How we built the largest market research community in the world

Toluna now has a community of 40 million respondents. Founder Frédéric-Charles Petit explains the origins
Frédéric-Charles Petit
Toluna founder Frederic-Charles Petit

I started my career as a corporate lawyer. When I began, my goal was to create a law firm and build my own practice. But when the dotcom era began, I became intrigued by the world of the “new economy.” This innovation boom and the potential of the internet captured my imagination and generated my idea to start a different kind of business.

Regardless of the dot com crash, which created the acronym of B-to-C (back to consulting), I had faith in my planned new venture. That was the beginning of Toluna, which was founded in 2000. From Toluna’s inception, I believed that consumer opinions would change the interaction between brands, consumers, and ecommerce, and forever transform the market research industry into a mass market and social experience. This belief drove us to build the first custom research community in Europe, which was then extended in 2006 when we introduced DIY research for the enterprise market.

We wanted to make Toluna the most relevant research partner for the enterprise market, and to help generate insights in an agile manner at scale. These were deliberately revolutionary steps that led to us pioneering online panels through our vast social voting community and launching key elements of online data collection, including survey routing technology, dynamically profiled panels, and more. Each of these innovations reflected Toluna’s core vision: taking bold steps to achieve great success for our clients.

As CEO, my role develops as the company evolves. I carefully listen to the market and use that input to formulate, refine, and execute the company’s vision. Our team must have confidence in our direction—as well as the humility, passion, and challenger mentality to succeed and bring true innovation to the industry.

The market research industry has experienced seismic shifts in the way that data is gathered and how insights are used to influence customer behaviour. This means that the voices of Toluna panellists have grown even more important as marketers seek to understand consumers’ shifting buying preferences. Growing a quality consumer insights panel to offer real-time, on-demand insights that can inform business decisions worldwide literally puts our clients’ audiences right at the heart of their business—and Toluna is home to the largest influencer community in the world, with a panel of over 40 million unique consumers and counting. We call our panellists “influencers” because that’s ultimately what they are—using their voices to spark positive change in the world around them.

Many factors impact a panellist’s experience, enthusiasm, and willingness to stay with the panel, and—much like consumer sentiment—those factors constantly change. It’s our responsibility to identify what keeps panellists motivated, and that’s why we employ a user-centric approach that we call “lifecycle digital marketing.” This enables us to put our influencers at the heart of the experience—one which we constantly review and enhance by listening and responding to their feedback.

Today’s market research industry has a significant opportunity to embrace a new business model which delivers value for the 21st century business, but it’s important to embrace it with passion. Business leaders who take calculated risks and have the courage to quickly make difficult decisions will always do better than those who take no risks at all. Decisiveness is a critical part of good leadership—and often too much time is wasted through procrastination.

We have ambitious plans for Toluna as we work to democratise the research process through automation and technology, and simplify traditionally complex, static, and time-intensive research initiatives for global brands. The backbone of all our plans is our Toluna Influencer community. We are ever-mindful of our responsibility to create added value for our influencers to keep them engaged and keep Toluna at the forefront of their minds. This cultivates brand loyalty and, in turn, enables us to deliver high-quality, on-demand insights to our global clients in real time.

My ambition has always been to ensure Toluna delivers measurable value for organisations and delivers the results and benefits they need. From CPG to media and entertainment, financial services to travel and leisure, we work in close collaboration with brands across multiple sectors to help them innovate, ideate, establish best pricing and measure the impact of their products, services, and communications. Ultimately, we ensure the health of their brands with market research delivered at the speed and accuracy required in today’s digital age.

Written by
Frédéric-Charles Petit
CEO of Toluna
June 27, 2022