Interview with Frank Drewes, Toluna / Harris Interactive, and Sebastian Sorger, Norstat “We expect that between pure DIY and full service, further types of cooperation will become established”

Week of Market Research WoM22 kicks off in May – with numerous presenations, webinars, events and pitches. The agencies Toluna and Norstat will also be there as sponsors. Frank Drewes, Toluna / Harris Interactive (pictured left) and Sebastian Sorger, Norstat (right) talk about what's going on in their companies, about current topics in the industry and about their WoM22 sessions.

Week of Market Research Interview: Frank Drewes, Toluna / Harris interactive & Sebastian Sorger, Norstat

“We expect that between pure DIY and full service, further types of cooperation will become established.”

WoM22 kicks off in May – the online festival for the insights industry, with numerous presentations, webinars, events and pitches. The agencies Toluna and Norstat will also be there as sponsors. Frank Drewes, Toluna / Harris Interactive (pictured on the left) and Sebastian Sorger, Norstat (right) talk about what's going on in their companies, about current topics in the industry and about their WoM22 sessions – in an interview with


"Digital events are only a temporary hype" – what do you think of this statement?

Frank Drewes: Digital events are certainly no longer seen as a makeshift as they were at the beginning of the pandemic; many of the events in the last two years were too good for that. The fact that lectures can easily be held online, including productive Q&A sessions, was clear from the start. But satisfactory digital alternatives were also quickly found for informal networking. Therefore, we do not believe that there will be any face-to-face events without a digital component in the future.

Sebastian Sorger: To me that statement is superficial. Webinars have been around for a long time. With regard to trade fairs, however, I believe that people prefer to meet face-to-face. Nobody visits virtual booths or lectures all day over several days. The Week of Market Research with the individualized program is a good compromise here.


You are not only a WoM22 sponsor, but you also contribute to the festival agenda yourself. What can participants look forward to?

Frank Drewes: Our presentation is on the topic of innovative revenue models. The advancing digitalisation enables more and more manufacturers of durable consumer goods to stabilise their revenues through additional services to the actual product, keyword digital value creation. For a leading global manufacturer of consumer electronics, we have developed a conjoint-analytical approach that can be used to optimise such bundles of products and services, including their payment modalities.

Sebastian Sorger: Together with the company DADORA, we have developed a special solution in which we combine the advantages of classic market research with new techniques such as AI-supported text analysis of large amounts of data. 


Why should your event at the WdM not be missed?

Frank Drewes: We think that digital value creation will blur the boundaries between products and services in the next few years, making completely new revenue models conceivable. Market researchers do not often have the opportunity to accompany such a development. We hope that our presentation will inspire participants and provide them with ideas.

► Sign up: "A little more? Designing and evaluating innovative revenue models" – webinar in German with Frank Drewes, May 11, at 10 amFrank Drewes, May 11, at 10 am

Sebastian Sorger: After an initial setup regarding the industry and overall topic we can analyze millions of discussions by consumers on the Internet and then develop a data-supported questionnaire. With a representative survey, we then check whether the hypothesis developed in the first step is correct or not. This is how we generate new and sometimes surprising perspectives.

► Sign up: ”The best of both worlds: Data Science meets classic market research” – webinar in German with Sebastian Sorger and  Dr. Johanna Schönberger, May 9, at 1 pm


At last there is light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is tapering off. What has happened in your agency in the last two years? What does the "new normal" look like?

Frank Drewes: The "new normal" is a significantly higher share of working from home, which will probably not drop back to the old level even after the pandemic. How few problems there were during the changeover had honestly surprised us ourselves. What was a little lacking in the last two years was the informal exchange between colleagues, regardless of the occasion. A partial return to the office will certainly provide more opportunity for this again.

Sebastian Sorger: We work hybrid with an appropriate hygiene concept. In general the Norstat Group has grown strongly and profitably.


What do you consider to be the top trend in market research at the moment?

Frank Drewes: The top trends are still agility and DIY market research. Our impression is that there is currently a consolidation of supply and demand, i.e. the tools are increasingly technologically mature and the users are adept at using them. It will be interesting to see whether other implementation models will establish themselves between DIY and full service, for example consultancy services based on DIY data and Do-It-Together models such as those we already offer.

Sebastian Sorger: Buyers of market research services with no research background believe that they can do research alone with pure DIY tools or data analytics. Of course there are use cases where this works. But hopefully no CEO will make a major investment decision on the basis of this methods. Institutes and field service providers must jointly demonstrate their added value .




More and more consumer insights platforms (including you) advertise that they can elicit answers within minutes and in real time. What requirements does a panel have to meet in order to keep this promise?

Frank Drewes: The requirements are sufficient panel size, willingness to participate and quality of participation. All these conditions are necessary, none of them is sufficient. Therefore, we currently still see quite large differences in the real performance of different DIY offerings on the market.


What differentiates you from other panels?

Frank Drewes: As the first end-to-end real-time consumer intelligence platform, we not only provide our clients with the technology to easily and quickly collect and process agile insights. They also have direct and seamless access to our global consumer panels as well as to our experienced quantitative and qualitative market researchers, who support them in getting the most out of the platform for their company and assist them in all project phases if desired. By the way, we also use Toluna Start for our own projects, so ensuring high methodological quality and excellent usability is a priority for us and our clients.


How do you think online access panels will develop in the future?

Frank Drewes: Our impression is that there is a growing demand for consulting services around the use of the platform, from questionnaire design to data evaluation, interpretation and presentation. Therefore, we expect that between pure DIY and full service, further types of cooperation will become established. Toluna and Harris Interactive as full-service providers can provide advisory support at any stage of a DIY project, and at the same time we see platform providers establishing and expanding advisory teams. DIY providers who shy away from this step could integrate an open marketplace for consulting services into their platforms, where consulting services around DIY projects are tendered and awarded.




The market for online access panels has cleared up significantly in the last twelve months. Where will Norstat position itself in the future? 

Sebastian Sorger: Norstat has also bought numerous companies in recent months. Consolidation is normal in any industry at some point. We want to become the leading data collection agency in Europe and we are on the right track.


The term artificial intelligence (AI) is not clearly defined and almost everyone has a different idea of it. Which AI are we talking about with your new tool AI-INSIGHTS VALIDATOR and which process is controlled by it?

Sebastian Sorger: On blogs and forums, many thousands of people talk unsolicited and in detail about their wishes and problems. Our partner collects this data automatically and anonymously and uses artificial intelligence, big data and text analytics to identify what is important to people, what inspires them or what drives them.


The Norstat team in Germany has changed a lot in the last twelve months. Longstanding employees have been replaced. Where does Norstat Germany stand today?

Sebastian Sorger: In Germany, we deliberately started a change process 2 years ago in order to adapt the company to the changed market conditions and to position it for the future. This process has been completed and a new team is motivated and determined to inspire existing and completely new customers with high data quality and service orientation. The feedback we are currently getting shows that this strategy has worked.



Frank Drewes joined Harris Interactive in 2008. He studied Psychology with focus on organizational psychology and psychological diagnostics and has more than 20 years market research experience. As Director Marketing Science he is responsible for the development and implementation of innovative market research tools at Harris Interactive and supports the project team in designing and analyzing surveys.

Sebastian Sorger graduated in educational psychology in Munich and attended further training courses in the commercial field, including at Harvard Business School. Before joining Norstat, he worked in the management of service and IT companies, e.g. as sales manager at a listed IT consultancy or as CEO at a digital joint venture between Volkswagen and the Boston Consulting Group.

The interview was originally published in German on – here.

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