Revolutionary Measures

Market Research – why online isn’t enough

Finding out what your customers think and what they are looking for is obviously central to successful marketing. Hence the discipline of market research was born to provide the intelligence to power marketing decisions.

But how many of us (even those in marketing) will take the time to fill in postal surveys, go through long-winded telephone polls or let ourselves be stopped in the street by a clip-board wielding researcher? Not many, and I’m definitely in the ‘No’ camp myself.

So traditional market research yields have dropped dramatically, putting up costs and making the data that comes out of research less useful. In contrast there are now hundreds of survey firms on the web, such as YouGov and ValuedOpinions, all providing access to carefully screened (and willing) research participants. Marketers can ask questions, show multimedia, track responses instantly and speed up the whole research process. More and mote it seems that the future of research is digital.

Which I think is a shame and ignores the benefits you can get from face-to-face research. Location is one – if you’re finding out whether people have feedback on a particular area of town then best to ask those that are actually visiting it. And you can get first hand experience of how people answer questions and amend things if they aren’t clear. People online have opted-in, so tend to be savvy and opinionated, rather than a real cross-section of the population. Finally, you can be sure that the 35 year old housewife from Hunstanton isn’t actually a cross-dressing dentist from Droitwich (hopefully).

So its time for offline market research to learn from its digital cousins. Why are online surveys so popular? Mainly because they pay people a couple of quid for giving up their time. While I’m not advocating waving cash at people in the street, it should be simple enough to issue people with smart loyalty cards that researchers then load up with points on survey completion.  Link them to the online survey schemes so people are incentivised to collect points quickly and voila, you have the perfect mix of techniques. And swap clipboards for iPads to make surveys more inviting.Otherwise the whole market research profession risks becoming online and virtual rather than joined-up and useful.

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September 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Good thought provoking comments!

    In my view, a key issue is the growth of ‘DIY’ research which has become easy, cheap and quick due to the growth of free online survey software and templates that enable ‘anyone’ to do it.

    If it is done well it can be of huge benefit. But this assumes that the DIYer knows what they are doing. Often they are not experienced researchers and don’t know how to structure a good questionnaire or what sampling is.

    Poor quality DIY research creates a vicious circle where more and more people will move into the ‘No’ camp with you!

    Incentivising online research is by no means always done either and the new MRS (Market Research Society) code of conduct has made incentivisation more difficult and potentially more costly since April.

    Face to face research is powerful as is all qualitative research in providing valuable insight.

    The key to real intelligence about what your customers think is to give the job to a professional, experienced market(ing) researcher. The customers are far more likely to tell them than personnel within the organisation. Just think what you do in a restaurant if you dont like the place! Do you tell the staff there or just never go again and tell your friends!

    Research needs to become a core part of a successful organisations culture. Techniques have developed to make it easier to conduct but the core values of having clearly agreed objectives, effective methodology and professional analysis remain fundamental to delivering real value to organisations.

    Comment by Steve Bax | September 8, 2010 | Reply


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