The day research stopped feeling like research
By Bianca Vucescu
In both quantitative and qualitative studies, quality is a hot topic. Fraud prevention is a first step in increasing the quality of research, yet how can we know beforehand if a real participant will offer us the insights we are looking for? We keep talking about data health and data cleaning. And while it’s still a mandatory practice, what if we didn’t have to dedicate any time and energy on this? What if participants would continuously provide high-quality data in research studies? What if we could attract and engage consumers for the long term?
I hear a lot about so-called ’professional participants‘, those who aim to qualify for as many surveys as possible, are driven by extrinsic motivation and give the ’correct‘ answers rather than to provide honest feedback. This affects our industry but also our clients, who take decisions based on this ‘dishonest’ feedback. But then again, aren’t we the ones who reap this behavior based on what we sowed? Aren’t we the ones who offer points, vouchers or other monetary rewards and as such encourage the ‘professional participant’? I am not saying that (monetary) incentives cannot be a part of ‘sustainable’ research, but we should strongly consider what else is valuable to people. It’s not always about money; who can put a price on experience, knowledge, entertainment, involvement or impact?
Our world is becoming increasingly fast and snappy and when conducting research, brands need to align with this reality. We cannot longer conduct endless surveys and expect people to pay attention, when we all know that the attention span is decreasing, especially amongst the younger generation. Looking at the social media landscape, we see that visual apps (like Instagram, Snapchat) have the most rapid usage growth. Isn’t that a clear indication that surveys have to follow the same path? We have to realize that what is considered as boring in ’real life’ will also be perceived as boring in research studies. Let’s not forget about how we can use technology to improve research results, get better insights and shorten the length of surveys. Neuro-marketing tools for research like facial coding, passive meters, implicit measurements, virtual reality, gamification tools can be integrated in research to achieve better and richer insights without overwhelming participants with explicit questions.
What if brands had a dedicated network, built and managed differently than today’s panels, which they could access for research as often as needed?
That’s exactly what a ’Sustainable Consumer Connection’ is: a network of relevant people who are intrinsically motivated to interact and express opinions about specific topics or brands.
The way we sample influences the human experience, so one goal while moving forward is to do so based on the people’s interests. If I feel strongly about a topic or product, I will be more likely to participate, pay more attention during the research and give my honest opinion. This will result in quality insights for the researcher. Research studies should be a positive brand touch point experience for participants. There is nothing worse than asking someone for a drink and while they are waiting to send them a message saying ’Thank you for your interest, but I would rather have a drink with someone else; so no more screen-outs and quota-fulls. Technically, one could argue that studying intrinsically motivated people does not generate random samples. That’s correct, but at least their responses are valid internally and reflect reality. In all honesty, most of the research we conduct is not as representative as we think.
Looking at the young generation, our future participants, they want to be involved more than ever, make an impact and be treated like the intelligent humans that they are. They don’t want to participate in surveys which contain questions that sometimes seem pointless to them. We encourage them to participate in research in order to shape the future of brands and products but they rarely actually know what the impact is of their contribution. Youngsters are curious and we need to feed that curiosity. So why not share with them how their input effectively impacted the future? Isn’t that an incentive which will motivate them to participate in future research?
To sum up, market research should no longer feel like market research! It should be an experience that everyone would like to take part in because it is fun and interactive, they learn something new and can help with the creation of new products.
Future research has to be in line with the traits we see in the future generation: use top-of-the-line technology and be short, snappy, visual, entertaining, relevant to the consumer. This will lead to a win-win situation, where a research activity is not only engaging but also results in fresher and more powerful insights for us researchers.
Rather than trying to keep up with the present, market research should be ahead of times. We need to accept that the old way of gathering sample is not sustainable, so let’s put the consumer at the heart of our business, empowering them and giving them the level of importance that they deserve.
Bianca Vucescu is Senior Media Buyer at InSites Consulting and one of the participants in ESOMAR’s Corporate Youth Programme.
Danielle Todd reflects on the key leanings from ESOMAR UK’s recent ‘Best of’ evening about storytelling.
By the ESOMAR USA Representatives
Although North America was unable to retain fastest growing market for research for a second year running, the overall market size has increased by almost 20% according to the latest ESOMAR Global Market Research report. But, while the overall market growth figure may have implied a slowing down, the market measure has expanded to include two additional new sectors, giving the region a net growth of 0.5%. Following on from this we asked the ESOMAR representatives in the US about the challenges, opportunities and trends in their market.
Did someone say mobile? Again?
As this series of articles continue, having looked at the LATAM, APAC an MENAP regions, we do indeed see the same patterns emerging, even more so in a developed market such as the United States. It’s of course, the conversation about mobile and internet penetration rearing its head again. Jackie Lorch, Vice President, Global Knowledge Management, SSI USA, comments, “With online penetration approaching 90%, online is the go-to data collection methodology, and don’t even think about fielding a questionnaire that can’t be completed on a mobile phone.” Yet, although this knowledge is commonplace, it doesn’t mean the industry has caught up yet. With US smartphone penetration near 60%, survey participants are increasingly choosing to take surveys on mobile devices. Lorch observes, “The industry has not made it a priority to put participants first and design mobile-friendly questionnaires. Likewise mobile in-the-moment research presents wonderful opportunities to interact at the moment of decision-making with video or image capture. Yet we have largely failed to engage.”
This sentiment is echoed by Melanie Courtright, EVP, Products and Client Services, Research Now. “The biggest challenge is learning how to evolve for mobile devices — the questionnaires themselves have to change, and we are really struggling with moving fast enough in America.” Although the market research world might be lagging behind, there are big opportunities here, comments Courtright, “Biggest opportunity is in automation of basic research types so that through standardization we can integrate other forms of data better and spend more time on interpretation and make decisions more quickly.”
While the rest of the world might have an inbuilt stereotype of Americans (can anyone blame them, Donald Trump anyone?) – it couldn’t be further from the truth. Lorch comments, “Most of the stereotypes you have heard about America are exaggerations. Most Americans enjoy foods other than burgers, fries and buckets of cola and many are well-informed about and interested in other countries in the world!” Indeed, Courtright observes, “The US is very diverse, both in business and with consumers. It’s like many small countries grouped together, so to try and approach it as one market is not possible.”
The US shouldn’t be treated as one country – this is a population of almost 319 million people, spanning across more than 9 million km. That’s a lot of people, can we really expect them to have the same thoughts and opinions? Lorch expands on this further, “Different geographies, attitudes and cultures can be found within its borders. You’re likely to find doing business in the fast-paced, intense, “in-your-face” culture of New York City different from the more laid-back, proudly non-conformist, technology-driven Northern California, for example. Street signs you may see along the way help tell the story!”
Very visible in the US, but not just limited to here, is a major new societal trend that will impact research – fragmentation – in almost every aspect of modern life. Lorch notes, “From people’s time and attention, the data sources they use, their digital device habits, to the diversity of their beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes and interests. Institutions in the media, government and communities that used to help define large groups among the population have largely vanished to be replaced by customisation of the individual experience to a massive degree. As society fragments, are our traditional research taxonomies relevant anymore? We still group people by age, by ethnicity, by geography, in ways that haven’t changed for generations. We should instead consider life stages, and new attitudinal groupings as ways to better understand the consumer. This is equally true for B2B research where titles, responsibilities and purchase patterns are changing rapidly and we need to target based on the reality of today’s job functions and responsibilities.”
There are many trends impacting on America, and indeed society at large, none more so than technology. Lorch comments, “The idea of technology as not just enabler, but also driver of our business is a phenomenon noted by Unilever’s Stan Sthanunathan. Technology has made research more efficient, and improved its quality for companies who have invested in it. Now technology is doing more: actively directing where research will be and go in the future. It is taking over many research tasks that humans used to do. The challenge is that powerful technology and the expertise to run it is usually only available to the larger players, so many smaller enterprises need to find a new raison d’etre, or risk being swallowed up.”
Big data and the internet of things will also shape the future of market research, but we first need to get over the problems. “The practical and operational obstacles in the way of getting value from all the data now available are not trivial, yet the potential rewards are massive. If we can overcome the obstacles, research can use big data to answer the what, when and where questions and surveys to get at the why and what next – resulting in shorter, more interesting surveys and more accurate factual data.”
And a further trend to look out for, comes from Courtright, who comments, “A trend we’re seeing is definitely privacy and what that means in a world of cookies and meters and observational data collection. And in turn, society’s reaction to those practices, along with their expectations of transparency and responsibility.”
How to do business here
While we know we need to let go of those stereotypes of Americans we seen in the media, how do we do business here?
Lorch has some sound advice, “Americans are informal and direct in business dealings and make decisions relatively quickly – so don’t be afraid to ask for the business and discuss specifics like delivery times and costs.” But, don’t mistake that good old American positivity for success. “A positive attitude is much admired in the US, so even if someone tells you they’re “incredibly excited” about meeting you and hearing about your product it doesn’t mean you’ve made the sale!” observes Lorch.
So what have we learnt about doing business in the United States? Don’t treat this country as one…
Special thanks to Jackie and Melanie for this article.
Jackie Lorch, Vice President, Global Knowledge Management, SSI USA
Melanie Courtright, EVP, Products and Client Services, Research Now
Global data protection developments get trickier than ever
By Kim Smouter
Sometimes you have to wait, and sometimes you have to take action
2016 was always set to be an exciting year for data protection. With the conclusion of the negotiations on the General Data Protection Regulation last December and the European Court of Justice’s ultimatum to the EU and the US to sort out the Safe Harbour programme, the workload was also going to be high for those of us guiding market research’s compliance to data protection legislation.
Enter into the fray the decision of the United Kingdom to “brexit” and you have all the ingredients for a real compliance nightmare. One thing is clear, each and every market research operator needs to weigh carefully when to intervene on business operations and when it is rather wiser to take action immediately in order to stay ahead of the curve or ahead of the enforcement actions.
ESOMAR is looking at how we keep the Code fit for purpose in this context, but I wanted to share my thoughts on two developments – one where we think action is needed, and another where we think you should wait and see to make sure your processes also remain fit for purpose too.
Privacy Shield – the time for waiting is over
The EU and US data transfer framework continues to be significantly disrupted by the ruling of the European Court of Justice rendering the Safe Harbour Programme null and void. The Court ruled that the data transfer framework did not provide sufficient levels of protection as required by the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive. It afforded policy-makers a transition period of a few months to sort the framework out leading the Privacy Shield proposal which is currently battling to see the light of day.
A revised Privacy Shield proposal is expected in the coming months following unanimous critiques from European national data protection authorities who questioned whether it met the test set by the European Court of Justice. Privacy advocates will likely immediately challenge the Privacy Shield once its adopted meaning that this alternative solution will take significant time to come online, and may even then meet the same result as the Safe Harbour.
This decision has tremendous impact on any market research organization that transfers data to US-based entities and it includes popular tools we use every day like Dropbox or indeed common use cases like a transfer to colleagues based in the United States. With the exception of Binding Corporate Rules and Model Contractual Clauses, transfers to the United States from Europe are therefore not allowed and violate both existing and future EU data protection law.
ESOMAR, EFAMRO, MRA, and CASRO worked together in order to deliver some consistent guidance through a number of joint webinars earlier this year advising that members should essentially:
- Conduct an audit to determine what if any data was transferring from Europe to the United States,
- Update privacy policies to make explicit these data transfers to the United States,
- Adopt binding corporate rules with your US-based entities, or adopt model contractual clauses with your third-party partners
- Explore switching providers to providers based in the EU, there are many articles online to help you along the way like this one: http://www.cloudwards.net/top-10-secure-dropbox-alternatives/
Following a meeting of our Legal Affairs Committee, ESOMAR is upgrading this advice underlining that the time for waiting is over and that market research organisations that continue to operate without having followed the guidance expose themselves to significant compliance risk.
Indeed, German Data Protection Authorities have begun enforcing the decision of the European Court of Justice and have targeted three companies for illegal data transfers to the US and they can face fines of several hundred thousand euros as a result per violation.
Brexit – should I wait or should I go?
On the other spectrum, the imminent(?) departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union is inevitably exercising the C-Suite. Do we maintain investments into the United Kingdom, do we need to up stakes and move to another “safer” EU country? What about data protection, are we still going to be to be able to transfer data between the 27 EU member States and the United Kingdom? Unfortunately, a lot of these questions are probably premature.
The United Kingdom is set to enter a long and protected process of negotiations and only during its outcome will we be able to advise what are the next steps. This could last several years and during those years the United Kingdom remains a full member of the European Union with all the benefits and obligations that this entails. Accordingly, from a market research perspective, whilst the time for contingency plans may be dawning in the event your headquarters needs to move from London to one of the other capitals, there isn’t a need to implement them just yet.
From a data protection perspective, as well, it means that the United Kingdom will for the coming few years have the same data protection legal framework as the rest of the European Union. There is nothing that will change from an implementation for the next two years, so there is no need to rush any decision until the UK formally notifies its desire to leave the EU and the negotiations begin. We will then track, alongside our partners at EFAMRO, the impact this may have for market researchers operating from and to the UK.
What might happen, once the United Kingdom withdraws, is that the United Kingdom will need to apply for an adequacy decision which shouldn’t necessarily be complicated. Also, it’s important to note that changes to the way transfers to non-EU countries may also impact companies who intended their “main establishment” to be based in the UK so that their applicable data protection authority would be the ICO. It is likely that any departure of the UK from the EU would mean that a new “main establishment” would need to be notified, for example, based on your next biggest market in the EU, and accordingly you would fall under the jurisdiction of that market’s data protection authority.
Clearly the UK will have an interest in retaining access to Europe’s attractive data market and will be pressing hard to ensure that there is no undue disruption to data transfers from the continent to the UK, but it certainly should remain a consideration for market research organisations to factor in their planning cycles.
Compliance needs to move up the agenda
One aspect which is becoming clear is that the coming two years need to see data protection compliance go up the agenda for market, opinion, and social research organisations operating in Europe (regardless whether they are based in Europe, and coming from another country and collecting data on Europeans). The EU General Data Protection Regulation will start being enforced in 2018 and requires significant auditing of your business practices to align to it.
Starting the work now will be important. ESOMAR and EFAMRO are working as quickly as possible to develop guidance and support for our members. And if you want to get ahead, you can get a copy of the latest version of the General Data Protection Regulation here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2016.119.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2016:119:TOC
But also increasingly, the fragmentation of the data protection legislation across the world is going to have operational impact that can no longer be ignored or assumed to “sort itself out.” More than ever, our sector needs to be aware of the risk for example of transferring files between Europe and the US and continuing to do so without a legal basis for it. The Courts are unlikely to take kindly to the argument that it was too difficult to look for alternatives!
So whilst we might be in a world where it feels sometimes we take two steps forward only to be brought one step back, sometimes it’s about making sure you know when to pause, and you know when to move forward. It’s a journey that all our members must undertake and ESOMAR will continue to be there right with you.
Kim Smouter is Head of Public Affairs & Professional Standards at ESOMAR
London and Amsterdam – 29 June 2016
ESOMAR, the world association for market, social and opinion research, has appointed Language Connect as its official translation partner.
In providing the global voice for the data, research and insights community, ESOMAR strives to unite and offer support and guidance to professionals from all over the globe. Understanding the very important need for such guidance and support in local languages, ESOMAR is delighted to announce the launch of its multi-language online portals for its website (now available in French, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese and German). These portals are an introduction into the key services ESOMAR provides its members and the industry and are accessible live on esomar.org.
Furthermore, ESOMAR now offers all its guidelines, as well as its professional standards resources translated into the same key languages: French, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese and German, available here.
David Brett, Global Sales Director at Language Connect, comments: “Due to the ever expanding global application of its services and reference materials, ESOMAR is seeking to have its key communication platforms and reference documents available in multiple languages. We are delighted to be able to offer ESOMAR the breadth of expertise and Market Research sector knowledge to support this growth.”
Finn Raben, ESOMAR’s Director General stated: “We are delighted to have established this relationship with Language Connect, whose expertise in the translation arena, coupled with a thorough appreciation of our language needs across the world, has helped us to deliver a truly global resource for all our members and partners.”
Language Connect is a specialist Market Research language services provider and has been working in the sector for over a decade, servicing hundreds of clients across all competencies of Market Research. The company was voted Best Support Services in the MRS Operations Awards last year and is headquartered in London with offices in Munich, Singapore, New York, Istanbul, Melbourne and Dubai.
ESOMAR is the global voice for the data, research and insights community.
For 70 years, ESOMAR has brought together the research sector to share knowledge, promote best practice and agree upon the future of the industry as a community. With more than 4,900 individual members and over 500 corporate members in more than 130 countries, ESOMAR represents a network of over 35,000 researchers, all of whom agree to uphold the ICC/ESOMAR International Code, which is endorsed or adopted by over 60 national research associations worldwide.
ESOMAR is committed to advancing market research, facilitating ongoing industry dialogue through a comprehensive programme of industry-specific and thematic conferences, publications and communications as well as actively advocating self-regulation and the worldwide code of practice.