By Rebecca Heaney
Congress Day 0: The Future of Market Research
Although not technically the first day of Congress, Sunday offered the opportunity for ESOMAR Congress delegates to attend workshops on a variety of topics that served as an excellent introduction to Congress, starting the week off strong with intriguing, thought-provoking, and challenging topics that face the market research industry today. At first glance, the two sessions I attended titled “The Impact of Social Research”, hosted by Gunilla Broadbent (President of the ESOMAR Foundation) and Phyllis Macfarlane (from Gfk and ESOMAR Foundation Treasurer), and “The Future of Mobile Survey Research”, presented by Roddy Knowles and Luke Sehmer from Research Now, seemed to have little in common. However, the messages of both sessions were largely concerned with the future of market research and both concluded with a compelling reminder to always keep human beings – people, not respondents, data, dollars, or numbers – in mind in the research we do.
The Need to Improve
“The Impact of Social Research” session is premised on the understanding that, as market research professionals and human beings, we have a moral obligation to use our skills and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate, particularly in developing markets. There is widespread agreement that the market research industry has a lot to offer in the “making the world a better place” space and while there are many in in the industry who are making a difference in a number of different ways, there is clearly much more that we can do.
On a completely different topic, a compelling argument for moving toward fully mobile optimized online surveys was made by Ruddy Knowles and Luke Sehmer, with statistics showing that 40% of respondents in the US are completing surveys on mobile devices (a finding that is mirrored in other countries beyond the US) and research showing that those who prefer to complete surveys on mobile devices rather than personal computers are different in terms of attitudes as well as demographics. However, while it is common knowledge in market research circles that an increasing number of individuals want to complete surveys on their mobile devices, the amount of truly mobile-friendly surveys (in terms of thoughtful questionnaire design, not just technological capabilities) really hasn’t increased much in the past few years.
In both cases, there is widespread agreement – there is no one on the other side of the issue. We all know we should do more to give back and make a positive difference in the world and, on a slightly less solemn note, make it easier for people to do surveys on their smartphones. So why don’t we?
The Need for Change
In the discussion of social research, the tension between what we, as market researchers want to do and what we, as service providers, are hired to do is noted as a common barrier to doing more. Particularly for NGO’s, donors tend to be results-focused, pushing for “hard numbers” rather than “softer outcomes”, and often drive the agenda for how dollars are spent. With so much pressure to get the greatest return on investment, market research plays a more limited role, often restricted to program evaluation, and many feel that it is brought in too late in the game to make a real difference. Many want to market research brought in earlier, in the design or pre-design stages, to help understand they “whys” and be part of the innovation cycle. However, market research costs money, and many donors aren’t interested in spending more on research. If we want to be able to do more to help in the public sector, educating and persuading donors and stakeholders about the value of research is a critical first step. In this case, it is not only the behaviour of the people we are studying that we are hoping to change, it is the thinking and behaviour of those we work with that we also seek to alter.
In the case of mobile survey research, the greatest barrier to change is ourselves. Technology has advanced fast enough to keep up with the demand for mobile access, but the way we think about survey design has not. We, as researchers, have become entrenched in traditional questionnaire design and are failing to adapt to the new ways that people want to interact with us. Knowles and Sehmer argue that we need revamp our thinking, start from the beginning, and consider what it’s like to complete surveys as a respondent – as a person. How would we answer the survey? How would we want to be asked the questions? How would we want to answer them? How can we speak to people like people? Knowles and Sehmer argue for using “humanized writing”, with the goal of making surveys more conversational in nature.
The Need to be “Human-Focused”
For me, the two sessions combined can be boiled down to the idea that market research, at its heart, is all about people. It’s about human beings. Whether our goal is to increase patient compliance or increase response rates, it’s about the human experience and giving people a voice. Sally Panayiotou (TNS BMRB) captured this sentiment when she said “the most important step is bringing it back to the people” but I think Knowles said it best in his closing statement, “the future of market research depends on a ‘human-first’ (and ‘mobile-first’) approach – we have to design research (and mobile) with people in mind.” While it may be challenging, it’s important not to lose sight of what research is for.
Rebecca Heaney, Northstar Research, is one of the official RWC bloggers for ESOMAR Congress 2016.
At the ESOMAR Congress in New Orleans, Justin Wheeler and Jackie Lorch of SSI discussed the wide variety of research projects enabled by mobile research.
Traditional surveys taken on a mobile device are just one type of mobile research, and – in fact – a typical panel survey should expect to have 60% of its responses from mobile users. But mobile opens up new forms of research that are only possible via installed apps.
The mobile phone provides a microphone for audio feedback, a camera for photo and video capture, an accelerometer for movement detection, GPS for location detection, a gyroscope for directional detection, and push notifications for in-the moment content. The SSI mobile panel consists of members who have downloaded an app onto their device: 550,000 U.S. panelists have this installed. A single mobile panelist is passively contributing over 1,800 data points a day, including how many times they’ve looked at their phone, everywhere they were, how fast they drove, and the apps they used. Each day SSI gets 18 million pings of panelists going past fast-food restaurants, as just one example. Mobile research lets you marry survey data with behavioral data at scale and in ways that were impossible or too expensive before.
Pokemon Go is part of the larger trend of consumers doing whatever their phone tells them to do! They will upload photos and record videos and go on missions to stores and locations. If they are already “on location”, at a store with a research objective, they will compete a survey there: the uptake rate is 22 times higher to such requests than to invites to panelists to take online surveys. SSI completed 3.5 million in-store surveys last year.
As a result, the list of types of mobile projects that SSI has conducted is long and is growing: market sizing, market assessments, home inventory and audits, in-context concept testing, shopping lists, product innovation, competitive intelligence, shopability and product findability and placement, mobile diaries, purchase intent and behavior, on-the-go experiences, in-store ads, in-context ads, ad awareness, in-home usage, out-of-house usage, mini-ethnographies, meal preparation studies, product usage and consumption behaviors, satisfaction/re-purchase, and more.
Most panelists aren’t worried about the amount of information they’re providing and whatever privacy they may be surrendering; they’re more worried about impact on the battery life of their phone and on receiving compelling rewards.
The earliest adopters of mobile research over the past three years have been CPG and FMCG companies and, in the U.S., Fortune 50 brands. In fact, one company has shifted 80% of the $12 million it spent annually on surveys to mobile research in store and at home. That’s $9.6 million a year diverted to mobile surveys.
Mobile research is poised to explode from the consumer-goods industry to far more categories: and that is making “in-the-moment” mobile research real.
By Melanie Courtright
The future of the Market Research industry is a frequently discussed topic. And so it should be; we’re a passionate bunch, it’s our livelihood, and there have been a number of pressures on the insights industry in recent years that have thrown up doubts about our future and sustainability. The industry has never been so much in the spotlight. Market research and, specifically, polling have come under increased scrutiny recently in the UK following the 2015 general election, and more recently the 2016 EU referendum and the 2016 US presidential election. Market research is also now frequently cited in PR and marketing campaigns – whether it’s the headline grabbing of the Sun Newspaper whose interpretation of poll data was called into question when it claimed that one fifth of British Muslims had “sympathy for jihadis,” or the use of statistics to support advertising claims.
I won’t go further into these issues as any regular (or irregular) attendee to Congress will understand the threats facing the industry. I see this as one of the reasons why ESOMAR Congress is so special. There is no other opportunity for the global research industry to come together and not only discover the ground-breaking and impactful techniques being used around the world, but also discuss the future of the industry and provide a platform in which to change, hopefully for the better.
At Research Now we wanted to make sure we were part of this discussion, so we were delighted to partner with ESOMAR and embark on the biggest survey to date exploring the public perception of the market research industry. Our aim was to provide some key market intelligence and benchmarking that ESOMAR, and the industry as a whole, can use when marketing the research industry to the public, in particular to ensure the public are aware of the positive impact research has across business and society.
We collected more than 6,000 surveys across four different online and offline research modes, in three major research markets; UK, USA, and Germany. I don’t want to give too many spoilers away of the results. Suffice to say, those in attendance at ESOMAR Congress can hear the key findings on day 1, September 19, in room 1 at 4:40pm. Those not attending will have the opportunity to download the report in the coming weeks or watch ESOMAR TV live on Channel 1 to keep up with the proceedings in New Orleans.
What I can say is the results show there are positives and negatives. Inevitably there are modal differences; online survey panellists have a broad understanding. However, CATI respondents provide some of the most telling data within the report. (There is some fascinating data behind the motivations of respondents, and equally there is some worrying data that looks at how people treat the surveys they are taking.)
That’s all I can reveal at this point. However, it does appear that we are losing the personal connection with our research contributors. This has the potential to be a serious issue for the industry, but we are taking the first step in addressing that. This paper provides a vital insight into the public, those that take our surveys, and those that don’t. It’s the first step in communicating the value of research. And although it’s ESOMAR’s mandate to promote and elevate research on a global platform, it is our responsibility and the responsibility of every researcher to also address these issues.
So, I hope you will join us next week to discover how people really feel about the industry and what we can do to ensure a bright future for the sector.
Register for ESOMAR TV here and tune in to Channel 1 on Monday, September 19 at 4:40PM CST
Melanie Courtright is EVP, Global Products and Client Services at Research Now.
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