Market Research 2020 Salaries and How to Hire and Get Hired in 2021

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We made it! 2020 has been defeated.

What a year for market research and particularly market research 2020 salaries. People were furloughed and laid off, hiring went on a global freeze across all industries, and we have not seen a positive trend on salary increases (as we typically do).

On the bright side, digital transformation has made qualitative work easier and more accurate, we don’t have to travel across the country to attend a global conference, and our forecast predicts an uptick in the amount of positions becoming available in 2021.

Market Research 2020 Salaries

  • Unlike previous years, we have not seen an increase in market research 2020 salaries. This is both due to position eliminations as well as salary freezes across all industries.
  • San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest remain the highest cost of living areas, in turn having the highest salaries.
  • Boston – NYC – Los Angeles continue to compete as runners up to San Fran with high cost of living and corresponding higher salaries.
  • Technology and pharma continue to lead as the two highest paying industries.
  • The salary data we’ve collected is almost identical to the results collected in 2019.  The chart below is based on real and estimated salaries for positions we have worked on during 2020.  Some ranges are very wide as they include outliers in high and low cost of living areas within different industries.

Market Research 2020 Salaries



Supplier vs. Client Compensation

  • As you evolve within a supplier, you obtain a heavy business development component to your experience. The Director+ positions tend to have strong commission opportunity, depending on the organization. Some organizations have no cap on commission, giving candidates an opportunity to double their salary.
  • On the client-side, as you grow internally, you obtain a higher bonus structure, long term incentives and stock (depending on the company). Some companies even still offer pension plans, stipends for health & wellness, and other benefits.

Who is Hiring?

  • Every company, supplier or client-side, is experiencing something different. It all depends on what consumers are buying, how they are thinking or how adaptable a supplier’s solutions are. The suppliers who are flourishing at the moment are those who adapted quickly, providing COVID based solutions.
  •  At research suppliers the “doer” positions are open. Whether this is due to layoffs of senior level staff or an influx of work is a bit of a mystery. We are also seeing an increase in “seller” positions across digital SaaS.
  • On the client-side, if you see an opening, it’s because that company views research as a necessity within their organization. Now is a great time to be applying and networking in order to find your next position.
  • Key industries that are hiring: pharmaceutical, grocery, CPG and technology.

What Do Companies Want?

  • The perfect fit. Given the influx of candidates in the market place, companies are keen on taking their time and finding exactly what they are looking for.
  • Flexible candidates. We are all still figuring out this interview process. Timelines are longer and connection issues happen. It is harder to create a personal connection over the screen.
  • Passion and tenacity. Let your passion for research come to life when you’re speaking about projects you’ve worked on.
  • Preparation. You might be interviewing for five roles at once, but don’t take any interview process for granted. Be prepared and do your research.

What Do Candidates Want?

  • A flexible work-life culture. A genuine, honest culture with flexibility for children and real life is now more important than ever.
  • Remote capabilities. Whether it’s full time remote or a couple days a week, candidates are requesting flexibility to work remote as needed.
  • Diversity and inclusion. Having a diverse culture continues to be of the utmost importance and a key question candidates have during the interview process.
  • Psychologically safe environments. Feeling like your work makes a difference, that you’re listened to, and an ability to connect and collaborate seems to be a more common candidate request than in years past.

2021 looks promising and has to be less daunting than 2020. If you’re looking to bring on new staff or interested in networking for future roles, reach out to Smith Hanley Associates‘ Market Research and Consumer Insights Executive Recruiters Lindsey Bartlett at lbartlett@smithhanley.com or Daniel Wilberschied  at dwilberschied@smithhanley.com.

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