By Adam Warner
It’s me, the content chef of market research and your favourite conference blogger. And here I am in Amsterdam pulling together the myriad flavours of ESOMAR Congress to create a balanced and nuanced Michelin standard dish straight out of the hot content oven.
In full transparency, I’m an ex-ESOMAR staffer, this is going on an ESOMAR platform and I’m a marketer, so I am totally biased. But for the first time in around a decade I was attending as a pure delegate, nothing to organise for ESOMAR or the Keen as Mustard team, apart from the usual client catch-ups. And it was a dream.
By Jackie Lorch
This year, ESOMAR and SSI share milestone anniversaries.
ESOMAR is celebrating 70 years as the international research association, promoting the value of research and providing ethical and professional guidance to its members.
SSI marks 40 years of partnering with researchers to help them get reliable, accurate data for their research. From its roots creating the first-ever commercially available telephone sample to today providing multi-mode access to millions of respondents across the globe and a range of other research services, SSI has seen many changes in its four decades.
Anniversaries are a good time to look back at where we’ve been – and ahead to where we’re going.
MR of Days Gone By
The basic goal of market research has always been finding the right people, asking them the right questions and understanding their answers. In the 1930s, Daniel Starch was a research pioneer in on-the-street surveying to gauge the effectiveness of ads in newspapers and periodicals.
Gallup took Starch’s methods a step further with “aided recall;” withholding ads and asking respondents to rely on their memories of ads they had encountered and where they had seen them. Today we recognize that relying on recall is far from optimal. It is very difficult for someone to remember what ads they have seen or which products they bought and how much they paid.
Focus groups and in-person interviews allowed researchers to spend more time with respondents, but a big leap forward in research came with the arrival of commercially-available random digit telephone sampling in the 1970s. This is when, some would say, our industry perfected the art of calling people during dinner!
Phone technology made finding and surveying people easier and cheaper, but the rise of call-screening, mobile phones and number portability (so that one’s area code no longer identified where someone lived) made phone methodologies more challenging and expensive to execute.
Online research arrived in 2000. Online self-completion survey research was faster and more cost-effective than using live telephone interviewers. But the industry made few changes to questionnaires to accommodate this new method, and without an interviewer to encourage and clarify, there were quality challenges in the early days. More recently, lower response rates and respondents’ preference for giving their opinions on their cell phones has created challenges for this methodology too.
Market Research Today
Technology continues to transform research, and the pace of change is increasing, even for an industry that has been notoriously slow to change and adapt. Today, researchers are finding new and innovative ways to use mobile to engage with respondents: apps, geo-location, and in-context diary feedback among others.
We still have much to learn. Some of the biggest challenges facing researchers today are:
- Getting people to give us their opinions: We must make the respondent experience central to our research efforts.
- Maintaining trust in research data quality: We have made big strides in using technology to prevent fraud and identify inattention but we must continue to work to ask the right questions and let people answer them when and where they choose if we are to get the richest, most accurate data.
Delivering insights at the speed of today’s business: Using technology to automate many aspects of research will allow researchers to focus instead on what they do best: identifying the research problem, crafting a solution and telling the story. And automation can help researchers do this faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Demonstrating value and staying relevant: If business people can now ask their own questions and do their own analyses using DIY tools and dashboards, how does research earns its keep and demonstrate its specific value to customers?
Market Research of the Future
Where is market research headed next? In the next decade or so:
- Much of what we do today with human labor will be done by machine.
- We’ll ask a fraction of the number of questions we do now and use secondary data to understand much of the “who, what, when and where.” This should make for a shorter, easier and more pleasant experience for the people who give us their opinions.
- People’s attitudes to sharing data will evolve. This, along with data privacy legislation is likely to significantly impact the data we can access. Today people are concerned about how their personal data is stored and used, but they still use social media, play location-based games, and automate their homes with app-based devices. Will privacy concerns outweigh convenience or fun at some point? Advances like implanted microchips will push the envelope.
- The Internet of Things: Smart devices in private homes are just the beginning. Cities like Barcelona are already using smart, networked technology like street sensors and LED lights to anticipate citizens’ needs and reduce energy waste and pollution. How can we tap into the vast number of networked objects to better understand and anticipate people’s needs – without being overly intrusive and seeming “creepy?” Balancing convenience against the risk of intrusiveness will be a major challenge.
- Biometrics and neuroscience. The ability to easily track activity via biometrics, and to measure emotion by understanding changes within the brain is in its infancy, and has many potential uses in research. Will it become commonplace to tap into people’s brains to predict their behavior more accurately than simply asking them?
Regardless of how we find the people and collect the data, the fundamentals – knowing who we want to understand better and what we want to know from them, then correctly interpreting their data – will remain. Getting reliable data about how humans think, feel and behave is a timeless need.
Jackie Lorch is VP Global Knowledge Management, SSI
As we contemplate 70 years of ESOMAR history, Jo Bowman asks three client-side researchers to do the almost-impossible: predict how things will change in the 70 years ahead.
Back in 1947, as the world contemplated the future of the newly independent India and Pakistan, the rise of the USSR as a superpower and, in lighter moments, the Roswell UFO incident, who could have envisaged the world of 2017?
By Jaime Veiga Mateos & Joshua Saxon
Studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day. And as marketers are presented with more and more channels to reach their customers, that number is growing rapidly.
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.