European Consumer Research: Frontier Issues


W. Fred van Raaij (1979) ,"European Consumer Research: Frontier Issues", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 06, eds. William L. Wilkie, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 18-19.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 1979      Pages 18-19


W. Fred van Raaij, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

It seems impossible to generalize over the kinds of consumer research that is carried out in various European countries. Many structural differences exist between the economic systems in Western and Eastern Europe. Other differences are observed between the Northern and the Southern European countries. While in Eastern Europe all market research is carried out by public agencies, in Western Europe, both public and private agencies carry out market and consumer research.

Flemming Hansen (Copenhagen School of Business Administration and Economics, Denmark) described the commercial consumer research carried out in Western Europe, mainly by private agencies. The number of market researchers in the various countries can be estimated from the ESOMAR membership directory. The United Kingdom (75) and West-Germany (68) have most ESOMAR members, followed by The Netherlands (42), France (40), Italy (35), and Switzerland (33). Spain (17), Denmark (16), Belgium (15), Finland (12), and Norway (11) have a lower number of members.

The total world market for market research in 1977 is 735 M, (million pounds). In North-America, 340 M, is expended; in Europe, 275 M,. Of this amount, the turnover in West-Germany is 87 M,; in the United Kingdom 52 M,; in France 51 M,; and in The Netherlands 20.4 M,.

The users of market and consumer research in Europe are manufacturing companies (28%), food, drink, and tobacco companies (22%), advertising agencies (15%), academic institutions (10%), and services/trade (6%). Noncommercial research is of increasing importance. Sponsors of noncommercial research are the European Community (EEC) in Brussels, national and local governments, public and academic institutes, media, and private foundations (e.g. Volkswagen Foundation).

Comparing the costs of market research in the European countries, the United Kingdom offers the lowest prices for market research. Tremendous differences are found between countries and between agencies within countries. France, West-Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland are expensive countries to carry out market research. Intermediate price levels are found in Italy, Belgium, Denmark, and The Netherlands.

Susan Douglas (CESA, France; now New York University) described the consumer research carried out in academic institutions. Compared with the U.S.A., not very much consumer research is carried out at European universities. The emphasis is on consumerism research and research for consumer policy. Factors that seem to block the full development of consumer research are the lack of funding and the communication (language) problems between countries. The emphasis in training is more on philosophy of science and less on techniques and methodology. In the various countries, some academic institutes conduct research on an international level and publish reports in English. Some researchers, especially in France, received their training in the U.S.A. Many publications written in a national language remain unknown to researchers in other countries.

The European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management in Brussels plays an important role in creating a network of researchers and a communications center. This institute established the European Academy for Advanced Research in Marketing, which has nearly 400 members from twenty countries, including the U.S.A. and Canada. The next annual conference of the Academy will be held in Bronigen, The Netherlands, April 10-12, 1979.

The Annual ESOMAR conference will be held in Brussels, Belgium, September 2-6, 1979 with the theme "The Challenge of the Eighties."



While the Academy is a typical marketing research organization, the European chapter of the Association for Consumer Research will coordinate and stimulate consumer research from the academic, industrial, and consumer protection perspective.

Fred van Raaij (University of Tilburg, The Netherlands) described the trend in Europe from micro consumer research to macro consumer research, or from research for specific brands to research for government and public institutions. Scheme 1 gives two circuits, the micro (inner) circuit and the macro (outer) circuit. These circuits are similar in structure. Consumer choice behavior (specific brand choice, brand loyalty, innovative behavior) influences the market structure of brand shares, market composition, competition, and substitution. Economic choice behavior forms the macro circuit (generic product choice, spending vs. saving decisions, investment, demand) influences the economic situation of a country, inflation, and economic growth.

Marketers react to their perception of the market structure by implementing marketing mix factors in order to increase their market share, consumer satisfaction, and their company's profit. Economic policy makers react to the economic fluctuations, using taxation, interest rates, wage policies in order to maintain or increase citizen's well-being.

The emphasis in Europe tends to shift to the macro circuit leading to research on consumer well-being and satisfaction, consumer complaining behavior, the environmental effects of consumption, and research on poverty. This research is carried out on a cross-national level by the European Community (EEC): "The European Consumer" (1976) and "The Perception of Poverty" (1977), and by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), mainly on social indicators. On a national level, the proportion of government-sponsored research increases in most European countries. Governmental agencies tend to give priority to political problems over consumer problems to be researched on a large scale. In many countries, social indicators measuring well-being or quality of life, even including psychosomatic indicators, are developed.


"The European Consumer: His Interests, Aspirations, and Information," Brussels: Commission of the European Community, Wetstraat, 1049 Brussels, Belgium. May 1976.

"The Perception of Poverty in Europe," Brussels: Commission of the European Community. March 1977.

Useful Addresses

European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management, Secretariat: Ms. Gerry Dirickx, Stephanieplein 20, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.

European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR), Secretariat: Raadhuisstraat 15, 1016 DB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

European Journals

European Journal of Marketing, MCB Publications, 198/200 Keighly Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England BD9 4JQ.

European Research (ESOMAR), Editor European Research, Kluwer, P. O. Box 23, Deventer, The Netherlands

Journal of Consumer Policy, Associate Editor Heiner Imkamp, University Hohenheim, P. O. Box 106, 7000 Stuttgart 70, West-Germany.

Journal of the Market Research Society, The Market Research Society, 15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PF, U.K.

Market Research Abstracts, The Market Research Society, 15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PF, U.K.



W. Fred van Raaij, Tilburg University, The Netherlands


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 06 | 1979

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