What are Ethical Practices in Market Research?

Ethics in Market Research

Anywhere in business, ethics play an important role. Ethical practices are what help establish trust between parties and provide structure for dealings.

The market research industry is no exception to these ethical practices.

Market research ethics are moral principles that guide the responsibility to conduct and analyze research without deception to ensure authenticity.

At every step of a market research effort, a market research company takes measures to ensure both participants and clients are treated fairly and with respect.

In this blog post, our market research company discusses several ethics to follow when conducting a market research project. 


Ethics of Participants

It is essential to understand participants’ rights when conducting market research, such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys

Participants are a huge part of market research, and ethical practices create a compelling report that has credibility in the industry. 


Stressing the Anonymity of Responses

To begin, the researcher has the duty of clearly stating whether responses will be kept confidential and anonymous before participation begins.

Moreover, researchers should allow all participants to remain anonymous, and their right to confidentiality should always be respected.

It is also important that participants have their privacy protected at all times. This includes demographic questions and other information collected in the survey. 

Knowing that individual answers won’t be associated with names may comfort participants and encourage additional detail to be shared.

Although for many clients who are developing customer experience (CX) programs and case management from surveys, confidentiality is not always king.

Market researchers have the duty of clearly stating whether responses will be kept confidential and anonymous before participation begins.


Clearly State Goals and Objectives

It is also crucial that the analyst documents participants’ consent to participating in the market research and is fully informed about the goals and objectives.

For instance, a good ethical practice for focus groups is to set up a list of FAQs about what to expect.

This reduces the perceived risk in the eyes of participants and adds credibility to the focus group company.


Making a Fair Trade

As a market research company, you depend on the participation and cooperation of those willing to assist in the research.

In some ways, these participants are customers who are needed to buy in and partake in the research.

Because of this relationship, there is a responsibility of the market research company to accommodate customers throughout the process.


Offer Incentives When Possible

Proper compensation is perhaps the most significant way to ensure a fair exchange for the participants’ services.

Effort and time commitment of the research methodology demand different incentives, such as much higher compensation for a full day with a rigorous focus group than a few minutes spent on a satisfaction online survey.

Particularly with qualitative research, when participants feel that they are sufficiently rewarded, they will be more likely to fully engage with the research and do so genuinely.

On the other hand, the benefit of an incentive for an online survey is usually higher response rates.

Proper compensation is perhaps the most significant way to ensure a fair exchange for the participants’ services.


Honesty is the Best Policy

Another key to demonstrating respect for participants is being as transparent as the research will allow.

Unless disclosure of the research objectives on a broad level is prohibited, it is a good idea to inform participants of what they are contributing.

Being forthright with the participants establishes trust from the beginning and may even motivate them to help improve the sponsoring company.


Be Aware of Frugging

Frugging is fundraising or requesting donations under the guise of a survey or other form of market research.

A sincere research study would never demand money out of the participant's own pocket.


The Right to Refuse

In the case of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), individuals within Europe are guaranteed data privacy protections by law.

In the context of market research, these individuals have the right to receive a copy of or eliminate personal data that was gathered through a survey.

While no comparative legislation exists in the United States, confidence in the use of personal data is a necessity for market research participants.

While no comparative legislation exists in the United States, confidence in the use of personal data is a necessity for market research participants.


Disclose the Use of Any Personal Data

The standard practice is to disclose the use of any personal data captured from the research as it is gathered.

For example, email addresses collected to send an incentive should only be solely used for that purpose.

The participants were not agreeing to receive newsletters or have their email addresses sold to marketing companies.


Participants Have the Freedom to Refuse Answering Any Question

It is important for the market research company to explicitly mention the freedom a participant has to refuse to answer any question or to withdraw participation at any point.

No participant wants to feel trapped, so making this clear is a great way for a market research company to set the right tone for an interview or survey.

In the recruitment stage for qualitative research, prospective participants also reserve the right to deny participation or further contact from the market research recruitment company.

This respect during recruitment helps ensure a positive image for the research process even when individuals opt not to participate.

It is important for the market research company to explicitly mention the freedom a participant has to refuse to answer any question or to withdraw participation at any point.


Stereotyping & Bias 

When discussing ethics, it is important to consider the different types of bias in market research.

These biases are often hard to identify and are either consciously or unconsciously follow preconceived notions, tendencies, and trends. 

Ethical market researchers should avoid bias as much as possible. Otherwise, the result will not be truly beneficial for the sponsoring company. 

Two common types of biases include:

  1. Confirmation bias
  2. Culture bias

1. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or favor information that is consistent and confirms one’s existing beliefs. It is one of the most prevalent and long-recognized forms of bias present in market research.

Failing to interpret information in an unbiased way can lead to misjudgments and inaccurate analysis. This results in a biased favoring, interpretation, and recall of information.

To combat confirmation bias, researchers must consider alternative hypotheses and avoid forming a hypothesis too early. 

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or favor information that is consistent and confirms one’s existing beliefs. It is one of the most prevalent and long-recognized forms of bias present in market research.


2. Culture Bias

Culture bias is the interpretation of situations, actions, or data based on the standards of one's own culture.

This bias can also potentially lead to stigma and stereotyping based on assumptions. Thus, it is important to avoid generalizations when examining data. 

Overall, it is difficult to conduct market research without bias. However, through understanding its potential, analysts can provide insightful, unbiased information to the client.

Culture bias is the interpretation of situations, actions, or data based on the standards of one's own culture.


Ethics of Big Data and Privacy

The term “big data” refers to data that is continuing to come at a higher velocity, volume, and variety than ever before. It is also more complex than traditional data. 

Pros of Using Big Data

Sources of big data are also becoming more complex. Big data is now being pulled from mobile devices, social media, and numerous other sources.

This allows market researchers to gather a wide variety of information to gain valuable insights. 

Cons of Using Big Data

However, using big data has also raised concerns regarding individual privacy and its implications. 

Currently, information is beginning to become automatic and passive collecting.

Big data makes use of advanced technologies such as location-based technology, facial recognition, and autonomous sensors. This means large amounts of data are being collected independently of human action.

This data allows companies to access even more data while the consumer may have little or no awareness. 

Big data makes use of advanced technologies such as location-based technology, facial recognition, and autonomous sensors. This means large amounts of data are being collected independently of human action.

Impact of AI on Market Research

With the combination of smartphones and the internet, users leave behind trails of data everywhere they go and every site they visit.

Furthermore, as artificial intelligence (AI) enters the home and becomes a part of our everyday life, companies will have even more data on consumers to use for research purposes.

This means researchers will be able to learn even more about consumer behavior and their purchasing habits. 

Overall, it is essential for market researchers to communicate transparently with respondents and consumers to ensure big data continues to be gathered ethically.  

Recommended Reading: Traditional Market Research and Big Data - Which is More Actionable?

 


Practice Ethical Market Research with Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research company in NY. We go to great lengths to ensure our research is conducted ethically time and time again across projects.

Questions about our market research practices? Can we help you with an upcoming project? Contact us below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

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