in collaboration.” Actually, that concern about the idea of collaborating with competitors is understandable. But, I’d say it’s also anachronistic.

As Bob Meyers, former Global CEO of Millward Brown, put it: “It’s 2016. It’s no longer about data being proprietary. Today, data is ubiquitous. So, embrace this new reality and look for ways to reduce your data-collection costs by sharing and collaborating. That way you can focus on what really matters: analysis.” There’s an inherent advantage in sharing. As Stan Sthanunathan, SVP of Consumer and Market Insights at Unilever, advocates: “In a rapidly changing world, we cannot operate in silos.”


2. We have actually been doing this (without a tech platform) for years.

Here’s something that most of us don’t really think about: All those syndicated research studies you’ve been purchasing are shared with your competitors. You all have the data! Dangerous? No, pragmatic. You’ve also probably “co-sponsored” a study or two with others. And, that’s good, showing you have an openness to sharing you might not even realize. Collaborata (see #5 below) enables and accelerates this type of sharing at scale.

Whereas the cost of producing a large-scale syndicated study can approach or exceed seven figures, an individual subscription is priced at a fraction of that. Why? Because syndicated subscribers share not only the research but also the costs — that’s the financial model. So, imagine the benefits of an online sharing marketplace, where insights projects can be purchased that address timely issues and opportunities rather than simply the same old studies. That’s Collaborata.


3. Collaborating with others can often result in better outcomes than by going at it alone.

Here’s one quick example market researchers can learn from: Physicians Dr. Ijad Madischand Dr. Sören Hofmayer, together with computer scientist Horst Fickenscher, believe in the power of collaboration – that it can often produce better outcomes. So, they created a company that removed academic and scientific research outside of the “silos” to which Stan Sthanunathan referred (above). They founded ResearchGate in 2008, to connect scientists and researchers in order to collaborate, coordinate, and advise their peers on current research. The site’s 10 million members have taken a dramatic new approach to research, changing what used to be a solitary and slow process into one of collaboration, resulting in faster and better results, disrupting the way in which scientific and academic research had always been conducted.


4. Sharing drives down costs.

Many of our new realities include working in a zero-based budgeting environment, making the funding of unplanned-for insights projects more challenging than ever. We’re asked to be more agile — to do more with less. Guess what? Sharing data can dramatically drive down costs, allowing you to fund more projects and/or to re-allocate your budget to analysis and insights, where it matters more.

When Collaborata was in its formative stages, I spoke with clients from a full range of companies, including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Kellogg’s, the NBA, Wrigley and many more. They all could point to “bucket-list” projects they’d love to fund, but just didn’t make the budget. After all, no matter the size of your budget, you need to prioritize. Bob Meyers calls these “orphan projects.” Whatever you call them, if you can’t fund them, they’re missed opportunities. That’s a problem Collaborata addresses head on.


5. There’s a new platform, recently launched on stage at IIeX, which brings market research into the sharing economy.

So, you say you’re onboard with the idea of collaborating with competitors? Now you can do so on Collaborata. It’s a marketplace for market-research studies and insights projects. It’s the new syndicated: a platform that enables crowdfunding of projects, allowing clients access to a full range of important research studies at 10% of the cost.

Research suppliers and clients alike can post research projects on Collaborata, allowing multiple parties to share in the cost of funding a project. And those funding the project can also help guide and shape it. So, Collaborata resembles syndicated research in that it makes large-scale projects affordable for the individual client — all for the pragmatic trade-off of sharing results. Of course, not every project is a fit for Collaborata. Certainly, those that are proprietary or specifically about your brand are not for sharing. But, there are probably plenty of projects — those examining new targets, trends, and opportunities — that are ripe for sharing.

In fact, everything about Collaborata has been strategically and carefully designed to promote collaboration. For example, anybody registered on Collaborata can “refer” a project to anybody else, leveraging his or her professional network to help get a project funded. Collaborata credits your account (or, if you prefer, we’ll actually send you a check) in an amount equivalent to 20% of the spend of whomever you referred, assuming the project funds. And, if a project exceeds its funding goal, any extra revenue is shared with the research supplier and the client who originally posted the project.

Collaborata helps to solve many of the problems currently faced in the market research industry. A 2015 Greenbook blog post by Leonard Murphy noted “dwindling budgets” as one of the top 10 challenges in the industry. Collaborata reduces redundancy by connecting clients with similar research needs, so they can pool their funds to get the work done. Michalis Michael’s 2015 Greenbook blog, regarding the future of the marketing-research industry, noted two significant predictions. First, he wrote: “traditional market-research agencies that refuse to change will go out of business.” Collaborating, in order to drive down costs, seems not only like reasonable, but also, strategic change. Michael then suggested: “Agile research will become mainstream,” reflecting that the time is right for the sharing economy to be embraced within the industry now.

There are nearly 20 projects, totaling in excess of $2 million in value, already posted on Collaborata, ranging in content from “Millennial Mealtime” and “Gen Z Luxe” to “Omni-Channel Shopping” and even “Sizing the Global Legal Marijuana Market.” A 60-second video, residing at, explains how Collaborata works and how you can quickly become a sharer — to the benefit or your company or organization. Dare to share, and reap the benefits.

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Jimmy Zollo is the Co-Founder and CEO of Collaborata -- a Chicago-based tech startup serving the insights and marketing research world. Collaborata is the first-ever platform that enables organizations to share research costs and insights. Collaborata was a finalist for the 2017 Midwest Digital Startup of the Year, the 2016 Insight Innovation Award and has been featured on Business Insider, BuiltInChicago, Greenbook, Quirks, Research Live, MRWeb, and Market Research World. For more information, please visit: Jimmy developed his passion and enthusiasm for the Chicago tech community, while driving growth at GrubHub for four years. He helped develop GrubHub's industry-leading restaurant network, traveling across the country to launch new markets and grow existing ones. Following GrubHub's IPO and merger with Seamless, Jimmy transitioned to the corporate team, leading partnerships between GrubHub and many of Chicago's leading law, consulting, tech, and marketing firms.