Let's say you've decided to field an online survey among the customers of your product or service. Before you start designing the questions and moving too far ahead, there is an important question to ask yourself: do I want to want to remain anonymous as the sponsor of the survey? If the answer to that question is "Yes," then the best option for your market research may be a blind study.
A blind study, or blind survey in the example mentioned above, is a market research study that does not disclose the sponsor of the research to the respondent. Blind studies are very common and usually have more to gain from the research by keeping the brand anonymous.
In this post, I will cover what different blind studies can look like and the typical benefits and drawbacks.
Conducting a blind study is one of the best ways to reduce bias in market research. Take the extra step to prevent valuable data from losing its reliability.
Single-Blind Study vs. Double-Blind Study
There are a couple types of blind studies in the context of market research. A Double-Blind study is a situation in which both the respondent and interviewer are not informed of the research sponsor. Some in-depth interviews or focus groups fit this type of blind study where both the interviewer or moderator and the participants are unaware of the sponsor. Double-Blind studies offer an additional layer of protection from bias, as there is no risk of interviewer bias.
In contrast, Single-Blind studies are those in which only the respondent is unaware of the sponsor. An example of this study would be a questionnaire read in-person or over the phone by a researcher.
Typical Process for a Blind Study
Most market research methodologies can be made blind without issue. As previously mentioned, online surveys frequently use this practice. This usually generically mentions the sponsor in the beginning of the survey as a company within a certain industry (healthcare, retail, manufacturing, etc.). The rest of the survey must be careful not to reveal the sponsor, such as singling out the sponsor by name in questions.
Another version of a blind study is taste testing a sponsor's product. Taste testing is exclusively done blind, as the value of this research stems from the unbiased comparison of feedback on foods. Other product testing may also be performed as a blind study, such as an in-home usage test (IHUT) in which consumers test products in the context of daily life. The product is stripped of any labeling or branding.
Benefits of a Blind Study
Using a blind study is a generally simple change, but capable of making a strong positive impact on the data. The main reason they are so popular for market research projects is how they take response bias out of the equation. If the respondent is aware of the sponsor's brand, they likely have a perception of the brand that could alter the answers they provide.
A brand loyalist may have a harder time saying or rating the product negatively if they know it is associated with the brand. On the flip side, a consumer who has had issues with the sponsoring company may be unfairly critical as they answer questions. Not disclosing the sponsor eliminates both of these biases.
Drawbacks of a Blind Study
There are a few exceptions to a blind study being the right fit for your market research. One reason to reconsider a blind study is if the target respondents are a difficult audience to reach. Withholding the identity of the sponsor naturally makes respondents less likely to participate, not knowing what organization they are helping out.
Another scenario in which a blind study may not work is if the respondents are contacted via information from a customer list. Respondents may be upset believing their personal information was given to a third party without permission. In these cases, the sponsor must be disclosed.
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