The Top 10 Market Research Firms Worldwide – How They Help Businesses Understand Customers and Drive Growth

Imagine this scenario. After months of R&D and product development, your company has launched a new line of mobile devices targeted at 18-25 year olds. Initial sales seem underwhelming. Why isn‘t this sleek, high-powered gadget flying off the shelves?

This is where market research comes in. Detailed analysis around the product strengths and weaknesses, customer preferences, pricing assumptions, competitive landscape and more can reveal what‘s missing. With these insights, you can evolve the offering and marketing approach for greater success.

Market research is systematic data gathering and analysis to understand target buyer behavior and trends. It provides the hard evidence needed to make smart business decisions in a complex, fast-moving economy. As analytics and data science extend their reach into every function, research firms continue growing right alongside other advanced analytics segments.

State of the Global Market Research Industry

  • $76 billion industry globally as of 2021
  • 5.1% CAGR projected through 2028 [1]
  • Driving factors:
    • Rising need for data-driven decision making
    • Growth of customer-centric business models
    • Innovation in data collection tools (IoT, mobile) and analysis techniques (AI/ML)

With market research playing a pivotal role across functions like strategic planning, product development, marketing, sales and customer service, leading research firms have capitalized on growing enterprise demand. We break down the 10 largest market research companies worldwide, ranked by annual revenue.

#10 – Westat

Year Founded: 1963
Headquarters: Rockville, Maryland
2019 Revenue: $590 million
Key Offerings: Survey design, statistical modeling, program evaluation
Clients: Government, education, healthcare

Co-led by CEOs Karen Bogen and Ilya Raskin since 2021, this employee-owned company focuses heavily on public sector work [2]. You may not have heard of Westat directly, but you likely benefit from major government-funded programs they evaluate like Head Start early childhood education.

Westat designs research programs and complex questionnaire instruments for clients while handling survey testing, sampling, response analytics and insights reporting. With over 60% holding postgraduate degrees, their talent emphasis centers on analytical skills for modeling, sampling, weighting data and extracting trends.

#9 – Information Resources, Inc.

Year Founded: 1979
Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
2019 Revenue: $1.2 billion
Key Offerings: Retail measurement, price/promotion analytics, consumer panels
Clients: Consumer packaged goods manufacturers

Founded in 1979 by John Malec, IRI provides market measurement and predictive analytics software aimed at helping CPG manufacturers and retailers. Consumer shopping habits evolve fast, especially with millennials driving preference shifts toward fresh foods, private label, and impulse purchasing [3]. IRI tracks these trends via the world‘s largest CPG purchase panel. Clients like Kraft Heinz, Nestle, P&G and PepsiCo draw on this high-frequency shopper data covering over 700K households.

Adding further firepower, IRI acquired Aztec and its AI/ML engine PathManager in 2019 to inject more automation into its analytics suite. PathManager can rapidly process datasets to identify key purchase drivers and their influence strength – critical to optimize trade spending. Through consumer intelligence and technology innovation, IRI earned $1.2 billion in 2019 revenue.

#8 – CoStar Group

Year Founded: 1987
Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
2019 Revenue: $1.39 billion
Key Offerings: Commercial property data/listings, tenant analytics
Clients: Brokers, developers, investors

Under founder and CEO Andy Florance, CoStar has dominated the commercial real estate (CRE) information market serving brokers, owners, tenants, banks and appraisers. Its online platform provides the industry‘s largest CRE database including 5+ million properties, 560K+ building photos, 750K+ tenant spaces and 40K daily updates [4].

Widely known portals like, Lands of America and BizBuySell funnel 4 million monthly visitors into the CoStar network. Competitive intelligence tools like CoStar COMPS Professional and Retail Reports inform client site selection, prospecting and valuation decisions. This treasure trove of current, granular property intelligence underpins CoStar‘s ascent to $1.39 billion in 2019 annual revenue.

#7 – GfK SE

Year Founded: 1934
Headquarters: Nuremberg, Germany
2019 Revenue: $1.67 billion
Key Offerings: Survey research, predictive analytics, shopper insights
Clients: Auto, durables, technology, FMCG, financial services

German research heavyweight GfK traces its roots to 1934 as Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (Society for Consumer Research) when it pioneered a new continuous consumer confidence survey technique. Today while best known for influential indices like its Consumer Climate Index used for economic policymaking in the EU and Germany, GfK offers predictive analytics software helping clients identify new product, pricing and customer targeting opportunities.

Supply chain volatility brings inventory shortages one month followed by gluts the next. GfK‘s AI-powered demand planning and optimization solutions now drive supply/production decisions for manufacturers and retailers like automakers, consumer electronics, home improvement brands and appliance makers. The firm‘s 85-year data asset tracking consumer attitudes and purchase behavior across 50+ countries provides a foundation to power advanced analytics globally.

#6 – IHS Markit

Year Founded: 2016
Headquarters: London, England/Colorado, USA
2019 Revenue: $2.11 billion
Key Offerings: Technology standards, vehicle history data, financial risk analysis
Clients: Manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, finance

Formed from the 2016 merger of IHS and Markit, this market research and analysis giant serves multiple industries from financial services to manufacturing and transportation. Its offerings provide both wide horizontal access and deep vertical expertise.

In automotive, key platforms like its CARFAX Vehicle History and CMMI analytics help insurers, lenders and government agencies value used cars based on maintenance/crash records and residual value forecasts.

Over 50,000 published standards and training documents via its EDNA engineering portal allow manufacturing clients to optimize workflows.

In finance, rating agencies and investment managers rely on its fixed income indices, credit derivative pricing/liquidity data and regulatory reporting tools to model risk.

IHS Markit effectively leverages mergers across specialty firms to assemble a market research arsenal delivering insights across the client‘s value chain.

#5 – Ipsos

Year Founded: 1975
Headquarters: Paris, France
2019 Revenue: $2.24 billion
Key Offerings: Brand/ad testing, customer satisfaction research, panel management
Clients: Retail, automotive, technology, pharmaceutical

Founded in Paris in 1975, Ipsos today operates in 90 markets with over 16,000 employees serving clients across automotive, retail, technology, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. Its research and predictive analytics solutions enable smarter product marketing, customer experience and brand management decisions.

An example is Ipsos‘ Ignition Reports that identify market development hurdles or its advanced Customer Experience (CX) labs that gather unfiltered, emotionally-charged feedback through biometric sensors and community forums. Pharmaceutical clients like AstraZeneca and Pfizer rely on its healthcare consulting and medically-trained field teams to gain physician/patient perspectives aiding drug commercialization.

While traditional surveys remain a staple, Ipsos continues acquiring technology-driven boutiques like MGE Data Corporation and its social listening analytics product Synthesio. Its own Ipsos.Digital community taps global members for quick feedback on ads, concepts and designs.

#4 – Kantar

Year Founded: 1993
Headquarters: London, England
2019 Revenue: $2.87 billion
Key Offerings: Media monitoring/analysis, shopper insights, brand equity tracking
Clients: Consumer goods, financial services, telecom

Owned by UK advertising/PR giant WPP, Kantar brings an advertising fluency to its brand, insights and predictive consulting solutions portfolio aimed at helping clients maximise marketing ROI. It leverages more than 460,000 consumer/expert panelists and over 900 databases across 100 countries to fuel analytics.

Kantar‘s strong suit is its broad access spanning multiple customer touchpoints. Proprietary tools like its Brand Footprint closing the loop between brand building, emotional connection and sales response are leveraged by leading brands across consumer goods, entertainment and financial services. 30% of Interbrand‘s 100 Most Valuable Brands rankings analysis relies on Kantar‘s BrandZ brand equity data [5].

In 2019, Kantar merged its Kantar Media and Kantar Worldpanel divisions into one brand to streamline expertise across 80 countries, improving consulting depth.

#3 – IQVIA

Year Founded: 2016
Headquarters: Durham, North Carolina, USA
2019 Revenue: $4.14 billion
Key Offerings: Real world evidence data, clinical trial services, advanced analytics
Clients: Biopharma

Formed via the merger of IMS Health and Quintiles, IQVIA has entrenched itself as a mission-critical partner across the biopharma product lifecycle – from preclinical testing and clinical trials through post-market surveillance. It leverages the largest healthcare dataset combined from over 640M anonymous patient records, claims data, clinical trials and electronic medical records.

Advanced analytics packages layered on this data enable clients to accelerate clinical trial candidate screening, optimize trial site selection, provide competitive benchmarking, and launch more targeted marketing. Predictive sales models guide field force sizing, HCP targeting and portfolio investment decisions in the high-risk biologics market.

Over 90 of the largest 100 biopharma companies are clients, covering 85% of industry R&D investment [6]. In under 5 years, IQVIA has cemented itself as a trusted analytics leader commercializing life-changing therapies faster.

#2 – Gartner

Year Founded: 1979
Headquarters: Stamford, Connecticut, USA
2019 Revenue: $4.25 billion
Key Offerings: Technology research, IT spend forecasts, strategy consulting
Clients: CIOs and technology executives

CEO Eugene Hall pioneered Gartner‘s high-touch research and advisory model back in the 1980s as IT emerged as a strategic business function. Today its analyst experts and data-driven insight remains indispensable to CIOs managing dynamic priorities.

Gartner‘s expansive research agenda covers critical technology topics from cloud transformation and cybersecurity to fraud detection and strategic partnerships. Augmenting analyst inquiry are benchmarks like its respected Magic Quadrant comparing vendors on market impact and tech sophistication to aid platform decisions.

Consultants engage closely with clients to tailor advice using advanced data exploration tools. The barker Truth Matters podcast, Gartner blogs and global events spread insights to its 15,000 enterprise members. Amid accelerating change, Gartner‘s fact-based guidance lends confidence helping technology leaders place critical tech bets.

#1 – Nielsen Holdings

Year Founded: 1923
Headquarters: New York, USA
2019 Revenue: $6.5 billion
Key Offerings: Media measurement, consumer panels, retail analytics
Clients: Consumer brands, ad agencies, entertainment

When it comes to a 360-degree consumer view spanning attitudes, media habits and purchasing data, Nielsen remains the foremost global information and measurement company. Its data integration across television, online, mobile, IoT and offline channels provides consistency and comparability marketers demand.

Nielsen tracks consumer trends across 100+ countries through retail point-of-sale data, panels like its 38K digital ad ratings Gauge service and its influential Total Audience Report documenting media usage across every U.S. age/ethnic demographic. Such precise, currency-grade benchmarks drive analytics adoption by major brands and publishers.

CEO David Rawlinson sees adjacent market expansion opportunities to further entrench Nielsen as the intelligence backbone across its retail, media and manufacturing clients [7]. From its earliest radio and TV ratings through today‘s predictive audience models, Nielsen‘s reliable data provides the market reference to guide business in an ambiguous world.

Despite differences across specialty areas like survey research, spatial analytics, identity resolution, real world evidence platforms or retail measurement…common threads run through the world‘s largest market research companies fueling growth.

Key Drivers of Success Among Top Market Research Firms

Domain Expertise – Rather than generalists, top firms drive deep in chosen sectors to achieve market-leading capability.

Data Assets – Massive historical databases festooned with analytics provide the foundation for insight.Machine learning and artificial intelligence multiply impact.

Technology – Maintaining modern advanced analytics and delivery platforms sustains differentiation.

Talent – Skills covering both data science and subject matter expertise ensure reliable interpretations.

Brand Reputation – Longevity, thought leadership and client results build trust in recommendations.

Global Scale – Multinational delivery provides localization while enabling global initiatives.

As analytics propagates across functions, market research will continue growing in importance for both strategic and tactical business decisions. Research leaders must harness explosive data volume and complexity to serve clients. Visionary use of technology – from IoT sensors to predictive machine learning – will widen competitive gaps. Still, human inquiry, skepticism and translational ability will remain core to convert findings into action.

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