The Market Research Industry in Australia


Does Australia count as Asia? Since we are running out of Asian countries to include in our Country Feature Series, we have decided to include it!

Australia is a very distinct research market.  Large and well developed, it is quite unlike the rest of Asia and far closer in characteristics to the UK and the US research markets.

For research firms and clients in Asia it is good to understand more about the Australian market as it is of growing importance in the Asian region, and increasingly part of Pan-Asian survey research for Multi-National Corporations.  The following piece has been compiled by Drew Le Grand, Executive Chairman from AFS ‘Smart-askers’.

History & Development:

The first recorded consumer study was carried out by Rudi Simmatt of J Walter Thompson in 1929, who also organised a study of the automobile market in 1930. J Walter Thompson was the original training ground of Australian market research pioneers Sylvia Ashby and Bill McNair, the latter of whom initiated the first studies of the radio audience in Australia in 1934. Sylvia Ashby opened the first independent market research company in Australia in 1936, with the McNair Survey being registered in 1944. The Roy Morgan Research Centre was established in 1941 to carry out Gallup Polls. (Provided by the late Mike Larbalestier, Past Chairman – Federal Council – Australian Market & Social Research Society)

A rich history of political polling, government social research and quasi-government/academic research continues today, inline with the open, liberal, democratic traditions of the Australian society.  Key research areas in the public spheres are community satisfaction tracking, transport/infrastructure, environment and border/bio security.

The topography of this vast continent historically restricted Australia wide ranging research; the benefits of technology have now made research increasingly more viable and valid.  A professional and deliberate approach spawned from the early 1960s, on the back of a rich tradition in door-to-door research (dating back to the first national Census in 1911.) This mode is now on the decline, with the largest operator of this type (AC Nielsen) closing down its regular army of F2F field operatives in 2008.  Face to Face Research is now generally event or shopping location based, due to soaring costs and insurance factors.

The Market Research Industry Today:

There are few ‘global economic downturn’ affects on research in Australia, (as of writing this.)  Commercially we see research booming in Financial Services (Superannuation/Insurance/Banking,) Health, Telecommunications and Consumer sectors, as well as the ubiquitous Advertising impact monitors.

Telephone penetration is exceptional in Australia and CATI remains the lifeblood of quantitative research in this country.  Australia introduced a ‘Do Not Call’ register in 2007 to reduce the number of unsolicited calls made to the community.  After lobbying strongly, the research industry was able to ensure CATI research calls were exempt.   Mobile phone penetration is now beyond 100%, with 3G representing some 30%.  CATI is the most effective method for business research and generally required for government projects.

Australia ranks second only to South Korea in the APAC region for Internet penetration. 75% of Australian’s are online now, but older, low income and rural Australians less likely to access the internet.  There are the regular buy cheap ventolin no prescription uk international online panel players and a great knowledge of utilitising the web for internal customer/employee surveys.

For qualitative studies, organisations concentrate equally on Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two international size cities; here you will find world class facilities and recruiters. We have a mobile population and one generally willing to engage in conversation outside of work time for an incentive of around USD$50 per session.  The average Australian under fifty will be a high school graduate and under 30, degree qualified.  Executives such as CFO’s will be enticed for USD$100.

The Australian market research industry is stratified into the Multinationals, smaller boutique firms (often containing ex-multinational employees) and independent data collection houses (rationalization of internal field capability has been the flavour recently and most multinationals now rely on independent field operators.) ISO 20252 is the widely adopted norm for project control.

Working with Australian market research clients:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (est. 1905) is the public statistical agency and should be a first port of call for international researchers wanting to derive baseline data for this country.  The local industry uses the ANSIC classification (a derivative of the US SIC industry classification) and for Social research, regions are split into LGAs (Local Government Areas) or SLAs (Statistical Local Areas).

Australia is a stable, well regulated, western democracy, sitting in the middle to top of most OECD tables.  The Adult population is wealthy and home ownership is very high.  The national character of the people is pragmatic, hard working, secular, valuing equality ‘a fair go for all,’ relaxed and very sports loving.  While there are exceptions, they generally understand they are living in one of the ‘luckiest’ places in the region; a big brown land of surf, opportunity, education and natural resources.

As an OECD indicative market, with a 0.70-0.80 cents USD exchange rate, Australia is an often overlooked bell weather for research in a developed country.  Market size dictates that project of international scale skip Australia, concentrating investment in the EU and US first.  However technologies such as remote monitoring and the advantages of the dateline attract a continual flow of international brand research projects, particularly when approach the C-Level executives who are perhaps more available here than anywhere else in the OECD.

Careers in Market Research:

Australia produces world class market researchers who often work abroad; from Asia to Europe it doesn’t take long to hear an Australian accent in the research community.  This has created a need for the local industry association to invest in attracting the brightest from other industries.  As a benefit, Australian researchers will likely have career experience in the industry they are focusing on for you.  All researchers in the field will be degree qualified as a minimum, but more commonly Masters or PHD graduates.  As is the norm in most regions, Researchers are overworked and churn is high.

Typical annual salaries for research positions (and typical level of experience) in the Australia are as follows:

Research Director (10 years+) – USD 110,000+; Associate Director (8 years) – USD 70,000; Project Director (6 years) – USD 50,000; Project Manager (4 years)- USD 40,000;Researcher (<3 years)- USD 30,000.