Rumors of the Survey’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated
Andrew Hill’s Financial Times article, “Surfeit of surveys obscures real insight” argues that more traditional online market research methodologies are becoming irrelevant as respondents grow impervious to the survey invitations inundating their inboxes. While I agree that survey fatigue can seriously affect the accuracy of results (respondents get bored with lengthy or too many surveys and simply fill in answers without thought), I disagree with Hill’s remedy. Hill suggests a three-fold attack on the survey – 1) throw precision to the wind and forget about substantial sample size, 2) crown qualitative as king, and 3) jump on the social media bandwagon to use those Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn posts to tell all.
To address the absolute necessity of precision in research, I’ll direct you to our Chief Research Scientist Dr. Gleiber’s recent blog post on the subject.
Secondly, Hill’s example of Procter & Gamble’s use of in-depth interviews to supplement surveys is telling. The advantages of qualitative research lie in digging deeper, expanding the view, and eliciting specific details about a topic. Quantitative research does lack this in-depth, high touch insight. Various qualitative methods may compensate for the occasional shortcomings in quantitative research but (just as the P&G example shows) are most useful to supplement rather than supplant.
The Social Media Solution?
Finally, data mining from social media has been lauded for the infinite possibilities it presents for market research as well as almost any other data-driven field. It will only grow as an important technique for researchers but by no means can serve as the only tool in the methodological toolbox. Not every one actively participates in social media, and for those who do, surely not every research question can be answered by tweets. I, for one, have never once posted about how I make my healthcare decisions or provided information to optimize hotel room offerings. Furthermore, the market research industry realizes that not all reported through social media is accurate, and must determine what are and are not verifiable accounts.
As market researchers, we need to eliminate redundant questions, diminish use of tedious tasks in the surveys (unless appropriately incentivized), and keep overall survey length to a minimum. At times, this may mean more work on the back end in analysis, but if the result is higher quality responses and increased appeal in survey taking for the general public, that work is essential.
Jorie Kirschbaum, Account Executive