With the NFL season almost upon us, we’d like to give online research its due while being realistic about what’s happened to it: today’s online is like an old veteran who was once great but can no longer get the job done. And because the game is all about winning, it’s time for the team to move on to something better.
A case in point is former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. He had an epic career that lasted 20 seasons – including more than 17 straight seasons in which he didn’t miss a game and set an all-time NFL record by playing in 321 consecutive games (playoffs included). No quarterback in pro football history threw the ball more (10,960 attempts) or completed more passes (6,781). Along the way, Favre won three straight Most Valuable Player awards in the 1990s, and quarterbacked the Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one.
Online research also has had its time of glory. For about two decades it was the most prolific survey mode in the consumer data game, and it provided many most-valuable insights. But as was the case with Brett Favre — and just about every other great athlete — time and change take their toll. Online research is in its twilight now, its performance and capabilities greatly diminished from its prime.
The statistics show that Favre hung on one year too many: in 2010, his last season, he threw nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, had the worst quarterback rating of his career (69.9, down from peak years when he was always above 90), and suffered a sprained shoulder and a concussion that kept him out of three games, ending that mighty streak of consecutive games played. Meanwhile, the Packers had moved on, trading Favre to clear the way for Aaron Rodgers, who quickly established himself as a great, Super Bowl-winning quarterback for a new generation.
On today’s market research playing field, you can think of online research as Brett Favre in that stumbling last year. While he continued to be respected for what he’d done, he was no longer a difference-maker who could give his team a solid chance to win. And so it is with online research as it stands today. Quality completes are harder to come by, projects are being routinely intercepted by fraudulent survey bots, and doubts have set in about online’s ability to deliver a demographically representative consumer panel. Increasingly, we see it resorting to Hail Mary tactics such as routing, river sample, and multi-source panel-blending. The result is compromised data and widespread discontent with project results.
Meanwhile, the game has moved on to its next dominant player, in-app mobile research. Brands and major market research firms are becoming increasingly aware of what it can accomplish — and that if you’re in the insights game to win, in-app is the weapon you need. To have a productive conversation about in-app mobile (and, if you like, talk a little football), just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for an entertaining video introduction to in-app mobile research, just click here.