Some of the largest market research companies have cemented their positions over decades, but others have managed to rake in billions of dollars in revenue, despite only cropping up in the past few years. Either way, market research companies make the world go round. They provide crucial information, insight, and consulting services to businesses in every industry.
The reasons why these companies are so important, and have found so much success, are multifaceted. For one thing, every company has a ‘market’ to reach. That alone makes market research an understandably relevant service, regardless of how large the company is, or what industry it operates in.
But in a world filled with online surveillance, carefully monitored consumer demographics, and tons of data, market research has found itself to be even more invaluable. The companies with their hands on that precious, plentiful data are bound to be important! So, with all this in mind, let’s explore the 10 largest market research companies in the world, ranked by revenue.
#10: Westat – 590 million
Westat, an employee-owned company founded in 1963, starts off this list. It generated 590 million USD in revenue in 2019 by providing market research services to companies in a variety of industries. The company mainly focuses on health, social policy, education, and transportation; but, as might be expected, it also conducts studies on general science and technology. Westat’s focus on these four main categories is part of the reason for its growth.
Although those categories are all high-paying niches, even more important for Westat’s success is its focus on survey design. Westat’s offerings are mostly centered around conducting studies and creating unique, functional survey designs for each of its clients. Overall, Westat is doing incredibly well in an industry, and economy, that rarely uses the employee ownership model.
#9: Information Resources, Inc. – 1.2 billion
More widely known as IRI, Information Resources Incorporated is an American market research company. It brought in 1.2 billion in revenue during 2019, doubling the earnings of Westat. IRI, too, specializes in certain industries. This is common for market research companies, but it becomes less common the more successful the company is. Regardless, IRI caters to CPG, retail, health and beauty, and media businesses.
IRI claimed to operate within 95% of the above categories on the Fortune 100 list. It’s a tall claim, considering they have 5,000 clients worldwide. In addition, IRI only began to integrate AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) into their analytics software in 2019. Versatile, high-tech market research software is another common theme amongst the best market research companies. Although Information Resources, Inc. isn’t quite at the top, it certainly stands out from the crowd.
#8: CoStar Group – 1.39 billion
Clocking in at 1.39 billion in revenue for 2019, the CoStar Group is an often used – but somewhat lesser known – market research company. The CoStar Group name isn’t as well advertised as other ‘hip’ companies like Ipsos or Salesforce; at least in the general sense. That may be because CoStar focuses on the real estate industry. Many market research companies end up being generalists, especially at the top of the food chain.
CoStar stands out by being a market research company that has a clearly defined niche. After being founded in 1987, CoStar Group has catered to the biggest multifamily and commercial real estate companies over the years. In the process, the company has become a world leader in housing and property data. They have, according to their website, “the most comprehensive database of real estate data throughout the US, Canada, and U.K.”
You might also know this company by its subsidiaries, including the popular rental housing listing website Apartments.com.
#7: GfK – 1.67 billion
GfK stands for “growth from knowledge,” and that’s exactly the promise they offer to the companies in their care. This market research company is another old-timer; it was first established back in 1934. In actuality, their name comes from the German phrase “Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung,” meaning Association for Consumer Research. That’s far less interesting than the new English name that they’ve taken on, though.
Although GfK is a whopping 88 years old, it’s far from outdated or archaic. As of 2020, they use data analytics and AI technology to provide a special forecasting and recommendation platform – just one of their innovations in the field of market research. Another innovation was introduced in 2004, when GfK launched StarTrack. It was the most advanced global data warehouse system back then.
With continued innovation and a clear promise to customers (growth from knowledge), GfK’s success is no surprise. Overall, GfK raked in 1.67 billion in revenue in 2019.
#6: IHS Markit – 2.11 billion
IHS Markit used to exclusively provide information services before it merged with S&P Global in 2022. Now, it’s making about 2.11 billion in revenue a year, as of 2019, and serves a variety of industries with its data and tools. Although this company isn’t quite a jack of all trades, it’s certainly close. Some of the industries it helps include governmental/civil, financial, tech, aerospace, defense and security, and automotive.
With its massive database, IHS Markit is able to help all of these verticals equally. Similarly, it has tens of offerings for its customers, helping them make informed business decisions. These include the usual marketing and forecasting tools, as well as risk analytics.
But IHS Markit also gives its customers product design solutions, trading services, and more. The universality of IHS Markit is what helps it outperform GfK and CoStar Group in size and revenue.
#5: Ipsos – 2.24 billion
Ipsos is a popular name in the marketing world, not to be confused with the makeup subscription company Ipsy. It was founded in 1975 by Didier Truchot and is headquartered in Paris, France. This central location and Ipsos’s long-lasting history have allowed it to be a successful multinational market research firm. In 2019, Ipsos brought in 2.24 billion in revenue.
Ipsos’s wide reach is evidenced by the locations of its offices. They’re spread across 90 different countries and employ 16,530 people in total. As for the business side of things, Ipsos has companies in just about any industry covered. It also does more qualitative research and consultancy work than some of the other large market research companies.
What’s more, Ipsos is well-known for its business consulting, which is supported by its cache of data. That’s not to say that Ipsos doesn’t do quantitative market research, however. If you’ve ever heard of Ipsos I-Say, a paid survey-taking app, then you’ve run into Ipsos’s customer research work.
#4: Kantar – 2.87 billion
Kantar’s 2.87 billion in 2019 revenue is what landed it in the top 4 largest market research companies. It’s an easy name to reach for in the field of market research, although it’s a relatively young company. It was founded 29 years ago, in 1993. Like the majority of other companies on this list, Kantar is in control of huge swaths of data, which it uses to give businesses market insight and consulting.
It’s a truly universal company, offering customers a wide variety of research options, which stretch from general purchase data to neuroscience polls. What makes Kantar truly stand out is its quality. The company is extremely research-focused, which includes both quantitative and qualitative work on both a large and small scale.
Want data that will predict long-term trends in your specific market environment? Kantar can do that. Want your market research study to include ethnography, semiotics, or any other niche research topic? Kantar can do that, too.
3#: IQVIA – 4.14 billion
IQVIA feels extremely new compared to every other market research company on this list, especially for a company that’s in the top 3. It was founded just 8 years ago in 2016, but that isn’t the whole story; it was actually formed in a merger. IQVIA is the result of Quintiles and IMS Health combining their data and health expertise. As you might have guessed, IQVIA caters specifically to the healthcare industry.
It’s a massively profitable industry to be in. The result? IQVIA made 4.14 billion in revenue in 2019. Specialized niche aside, IQVIA has found its success because of its enormous collection of healthcare information. It has over 800 million non-identifiable patient records, including sales information, promotional data, prescription data, social media, and medical records.
That type of ever-growing data takes up well over 35 petabytes in their systems. The reward is that IQVIA provides market research services to over 85% of the world’s pharmaceuticals and employs over 82,000 employees. Whether those numbers are scary or impressive, IQVIA is a very accomplished company.
#2: Gartner – 4.25 billion
The marketing company Gartner Research edges out IQVIA only slightly, with 4.25 billion in revenue in 2019. It was founded in 1972 and has been consistently providing industry leaders with data ever since. Gartner Research’s focus strays from consulting work, and it uses a unique subscription model. A subscription could cost a company $20-$30K yearly for access to Gartner’s research data alone. Analytics will up the price by $10-$20K.
Unsurprisingly, Gartner’s subscription is worth it. It gives companies access to a giant, constantly increasing database of research content, data, and even a network of around 2,300 research experts. How much access you get depends on what you’re willing to pay, of course.
Despite the steep prices, Gartner Research is a well-renowned company, especially among marketers and company leaders working in IT. Although there is research available to benefit multiple industries, IT resources are the main focus.
#1: Nielsen – 6.5 billion
Nielsen takes the crown as the largest market research company. In 2019 alone, the company made 6.5 billion USD in revenue across its two business units: Nielsen Global Media and Nielsen Global Connect. It’s included in the S&P 500 as a token of its success. Each unit helps businesses with market research, but they do it for different industry groupings. Nielsen Global Media, as the name implies, helps media/advertising companies.
These companies are often expected to have market research insight included in the work they put out, especially in the case of advertising agencies. Nielsen Global Media provides companies with metrics, consulting, and lots of data. Nielsen Global Connect works with consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, which is a wildly different vertical than media. Still, the work that Global Connect does isn’t all that different.
It’s all about providing companies with information that they can use, decision-making tools that help minimize human error, and expert consulting advice that steers them in the right direction. Nielsen actually only employs 44,000 people worldwide compared to IQVIA’s 82,000 employees. But in terms of revenue, Nielsen still reigns supreme as the largest market research company.