The old saw goes that there is faster, cheaper and better - you can have two. But in today's world of research technology, could it be possible that the pick two answer is a thing of the past? For all the talk of agility, which was the supposed solution to make this possible, sometimes the meaning of that word becomes unclear. A move to more agile technology to enable research improvements needs to address all three - faster, cheaper and better. Let’s break those down in terms of how they apply to research specifically.
Consumer opinion is changing at a greater speed than ever before. The truth is, brands are merely keeping up with technological changes and market disruption that is not isolated to just one type of consumer good. Car manufacturers to the energy sector; food trends to on-demand entertainment; CPG and more, have shown that no vertical is insulated from disruption and innovation. This can be good for consumers, but it is also difficult for brands to keep up with the pace of change. The use of very fast directional studies are critical in today’s environment.
Research projects are under serious time compression in a race to get projects conceived, structured, planned, in field and analyzed to deliver the quality insights brands need for timely business decisions. When things move too slowly the fear that some research studies are out of date or irrelevant the moment they are published is an added pressure. There will always be a need for deep-dive studies and analyses that take much longer before large business decisions are made from the data. But ultra-fast directional studies can be a part of informing what those deep-dives should be.
When great external shifts occur such as COVID, regional disasters and the like, the ability to get an answer to a set of highly timely answers WHILE STILL IN THE MEETING can be a game-changer for a brand looking for that competitive edge.
Reduced budget can cause an interesting revolving door of sorts for brands who want to bring insights in-house to cut third-party costs, while others want to outsource specialized work in order to keep overhead low. Whether the work is being handled in house or being outsourced, roles within insights functions have also changed. There is an increase in demand for sophisticated skills to handle the growing tools available in research technology. No matter how things are staffed, professionals are being asked to employ time-saving automation and technology to get more done with less.
When choosing a sample provider, panel platform or respondent recruiting vendor the question should not be “How much will this cost?” but more importantly “How will this budget be spent?” This is a huge component of understanding what different companies mean by cheaper as what has historically been true is that respondent compensation goes from bad to worse. Historically, market research firms have been greedy - keeping as much as they could and paying respondents next to nothing. The important part of understanding the result of a cheaper cost is imperative. Choosing a sample provider who prioritizes fairness to consumers while still being able to deliver the technology at a cheaper price is where the win is. Cutting costs should be a function of cutting out more middlemen and not cheating respondents out of fair compensation, Fair compensation for research participants is imperative to obtaining quality data which forms the basis for quality decision making for brands.
The one word heard most often in the market research industry is QUALITY DATA. But what does “quality” mean in how would we define what is truly better?
Is getting more timely data better? Are respondents being adequately compensated?
In the end, the question must be asked, “What would it take for your brand to feel more confident about the business decision that needs to be made?”
In this way, “better” really is about business impact.
In the search for what “better” means for your team we compiled five key questions and considered answers to help you navigate toward the best possible outcomes for your insights team.
Finding a tool that collects information in real-time is key. Undisclosed wait times loom with companies who say they are a “DIY platform” in name only. Being able to start your study independently is not the same as being able to trigger it into the field simultaneously. You should also have a very easy way to test your question on smaller samples. Getting a preliminary stress test can lead to a small change in the way you ask your question or changing a nuance of the demographic needed. While you may not need this feature with every study, having it as an option that is integrated into the same platform is key.
Once your questions are uploaded and sample parameters are chosen there should be no additional wait time for answers to populate into tables. Even getting a project started does not always mean it will continue at the same pace. If a platform does not have an aggressive pre-qualification of respondents or too few participants, the full sample your study requires may cause a slow down toward the end of the project. Proper panel maintenance means your study can keep pace from start to finish.
If time is of the essence, the fastest tools employ mobile collection. Virtually everyone has their phone with them at all times so systems that rely on desktop applications or even various layers within a mobile app to access surveys will add time to this process.
Longer studies, in general, are more problematic. Typical in the life of a research project is the inevitable adding of additional questions for multiple purposes into one study. This approach is not only bad for parsing out brand impact, it also creates a higher possibility of respondent fatigue. Beyond fatigue, the longer the survey, the larger the chance that a highly qualified respondent gets distracted and unintentionally does not finish. Inordinately, those who complete a longer survey are more likely to be a professional survey taker who has learned how to spot a larger payout for a longer survey, but their only motivation is to get through it as fast as they can to get to the next survey.
Shorter surveys tend to work best to keep respondents more focused on the survey. The lower the interruption to their daily life the more natural the response. This approach is not only more considerate to the research respondent, but it also delivers a higher quality outcome even toward the end of the survey where people may naturally lag if things are getting longer than the average attention span can manage.
Choosing a reputable supplier for your work is critical. Cheap solutions have proliferated in the past decade as more mobile and web technologies have become available. Systems that provide low-cost complete rates may be employing interruptive techniques such as paywalls to get people to populate surveys. This low-cost approach creates moments where questions pop up on a mobile device that needs to be answered to proceed to the next desired task. Because this survey question is an obstacle, there is no incentive for the respondent to answer honestly. While someone might want to earn more virtual candies in Candy Crush and be willing to answer a few questions to get that desired payout, their motivation in that moment actually matters when it comes to the quality of response.
These disruptive techniques often are hiding poor business models and in fact, may be cheating respondents out of their promised incentive. To make matters worse, when survey companies simply post lists of surveys to the internet, this invites fraud. Another industry has cropped up to look for these opportunities and bots are created to game these systems. How a panel supplier sends your survey into the field has everything to do with the quality of data collected.
When evaluating easy-to-use DIY market research tools that can collect data in real-time, the factor that will always deliver quicker results are those with the ability to send surveys out both via a closed-system app and secondarily via text. The ubiquity of the smartphone in this case works in your favor. Further functionality where participants can either upload photos for confirmation of product evaluations or be sent relevant surveys based on their current or past geofenced locations can provide even more confidence in the actionability of the data in real-time.
When powerful software is connected to a proprietary and well-maintained database, a custom panel can be created from any combination of demographic, geofenced or lifestyle contact properties. Additional questions not already answered in the original screening can be implemented into a first batch of survey questions to further curate a custom panel.
In the past this kind of panel was expensive to curate and maintain. But instead of asking if someone is a Walmart shopper, some databases can actually verify this as a contact property for a respondent not based on their qualifying responses, but based on the location function of their phone which would indicate if they had ever visited a Walmart. Our geo-fenced locations can be customized or you can choose from a list of pre-set options to save time. These sophisticated technologies help you create a more accurate panel and also replenish new participants as needed over time while maintaining the same quality.
The biggest reason to create a custom panel is for iterative consumer research. Instead of starting over with a sample group, a panel allows you to recontact the entire group or even a select few in a subset of the same group for further questions or deeper research over time. This is especially helpful with more grounded theory research, discovery phases or research and development pipelines. But in this day and age of bot responses and high potential for fraud with sample, brands should not work with panel companies who do not provide this recontact capability for any study. If respondents can’t be recontacted, the validity of their responses is highly suspect and the process for human verification is questionable.
No matter if your insights team is feeling more pressure on time, money or quality, knowing what to look for in a DIY quantitative research partner is key to getting the right balance to make the best business impact.
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