20 Oct 2016 19:02 IST

All aboard the omnibus research solutions!

This is a rare research method, that offers the best of both, customised and syndicated studies

When it comes to market research studies, the industry normally sees two broad kinds being undertaken — customised and syndicated.


A customised study means exactly what it says — a study tailor-made for a particular client and for a particular marketing situation or problem.

For instance, a company could have a new TV commercial, which needs to be pre-tested before being aired. Or it could have declining sales and may want to know the reasons. It might be about to launch a new product and may want inputs on what marketing mix to use, and so on and so forth.

A customised study goes through the following steps

~ Understanding the marketing issues

~ Translating them into research information needs

~ Deciding what kind of research approach to take

~ Designing the specifics, such as sampling plans and questionnaire

~ Actually carrying out the study

~ Interpreting the results for the client

This kind of study gives the clients quite a few advantages, mainly the fact that it is entirely tailor-made to their needs, and the researchers give their interpretation and recommendations for marketing action. However, they tend to be relatively expensive, especially when the sample sizes required are large.

Syndicated study

A syndicated study on the other hand, tends to be much cheaper; it allows the marketer to get the benefit of a large sample size at a relatively low cost. This study is one where the research company initiates the research, and then sells the findings like an off-the-shelf product to whichever company shows interest.

The information to be collected in such studies is decided by the research agency, and the cost is low simply because it is shared out across many buyers. On the flip side, a syndicated study is not customised to a particular company or marketing situation, so it is useful only for providing baseline market information and trends.

The rare kind

Which brings us to the third kind of study, which is quite rare in India — omnibus studies.

An omnibus study is one which is initiated by the research agency and then offered to clients. Here, the research company simply announces that it is interviewing, say, 3,000 respondents of income group above ₹30,000 in top seven cities in the country. It then invites clients to board the bus by specifying what questions they want asked.

Client A may have five questions to be asked, and client B could have 10. The bus then runs with these 15 questions. And since the cost of the study is shared out across both clients, so it works out to be quite inexpensive.

The findings from the questions too, are given to the respective clients only, so confidentiality is strictly maintained. And since the questions themselves are specified by the client, the study is tailor-made to the clients’ requirement.

The happy mix

Omnibus studies can be seen as being a happy mix of customised and syndicated studies, since they offer customisation as well as low cost. However, such studies do have their limitations.

No one client can ask too many questions as it will prevent other clients from hopping on the bus. And unless multiple clients have a requirement at the same time for researching the same segment, the bus simply won’t run as any one client’s set of questions will not be enough to pay for the research agency to be able to run it.

In India, leading research agencies have tried running an omnibus at one time or another, but without much success. It is not clear whether the concept has been rejected by clients per se or whether the buses had been poorly run. Or whether there haven’t been enough efforts to promote the bus among prospective clients.

Maybe the ongoing slowdown and the resultant budget squeeze in companies will revise the interest in omnibus studies.

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