It’s about a 4 min. read.
A couple weeks ago, I was traveling to Austin for CASRO’s Digital Research Conference, and I had an interesting conversation while boarding the plane. [Insert Road Trip joke here.]
Stranger: First time traveling to Austin?
Me: Yeah, I’m going to a market research conference.
Stranger: [blank stare]
Me: It’s a really good conference. I go every year.
Stranger: So, what does your company do?
Me: We gather information from people—usually by having them take an online survey, and—
Stranger: I took one of those. Never again.
Me: Yeah? It was that bad?
Stranger: It was [expletive] horrible. They said it would take ten minutes, and I quit after spending twice that long on it. I got nothing for my time. They basically lied to me.
Me: I’m sorry you had that experience. Not all surveys are like that, but I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to take another one.
Thank goodness the plane started boarding before he could say anything else. Double thank goodness that I wasn’t sitting next to him during the flight.
I’ve been a proud member of the market research industry since 1998. I feel like it’s often the Rodney Dangerfield of professional services, but I’ve always preached about how important the industry is. Unfortunately, I’m finding it harder and harder to convince the general population. The experience my fellow traveler had with his survey points to a major theme of this year’s CASRO Digital Research Conference. Either directly or indirectly, many of the presentations this year were about the respondent experience. It’s become increasingly clear to me that the market research industry has no choice other than to address the respondent experience “problem.”
There were also two related sub-themes—generational differences and living in a digital world—that go hand-in-hand with the respondent experience theme. Fewer people are taking questionnaires on their desktop computers. Recent data suggests that, depending on the specific study, 20-30% of respondents are taking questionnaires on their smartphones. Not surprisingly, this skews towards younger respondents. Also not surprisingly, the percentage of smartphone survey takers is increasing at a rapid pace. Within the next two years, I predict the percent of smartphone respondents will be 35-40%. As researchers, we have to consider the mobile respondent when designing questionnaires.
From a practical standpoint, what does all this mean for researchers like me who are focused on data collection?
Action: Understand your sample source options. Have candid conversations with your data collection partners and only work with ones that are 100% transparent. Learn how to smell BS from a mile away, and stay away from those people.
Action: Take the questionnaires yourself so you can fully understand what you’re asking your respondents to do. Then take that same questionnaire on a smartphone. It might be an eye opener.
Action: Educate your clients about the potential consequences of poorly designed, lengthy questionnaires. Market research industry leaders as a whole need to do this for it have a large impact.
Change is a good thing, and there’s no need to panic. Most of you are probably aware of the issues I’ve outlined above. There are no big shocks here. But, being cognizant of a problem and acting to fix the problem are two entirely different things. I challenge everyone in the market research industry to take some action. In fact, you don’t have much of a choice.