In-house vs. outsourcing market research: which is best for your goals?

Market research is not a luxury.

Understanding what your target customers want is the foundation on which every successful business is built.

But where is everyone getting their insights from? You can choose to outsource your market research, or do it in-house.

Conducting market research in-house involves running your own research to understand your customers and industry. You and your colleagues might use tools to help you get the latest on your market.

Outsourcing—often to a specialized external research agency—means you let them do the digging. You tell them what type of information you’re after (and why), and they’ll report back to you, while you continue with business as usual.

The key question is this: is it better to keep the process close to home or to rely on a third party to manage the whole process?

Here we’ll look at the differences between the two, the pros and cons, and ultimately when to outsource market research services, or keep your market research projects in-house.

In-house vs. outsourcing market research: what’s the difference?

When we talk about in-house market research, we’re talking about using your own team and tools to gather and analyze data about your market.

This approach means you’re in full control of the process, from what questions you ask to how you interpret the responses. You can focus on the exact issues that matter most to your business.

Outsourcing your market research means handing the reins over to a market research company or agency. They’ve got the experience and tools to conduct comprehensive studies, and they might spot trends or patterns that you didn’t even know to look for.

However, as they aren’t immersed in your business day-to-day, there’s a risk of potential communication gaps or nuances getting lost in translation.

What does it mean to outsource your market research?

Handing over your market research efforts to a team of external experts means delegating a few tasks. You’ll need to brief this partner, and agree on terms for survey design, data collection, data analysis and the final report.

You also need to establish lines of communication. But it all starts with finding the right partner. Let’s dive a little deeper into the ins and outs of outsourcing market research.

The benefits of outsourcing market research

Outsourcing market research has some advantages.

For example, you get have a team of experienced market researchers and their industry knowledge. They also offer top-notch survey strategies and provide resources that might be out of reach for some businesses.

The disadvantages of outsourcing market research

There are some drawbacks too.

Cost is a big one. Research agencies will often charge a premium for their services.

Time is another. Despite the hefty amount you might be paying for an external research firm’s expertise, it can take a while for them to design the research, gather results and present their analysis. When you need to make informed decisions quickly, this might not be ideal.

Your data. This will vary from agency to agency, but when you outsource to a market research team, it’s not a-given that you’ll own the eventual data from your research. Yes, you might have a beautifully designed PDF report diving into your research, but the agency might ultimately hold onto the data. It’s best practice to make sure you have access to the data internally—you might need to run comparative research int he future, and if you don’t have the insights to hand, that will be difficult.

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What to look for in a market research agency

If an agency is what will help you with your market research needs, how do you pick the right outsourced team?

Here are a few key things you should be looking out for to fulfil your market research outsourcing needs :

  • Knowledge of your industry and goals: Look for a market research firm that knows your industry inside and out. They should be familiar with your market, your competitors and the unique challenges and opportunities you’re likely to face. They should be up-to-date with industry publications and the latest developments in your market. Ask them if they’ve worked with business goals like yours before. Sometimes it’s also valuable to look at location. Market research firms in New York might have a different view on trends than one in Texas.
  • Methodology: Your market research firm of choice should have a clear and robust approach to conducting research. This could include surveys, focus groups, interviews and data analysis. Be sure they can explain their methods in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Communication: You want a market research team that’s easy to work with. They should listen to your needs, respond promptly to your queries, and deliver reports that are easy to understand. To get a good perspective on this before partnering up, reach out to your project managers and ask questions.
  • Reputation and reviews: Do a bit of homework here. Check out their client reviews and case studies. Are they really industry experts? What results have they seen from other projects? A good reputation in the marketing research world speaks volumes.
  • Value for money: Price is always a consideration, but don’t just outsource to the cheapest option. Instead, consider the value you’re getting for your investment.
  • Flexibility: Your business needs will evolve. The market research team you work with should be able to adapt their services to match your changing requirements.
  • Data security: Market research companies should have robust procedures in place to ensure the confidentiality and security of your data and that of your customers.
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What are the advantages of in-house market research?

Some businesses prefer to have the hands-on approach of in-house market research, embracing the challenges as opportunities for growth and internal development.

With the right market research tools and expert support, you and your small team can produce insightful, actionable market research data.

The benefits of in-house market research

Cost is a big benefit. In-house research can often be more cost-effective than outsourcing. Without the need to pay for an external agency’s services, you can save money, particularly if you’re conducting research regularly with a tool you only need to set up once.

You’ll also save time. Particularly if you use a consumer research platform, you can act on results quicker since you won’t be waiting for a third party to analyze and present the data. That way your in-house team will be able to make smart decisions on quickly changing market trends before it’s too late to do anything meaningful. And sure, you might not have that beautifully designed PDF report, but you’ll have saved a bunch more time to work on more important things.

You can tailor the research precisely to your needs, without any compromise or explanation lost in translation (who knows your market and offering better than people who work for the company?).

And, since you know your product or service better than anyone else, you might have a unique angle or hypothesis to test that an outside firm may overlook.

Example of conducting in-house market research

JCDecaux, the outdoor ad giant, sensed a business travel comeback in 2023. But how to prove it?

Their division, OneWorld, used Attest to survey business travelers across ten markets—a cost-effective solution with big results.

Their hunch was right: their research with Attest found a surge in domestic and international business travel, with over 60% of business decision-makers associating airport ads with industry-leading brands. That helped them tailor airport ads to the right audiences for maximum success.

In-house market research, especially for niche industries, can pack a powerful punch, making it a top pick for businesses everywhere. And with Attest, they had the right tool for the job.

What to look for in a market research tool for in-house research

Here are some critical qualities you should be looking out for when shopping around for a market research tool for your research project:

  • Easy to use: Even the most amazing research tool will be ineffective if your in-house team can’t use it well. The tool should be intuitive and easy to use, enabling you to design, launch, and analyze surveys without needing a PhD in data science.
  • Quick turnaround: Waiting weeks for research results is not ideal when you need to jump on trends and make decisions quickly. The best tools will offer quick turnaround times, providing insights you can act on fast.
  • Robust and diverse sampling options: The tool should offer access to a wide range of demographics and allow you to easily define your target audience. Whether you’re after a specific age group, location, or interest, you should be able to reach them.
  • Advice and training: Let’s be real: chances are you’re not a trained marker research professional. That’s where a little advice from experts becomes super important. Look for tools that offer comprehensive support and training resources, or even a designated research expert (like Attest does).
  • Data analysis and visualization: The tool should provide clear, easy-to-understand data visualization options. It should also offer data analysis features, helping you identify trends, correlations, and insights.
  • Scalability: Your market research might grow with your business. A good tool will be able to handle this growth, allowing for larger survey sizes and more complex data analysis as you scale.
  • Data privacy and compliance: Whatever tool or service you choose, make sure they’re up to speed on GDPR, CCPA, etc.

Attest offers all these qualities and more. We’ve designed our tool with the you in mind, providing an intuitive interface and comprehensive features that make in-house market research a breeze for organizations of all shapes and sizes.

With Attest, you’re not just getting a tool—you’re getting a partner dedicated to helping you extract the most value from your market research efforts and transform your marketing and business development. 

Learn about how Attest works.

In-house vs outsourcing market research: what’s right for your business?

Whether in-house or outsourced market research is better for you depends on various factors: your budget, available resources, level of expertise in your team, and the complexity of the marketing research needed.

Here’s a comparison table to help you decide:

Outsourced market researchIn-house market researchAttest
CostHigh due to expert services, resources, and potentially, the need for customization.Lower cost as it’s handled by the company’s existing staff, but potential for added expenses with necessary tools or software.Affordable pricing, combining the benefits of both in-house and outsourced research.
FeaturesAccess to a wide range of research methods, experienced team of researchers, and a broad network for data collection.Total control over the research process, ability to prioritize according to company needs, and fast turnaround.Offers an intuitive platform that combines the control of in-house research with the expert guidance of an outsourced agency.
BenefitsExpert execution, comprehensive research, and an outside perspective that can reveal unexpected insights.Greater control over the process, direct connection to the data, and quick adjustments according to evolving needs.Combines the benefits of both models, providing expert support with the control and direct connection of in-house research.
ChallengesCan be expensive, potential for misalignment with your company’s culture or vision, and possible delays due to communication or scheduling.May lack expertise, can be time-consuming, and there is potential for internal biases in data interpretation.While it offers a balance of benefits, there is still a learning curve for the platform. However, Attest’s expert team is on hand to help with any challenges.

Experience the benefits of both in-house and outsourced market research with Attest. We offer a DIY market research platform with expert support on hand to help your market research team get the most from your data.

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Nikos Nikolaidis

Senior Customer Research Manager 

Nikos joined Attest in 2019, with a strong background in psychology and market research. As part of Customer Research Team, Nikos focuses on helping brands uncover insights to achieve their objectives and open new opportunities for growth.

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