This post is by the Market Research Summit.

The Market Research Summit 2015 team talked with Rhea Fox, Head of Research with eBay UK and Steve Wills, Director of The Insight Academy, to find out more about the new approach they are proposing to prove Return on Research and Analysis, which they will be discussing at Market Research Summit 2015 on 19 May.

First of all, how have you two come together to work on this project to create a methodology for measuring Return on Research and Analysis?

SW: We run a best practice community, the Insights Management Forum, which brings together 25 major companies to focus on different issues and eBay is one of our members. We set the Forum up 10 years ago and one of the first projects we agreed to look at what how to prove ROI on insight – it was the holy grail back then and it's still the holy grail now. In recent years, we have seen companies get better and better at it – we've been working with Rhea at eBay who has particularly taken this cause to heart and created real progress.

What do you mean by Return On Analysis and Research (ROAR)?

SW: We have to be very careful about our definition. Typically ROI is something that accountants want to nail down very precisely, but the problem with this is that there will always be uncertainties. Marketing experts recognised this in developing Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) so really we are attempting something similar to ROMI for research and analysis.

Why is this such an important issue for eBay?

RF: eBay is a business that likes to measure things. We are an evidence driven business. What tech businesses like eBay can do is make small changes in process to deliver a quantifiable return in uplift, which can sometimes be huge. Softer measures, such as research and analysis, are harder to measure immediately, so it is important for us to safeguard research time and resource and to follow similar principles to the rest of the business to do this, demonstrating the value of insight beyond the data in a tangible way the business can relate to. It may be that certain researchers think they are immune to this but I've never worked in a business that has been without significant commercial pressures, where research – however valuable it is – can be seen as a non-essential cost. It's really important to safeguard our role and to prove the business value.

Do you think that the issues are as important for agencies as they are for clients?

RF: There are absolutely the same issues for clients and agencies. The sources of available Insight are multiplying, but there is not always a sufficiently disciplined approach to proving the value of insight. Agencies do need to get better at this, just as much as those of us on the client-side. At eBay we have just been through an RFP process and in the brief, we asked the agencies pitching to provide examples of their evaluation process and the ROI they've helped clients deliver, but few of them did this convincingly. We are talking about really strong, high-end boutique agencies with a generally high degree of commercial nous. I have been on the agency side and I know it's difficult, but if agencies were more aware of commercial pressures that clients were under, they would better equip themselves to help their clients with this. Even the basic stuff – don't show me percentages, show me numbers in terms of the size of the addressable audience, demonstrate the potential contribution of the insight, the potential upside in value terms etc. Following some basic principles – speaking the language of business – can help agencies get more cut through and help their clients in turn to get more cut through within their companies. This approach could also help agencies prioritise which clients they want to work with. Even by thinking about the measurable impact your work could make to that business, the potential budgets this should deliver, would help to prioritise your business development approach.

SW: Yesterday I was with a client doing some valuation around the brand audit work they do. This was an FMCG client who carries out a brand audit every 3 or 4 years. By going through the figures we were able to see how valuable this had been in terms of adding to the bottom line. We were able to ask if it could add more if it were done more frequently, say every 2 years. We proved it would add measurably – this would increase work for the agencies. At a time when agencies are seeing their business growth under threat, this more measurable approach will help agencies get extra work.

You have mentioned that you would like audience feedback to your ideas and this proposed approach to measuring ROAR – what would you like the audience to be thinking about before they come to the event?

SW: On the one hand, we are trying to put momentum behind a movement, to get their support. The other part is for audience to throw at us their concerns, the problems they face and think can't be solved. We want to build a comprehensive set of case study material that everyone can draw upon to help everyone get better at this.

Looking at the programme for this year's Market Research Summit, which sessions are you most looking forward to?

SW: I'm looking forward to the session which immediately follows ours – "The Future's Bright, the Future's Branded". Paul Buckley from GSK is part of the Forum and Lucy Davison is great – the issues they are going to raise are closely linked to the points we are making about how research needs to sell itself better and so I am looking forward to that. I am also interested to hear more about the new learnings from psychological research from Dr Aiden Gregg from the University of Southampton and the session from Forrester Research on "Decoding the Counter Intuitive Consumer".

RF: I'm looking forward to hearing from Dunnhumby and the panel discussion about big data – eBay have a lot of real-time data and I'm interested in bringing it together with more real-time research for more immediate, contextualised and fast paced insights. Also the final panel discussion on turning insights into action – this is key for me and for all clients. We are thinking increasingly about how to get cut through with our insight and how we work with integrated dashboards too – how we merge research insights and customer insights.

For more information on the agenda for Market Research Summit 2015 click here.

For more information on how to book your place to attend the Summit, click here.