Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
With apologies to the Eagles, this isn’t just a question to kick off a classic rock ballad about a lonely guy who’s afraid of commitment. It’s a question that many market researchers need to ask as they try to deal with the continuing decline of online panel quality.
We’ll be periodically highlighting why issues of panel quality and consistency have reached the point of desperation – as demonstrated by the wake-up calls issued by the authors of the two most recent editions of the GreenBook Report on Industry Trends (GRIT). And we’ll be calling your attention to a solution to the problem, by going through the best practices for innovating your way out of the bad-data desert. The solution lies in advanced, in-app research technology that gives survey respondents the high-quality mobile experiences today’s consumers demand.
To start, here’s the context for why it’s crucial to focus on panel quality and the best practices for achieving it.
The 2016 Q1-Q2 edition of GRIT found a striking disparity between how panel providers perceive their product’s quality, and how it looks to their clients. The clients, it should go without saying, are the best judges of whether the data they obtain from online panels is reliable enough to let them do their job of generating insights that can stand up to a reality check in the real world of business decision-making.
The bar graph on Pg. 44 of the report says it all. More than half of the data collection providers GreenBook surveyed, and nearly half of the sample providers, said panel quality is getting better. But it was just the opposite for insights professionals who have to tease meaning out of data and provide analysis that can withstand a reality check. Barely 20% of GRIT respondents from full service MR firms, and fewer than 20% of corporate research insights professionals, saw an improvement in panel quality. More than 40% said survey sample was getting worse. In other words, those who have a vested interest in obtaining quality data are getting desperate, while those who are supplying it want the industry to think everything’s still peachy.
Here’s the key insight GRIT’s authors distilled from their respondents’ comments:
“Surprisingly, [insights professionals think that] technology, or lack thereof, is the prime culprit for sample getting worse: from bots, to survey design, to mobile enabled surveys, all these are driving sample quality down. Many respondents have a strong sense that there are only professional survey takers and fraudulent bots that are taking all the surveys because there is a race to the bottom in terms of cost.”
Are there any more damning words when talking about technology than “lack thereof?” When it comes to success in market research, or any other 21st century business, there’s no margin of error when it comes to getting the technology right. What’s crucial to understand is that it’s a fatal mistake to view panel and survey technology as separate, independent and unrelated inputs. Successful research depends on five core insights into how the consumers you need to engage experience technology:
- Consumers use smartphones for their personal activities; desktops and laptops are devices for the workplace.
- Consumers don’t just use smartphones – they view them as necessary appendages to perceiving, thinking, expressing and acting.
- Consumers don’t merely dislike having slow, cumbersome experiences on their phones. They simply won’t tolerate them. Research must be mobile, and its design and delivery must sparkle.
- Consumers’ first choice for mobile experiences is to access them through apps, not browsers and web connections that are vulnerable to dropped connections and other problems that compromise functionality and lead to frustration and disengagement.
- Successful research is impossible without the right incentives. One is fair cash payments for honest, thoughtful survey responses. The other is an engaging technological experience – a reward in its own right for today’s mobile consumers.
Act accordingly, and soon you won’t have to feel like a desperado when your research data comes in. As we periodically revisit this subject, we’ll be going into more specifics on how panel quality and innovative mobile research technology have become intertwined in a double-helix that needs to be part of the research industry’s DNA. If this makes sense to you, you’re invited to get full details on the best practices right now. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.