InSites Consulting acquires ABN Impact for major expansion in Asia

Following this announcement, Asia Research interviewed the CEO of InSites Consulting, Kristof De Wulf, and Maz Amirahmadi, CEO of ABN Impact (now ABN Impact | InSites Consulting), to learn more about their objectives for Asia and the potential for insight communities in these markets.

Kristof De Wulf comments: “Asia accounts for nearly two-thirds of global economic growth. The region remains the world’s most dynamic place, being home to almost 60% of the world population and leading the pace in many aspects of the digital revolution. Hence, it is no surprise our global clients are investing heavily in the region to drive their global growth ambitions.”

To support its expansion into Asia, InSites needed to acquire a ‘like-minded agency with similar skill sets’, more specifically in the specialist area of insight communities. These are proprietary consumer panels set up and managed for specific clients to provide a range of consumer insights on product, service, and market development.

ABN Impact leads in insight communities in Asia, and we asked Maz about the application of insight communities and how they came to lead in this area.

Maz states that about 60% of ABN Impact’s revenue is now generated from insight communities, and this is growing. Insight communities have been very strong in the US and Europe, but other agencies have struggled to develop these communities in Asia, partly because of their lack of knowhow about how best to market these solutions to clients.

The key to ABN’s success in this area was really focusing on insight communities in its marketing, acquiring the best technology, and recruiting the right staff to manage the panels and service the accounts.

Insight communities have been used for a wide range of applications, including innovation, branding, and customer experience. But one of their key benefits is that members feel engaged and motivated to do research because they are working in collaboration with the brand.

Maz comments: “Asia is becoming a hotbed of global innovation and we’ve witnessed more and more brands investing significantly in setting up global innovation centres in the region. In addition, Asian corporations are increasingly looking at global markets for growth, and this requires consumer insight outside of their home markets.”

While much of the research industry is under pressure, particularly from clients insourcing their research, insight communities are a fast-growing business for specialist agencies. Maz comments that while some clients like to insource the management of communities, a do-it-together model is typically more successful. Building and sustaining insight communities requires both specialised software and specialised research professionals, and so it’s often a question of blending the right level of insourced and outsourced research through these communities. ABN Impact has set up communities across various categories, but has had particular success in finance, telecommunications, and fast-moving consumer goods.

With the acquisition of ABN Impact, InSites Consulting will have a revenue of over €65 million, and 600 staff across 17 locations. This acquisition nicely coincides with ABN Impact celebrating its tenth year in business.

In the new organisation, Maz will stay as CEO of ABN Impact | InSites Consulting, while Scott Lee, former Chief Client Officer at ABN Impact, will become Senior Client Partner.