by | Jan 3, 2019 | Good To Know | 1 comment

Happy New Year!

Between GDPR, AI,  and the array of mergers and acquisitions that happened in 2018, it’s been an interesting year for the market research industry.

With the new year, RFG’s co-founders Baillie Buchanan and Sean Case took the opportunity to sit down and discuss the past 12 months in the research world.

Find out:

  • What they think has made a significant change to the industry,
  • How they believe GDPR has changed the research world.
  • Where they stand on the findings of sample quality in 2018’s GRIT report.
  • What they’re looking forward to in 2019

Check out the video below, and if you have any thoughts – we’d love to hear them!

[00:03] Bailllie: Hey everybody, I’m Baillie Buchanan and I’m here with Sean Case. We’re two of the co-founders of Research For Good, and we’ve been chatting as we come to the end of 2018 on kind of our observations in the market research industry this year and what we’re looking forward to come next year so we thought it might be a fun conversation to share. If you guys have additional thoughts or comments or feedback for us, anything that you object to or see differently we’d love to hear from you. So definitely let us know. You can reach me at @BaillieForGood on Twitter or of course reach out through any of our social or email channels. So we’ll jump right in, we’re hoping to keep this short,sweet, and to the point, So the first question we wanted to kind of chat a little bit about today is you know, what happened this year that has made significant change to the industry? So Sean, do you want to take that one on first?

[1:06] Sean: Yeah so, to me from my perspective the big change has been just consolidation and acquisitions like I have..  we started kind of in the middle of last year to enter into this mergers and acquisition cycle and it’s just in 2018 it’s gotten really really intense. You know, at the end of 2017 you had the Research Now SSI merger, which really… the impact of that was this year, right? They announced at the end of December last year, but the impact of that merger and what it means for the industry has really come to fruition in 2018. And then you have things like SAP acquiring Qualtrics right before they were supposed to IPO, you got IPSOS acquiring multiple divisions of Gfk, you got the announcement that WPP might be selling off Kantar. Other companies YouGov has bought a social listening company called inconvo. MarketCast bought another market research firm that does sports research, Nielson has bought a company called SuperData Research, trying to get more big data. Critical mix bought Unimobile to try to expand their footprint in the mobile space. LRW bought Kelton research. And that’s just a handful of the dozens and dozens and dozens of acquisitions that are happening. And I think what you’re seeing is like a big chessboard, you have lots of interesting maneuvers, companies trying to reposition themselves for growth and new opportunities and things like big data and trying to understand like artificial intelligence, what can they do with that, matching consumer data that’s collected through traditional means plus behavioural data. So you got all these things in play and everyone’s trying to figure out what’s going to happen over the next 5 years and that’s driving a lot of these acquisitions. So I think, I think that this is going to continue into 2019 and I think it’s really going to shape how market research evolves over the next 5 years because there’s just so much change happening so I think that’s really the biggest impact that we’ve seen this year for our industry.

[3:12] Baillie: Yeah, that’s been huge and the list of those mergers and acquisitions and partnerships just goes on and on. For me what stands out the most is kind of what you were saying as far as the rate of change, but to me it’s also the rate at which changes new technologies are accepted within the research industry really seems to be accelerating. For a while there was a sense that we as an industry were languishing and kind of too stuck in our old ways and I’ve really seen a major shift this year in the pace of acceptance of change and the more forward focus as well as the more outward focus on trying to see what’s happening at the peripheries of our space or you know, MarTech and AdTech, what are those spaces doing, and what can we bring to the table with our offerings to make that more holistic? So part of that is with mergers and acquisitions but it’s also the adoption of new technologies, new techniques, an openness to exploring new methodologies that I think is more open than it has been in the past.

[4:31] Sean: Yeah

[4.32] Baillie: So I’ve been excited by that.

[4.33] Sean: Yeah, I totally agree, and I think what’s interesting too is that I don’t have company names at the top of my mind, but like, if you’ve went to any conferences in 2018 one of the big observations I’ve noticed was the sheer number of non-market research businesses coming in and exploring market research as a way to you know either get traction, or make money, or influence change. So you’re starting to see a lot of external businesses looking at market research as a way to… as an industry that they can make money off of and influence. So I think we’re going to see a lot more of that as well.

[5:08] Baillie: Yep, absolutely. So we could go on and on but the next question we wanted to chat about is GDPR was obviously huge issue this year, there was a huge panic about when that came into play in May. What do you think now that we’re several months past that has been the lasting impact or… you know any change made in our industry?

[5:39] Sean: So, let me preface this by, I understand the importance of GDPR for our consumers protecting consumer data is important. The notion of privacy has become really messy and it is you know, it is because of the internet that we have all of these great amazing benefits in our industry and outside of our industry but the internet also basically destroys any hope of true privacy, but I understand the importance of it. That said I think GDPR for a lot of us has become kind of a swear word. It’s not been rolled out well by the EU, it’s not been managed well and I think there’s still a lot of confusion on enforcement, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what needs to be done and how to do it and you know, who’s processing what data, and does it matter where your servers are, and there’s just a lot of…there’s a lot of inconsistency and with GDPR and there’s a lot of uncertainties as to what it means and how it’s going to be enforced. So I think it’s going to have a lasting effect because we’re going to end up probably having to, further and further and further try and tighten privacy, at the same time you know, what our industry wants is more data. They want more information about our respondents, they want validated respondents, you know they want home addresses and so you got this kind of dichotomy really of what government wants for privacy and then what research needs and wants for you know, for research rigor. So it’ll be interesting and I think it’s going to be getting more difficult not less.

[7:30] Baillie: Yeah, I think it became so resource intensive to try to understand it and everyone in their own company having to try to discern and interpret the regulation as it applies to them with very vague, kind of, guidelines to begin with. It really… I think a lot of people had to spend a lot of time spinning their wheels to figure it out this year when we could have been moving other things forward. So I agree, very important and there’s only more to come with you know, we’ve seen additional regulations coming out of California and Canada and it’s only going to get more intense, but I hope that we can get to a point of more clarity in being able to execute on it, you know that everyone kind of knows that this is what needs to happen and there’s a clear path forward, because right now it’s so fragmented. I think when GDPR first came out a lot of people turned to Blockchain as a potential kind of saviour of privacy and given the respondent’s control of their data do you see that actually as a solution in any way to the problem of privacy?

[8:50] Sean: From a technological perspective Blockchain is an effective solution because you can make sure that the data is stored in a very very secure manner with multiple copies of it at the same time you can put a user in control of their data, which makes then basically by them sharing their data they’re giving permission. So from a technological perspective I think it is an interesting solution to data privacy, it’s certainly not the only one and I think a lot more effort needs to put in to understanding actually what consumers are willing to do to protect their privacy versus what they want big businesses and government to do to protect it for them and I think there’s a little bit of discussion to be had with whether or not consumers want to be actively you know, protecting their own data versus passively having third party entities protect it for them.

[9:56] Baillie: Yeah, it’ll be an interesting space to watch.

[9:59] Sean: Definitely

[10:01] Baillie: Speaking of interesting spaces to watch at IIEX this year our friend Kristin Luck mentioned that a major theme in this year’s GRIT report is that sample quality is an issue and getting worse and the GRIT report asked researchers how they felt sample quality would change over the next 3 years. 39% of respondents answered that they thought it would be worse, and only 19% answered that they thought sample quality would get better with the remainder saying that either it would stay the same or they weren’t sure. Where do you stand on the quality debate around sample?

[10.48] Sean:I could could talk about this for hours…

[10:51] Baillie: We do talk about this for hours..

[10:53] Sean: I think… we do talk about it for hours. We are a sample company in fact we talk about it a lot.

[10.56] Baillie: Yeah

[10:58] Sean: I think, you know the minute as an industry we went online and started introducing incentives for respondents to take surveys we basically inherently made a flaw that we can’t go back from, right? So as soon as you introduce incentives, you introduce people, you introduce bad behaviour and you’re going to introduce fraud because now people are going to want to give their opinion and get the reward, and sometimes they just want to get the reward and as an industry I think that’s our fault. There’s no going back from it, right, we can’t change that ’cause you’re never going to get people to be taking surveys for free when they know that they can get paid which is really the reality of it. So I don’t think quality is going to get worse, I think what’s really cool is you hear about a lot of technologies around artificial intelligence which is just thrown about but it’s an actual thing right? You can apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to some of these problems. So I think what you’re going to see is the advances in technology are going to allow us to significantly improve sample quality through, a lot of different methodologies and basically identifying the people who are going to behave badly or intentional fraud, or survey bots or whatever it is, that’s causing poor quality. I think what you’re going to find is you can get much much much better at preventing that from happening than you do today. So I’m optimistic that it’s going to get better. I think the two things that will help with that… One is if the market research agencies, designers, end clients can start designing more interesting surveys that people actually enjoy taking because if you’re going to bore someone to death then you’re definitely better plan on having poor data quality. And the second, I think is people need to be getting reasonable rewards for their time and I think too many people right now are buying sample at 50¢, 75¢, a dollar… what do you think you’re going to get for people someone spending 20 minutes and they’re only getting 50¢ incentive? Do you really expect quality there? So, you have to choose if you want high quality. Pay fairly, have good survey design, if you don’t care and you just want cheap then stop talking about quality and just enjoy your cheap sample ‘cause those are your options.

[13:37] Baillie: Yeah… So I agree. What I have been encouraged by is seeing more different stakeholders in the industry starting to understand that they have ownership over sample quality, not just the sample companies. Sample companies have been talking about it for a long time and working through, you know, the issues as they come up but it’s really been seen as a supplier problem. But as you mentioned, what we know from research that’s been done that it is… there are broader solutions to the problem than just what the sample companies can do. You know survey design, quality controls within the survey, better experience, considering the survey as part of your overall brand experience. I mean the amount of attention and money that’s spent on every other aspect of a brand’s interaction with a consumer and making it immersive, and interesting and engaging, you know, and then you slap a really boring not very visually appealing survey at them, and even if the brand is hidden I mean the consumers are savvy, they know. They either know the brand and can discern, or discern the category and you’re doing the industry a disservice. So we’ve got to start considering research as part of the brand experience as well, and you know there’s some big players working on this issue outside of what the sample companies each independently can control. The GRBN is working hard on this and their engage initiative. SampleCon is obviously working hard so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of that conference in a few months. But I think… I like to joke that sample quality has actually never been better, and it’s also never been worse. The technology, the introduction of new methods to engage respondents and ensure that they are of high quality, we’ve never been better at making sure the data is good, we’ve never been worse at just slapping people into a survey and getting what you get. So I think it’s a holistic problem that we all need to take ownership of. The other reality is that people willing to participate in surveys is a really finite resource and we’re competing against really engaging experiences online and on mobile, that it’s no wonder they’re not going to sit through a 15 minute survey when you could spend 15 minutes trolling Instagram or watching Netflix. Those companies build their whole business on capturing attention, and that’s who our competition is for good respondents.

[17:00] Sean: Yeah, I totally agree and you hit on something interesting which is you know the technology exists today to have 100% quality in real time if you just put the controls in place. For example, how often do we see sample thrown out because a respondent has given bad open ends? Right OK, well first of all your survey is probably not very interesting, and they’re tired, but maybe they just want their reward and they’re trying to scam you. Well the technology exists to monitor what’s happening in an open end and determine if its real sentences and thoughtful, so why’s that not being used on every single survey? That’s a way way cheaper solution to put into place than spending hours doing data scrubbing. It just doesn’t make any sense to me why these things aren’t happening in real time when the technology exists. So hopefully as we go into next year and the years beyond we can, as an industry, we can really start to think through what quality means holistically from the moment a respondent engages to participate in research to the moment, that really, a client is seeing the results. So fingers crossed we can make it better.

[18:12] Baillie: Yeah, so we’ll look forward to continuing to push that boulder up the hill in 2019. What else are you looking forward or excited about for our industry in 2019?

[18:26] Sean: I’m into technology. I’m so excited about the changes in technology that could impact our business and the industry. Right, so, you mentioned it earlier, Blockchain. I have no idea what’s going to happen with that. But it’s a cool idea, it’s a neat technology platform. Whether or not we can find proper applications for it in market research or not it’s still being explored. There’s a lot of money floating around funding it, the question is can we do anything useful with it. So I’m excited about that. And then you look at other technologies like you know smart home devices. There’s so many smart home devices and I’m not just talking about an Echo or Google Home but like plugs and thermostats and all these things like how do we get that data and mash it up with the other data we have like that’s so rich, and then you talk about the other behavioural data that’s technology driven like smart watches and Fitbit and things. And then virtual reality and augmented reality all these things are kind of right on the fringe right now. We’re all kind of playing with them and seeing what they can do but we don’t really know what impact they can have and so I’m super excited about the fact that two things are going to happen. One is we’re actually going to end up  having access to way more data than we even do today and the second is the way people interact with the internet is changing and so a lot of these technologies are going to change the way not only people interact with the internet but then how they interact with market research and I think, that’s very very exciting.

[20:01] Baillie: Yea, I absolutely think the opportunities to engage with people in a way that is more engaging for them but also more seamless with their life is a huge opportunity for market research. You know virtual reality, augmented reality, wearables, the smart home devices like these are all things that we… I think will see more and more of a research application and an integrated research application where you’re not being invited to a survey and sitting down and spending 15 minutes but it becomes kind of, a part of the day as you go through your day you’re gathering snippets of information here and there and giving feedback here and there and we can use technology and you know artificial intelligence and data application tools to really merge all that very fragmented data into a clean picture. You know we’re touring new houses being built that are completely managed by your phone in a seamless way, it’s not “I have a WeMo switch for this”, and “I have an Alexa switch for that” and you know a Nest thermostat, it’s all in one cohesive environment. The amount of data that companies are going to be able to get out of how people are just living their day to day lives is terrifying and exciting.

[21:36] Sean: Yeah no totally, for example, I can totally imagine as soon as next year and if not next year, very soon, right, walking into a mall and having a conversation with a robot right? Instead of a human doing a mall intercept, I could see actually talking to a relatively functioning robot or imagine going to the grocery store and giving permission for a drone to follow you around and watch how you shop, like tiny mini drones that are the size of a bug, like that’s coming.

[22:05] Baillie: Yeah.

[22:05] Sean: That’s coming and it’s going to be just really cool to play with, and that’s what gets me excited about our business as we go into next year is we’re in a position to not only be thinking about it, but to be playing with some of this technology and I think if all goes well hopefully we can be in a position to be rolling out some interesting products with this technology. But if nothing else i’m just excited to play with it… just going to be really really fun and interesting to experiment with a lot of these things that frankly didn’t exist when we started this business. Right?

[22:38] Baillie: For sure.

[22:38] Sean: So like you know what is it 5 or 6 years ago, right? There was like none of this and now here we are and there’s like all these cool things to play with so I think it’s going to be really exciting.

[22:48] Baillie: I agree except I don’t know that we can rely on a representative sample of people walking into a mall these days. So I think…

[23:00] Sean: That’s true!

[23:01] Baillie: So I disagree with you there but in concept yes!

[23:04] Sean: Maybe it’ll be an Amazon robot intercept?

[23:07] Baillie: Yeah, there you go! Exactly. Cool, well thanks so much for chatting with me. I hope that anyone who’s made it this far has found this conversation interesting and thought provoking. We’d love your feedback or additional thoughts so please do reach out and cheers to the new year.

[23:31] Sean: Awesome thanks so much!


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