Ethical Practices 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 practices. 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.

Ethical Practices in Market Research

Both sides have a right to be treated with respect in a research effort. Be sure participants feel valued for their time and effort.

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.

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.

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 to 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.

An example of an unethical practice here is frugging. Frugging is fund raising 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.

Stressing the anonymity of responses is also an ethical practice in market research. 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.

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.

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.

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.

It is important for the market research company to explicitly mention the freedom a participant has to refuse answering 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 deserve 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.

Contact Our Market Research Company

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 on an upcoming project? Contact us below.

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