Many of the latest market research trends are being driven by an undercurrent of participant apathy in surveys. The number of people no longer willing to participate in market research on their own free will is growing each day which forces those in the industry to rethink methodologies and approaches to increase engagement. Respondents are time poor, over-surveyed, expect to be reimbursed for opinions, and are more difficult than ever to get in contact with. Market research competes for their time in the same way everything else in their life does. Old-fashioned research methodologies have not and will not come to a halt but those enduring methodologies are being challenged.
The older research methodologies such as telephone surveys and in-person focus groups are being challenged on three-fronts: (1) from the standpoint of bias, (2) respondent ability to remember or predict, and (3) artificial settings.
- There are many forms of bias in market research: the aim to please the interviewer, question wording in a survey, or even social dynamics bias within a focus group. All of these examples bring the reliability of traditional research approaches into question.
- To a previous point, respondents are time poor, so asking them to remember a television commercial they saw three weeks ago is not a foolproof methodology. It's also more scientific to ask respondents about past behavior and use a model to predict future usage than to ask a respondent to predict what they will do in the future. Other literature has pointed to predictive research through surveying as flawed. Sometimes you are best off using the past to predict the future using techniques such as regression.
- Finally, traditional research methodologies often create artificial settings for respondents. Answering a telephone survey about grocery store purchasing will result in different responses than if the respondent walking down aisle 12 purchasing groceries with a screaming 3 year-old in their cart. Asking opinions about a television commercial in a focus group room will result in different responses that if the respondent was sitting at home on their couch with their family at 9:30 PM eating ice cream. Artificial settings often create unreliable findings.
It's important to understand these points as imperfections in research design. I believe understanding and accepting limitations in design will lead to better interpretation of findings.
Heading into the future, market researchers are looking for ways to collect "in the moment" data. Researchers are finding new ways to study respondents in-environment to earn the most pure and reliable feedback.
Want to know about clothing purchases? Why not ask them as they finish their in-store experience when leaving Target? Want to know how mothers use Campbell's soup as part of their family's weekly dinner plans? Why not recruit and schedule in-home usage testings (IHUTs)? Too expensive to recruit and conduct shop-alongs with auto store purchasers across the country to inquire about new store designs? Yes, even market researchers are looking into virtual reality applications for research.
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