As Vanella Jackson of Hall & Partners highlighted in the ‘CEO’s State Of The Industry’ Keynote panel discussion at London Insights ‘17, every brief she has recently picked up is saying two things: “we want it faster and cheaper, and we need more strategic advice, with the challenge being how do we deliver these conflicting needs”. Co-panelist Bart Michels, of Added Value, also said that the current environment is creating an impatience with clients on return and clients are looking to agencies to think ahead to solve problems like this. This led for two of RFG’s co-founders, Sean Case and Baillie Buchanan to get together and talk about the state of the industry and how it has led to the development of the newest product The Sampling Place.
SC: I agree with Bart Michels in that the industry is heading down a path of impatience with many market researchers working crazy hours to meet the demands of their customers. We looked at the sample industry and we realised that the way buyers want to interact with us is no longer exclusive to email, they want to have control themselves. I think we will continue to see technology solutions introduced that will allow autonomous control, and will improve speed and efficiency (and to some degree cost) but the main driver is increased efficiency. The Sampling Place allows for that.
BB: I would say that we are already down the impatient path and The Sampling Place is a solution that provides buyers more time for strategic thinking about delivery to their customer rather than chasing suppliers for updates etc. It also means that more time can be spent designing the project so it meets the needs of participants as there is also a big call in the industry to respect the respondent.
Lastly, there’s a move towards automation in our industry and sample buying through an API can be great for some clients and sample buyers, but it is also not right for everyone. The Sampling Place is a bridge of that gap; you want the efficiency and control but you don’t want to go, or have the tech support to go, all the way down the route of an API.
SC: One thing you mentioned which is really important is that our industry, the sample space, has been highly and wrongly commoditized. The unfortunate part is that it’s very easy for someone to enter with some respondents and offer the market cheap pricing. Now the market place has this false notion that there’s an abundance of sample at really low prices but the reality is that there’s a higher demand for respondents to online surveys than ever before, but there is not enough supply to fill it. The main reason for this is that respondents are not rewarded fairly anymore. So to your point, The Sampling Place can free up time for Market Researchers to focus on important things such as a positive respondent experience. We want to ensure that participants want to come back to market research and to continue to take surveys.
BB: Yes, the incentive amount is important but it is also about finding the right balance between that and user experience. If we can improve the user experience, like closing the feedback loop or giving participants the satisfaction of knowing what changes their insights actually led to, you don’t need to throw more money at them. They are enjoying the experience along the way. Currently, we have gone so far down the path of it being a fairly terrible user experience the easiest thing is to throw a higher incentive at participants to get them to muscle through.
SC: That is another good point. I also wanted to elaborate on another good point you mentioned earlier around tech integrations. There is a wave of companies like Research For Good that have been built on the foundation of technology and so API integrations make sense for those companies. However the majority of MR buyers use 3rd party software for survey offering/data analysis, they don’t have control over the technology or ability to influence it. That is why we introduced The Sampling Place so they can still buy sample but the way want to and how they want to.
But The Sampling Place is also perfect for those who are already using self-serve market research platforms such as Survey-monkey, Question-pro or Qualtrics etc,. If you’re already programming your own surveys, buying your own sample is probably going to be a good fit, as you are already in that self-serve mode.
BB: And how does technology like this move the MR industry forward?
SC: Well I think this is part of the earlier point. As we are an impatient industry then the more technology that can be introduced to create flexibility, efficiency and, like you said, allows the buyer to focus on important things, like insights and survey design, then you are moving the industry forward.
That is how we approached this product. There are ways in which our customers like to buy sample, through a sales team rep or through tech integration, however some of our customers asked for a new model: a do-it-yourself model. For us, if a customer wants to venture down a new path, we will continue to innovate and adapt to meet their needs. We are customer driven so if a customer want’s to buy sample from us in a way we have not yet thought of then we will continue to be innovative and adapt so that they continue to want to purchase from us.
If the next big jump [in MRX] is surveys completed through Siri or Amazon Echo, or other device types, then that is where we need to be.
SC: You’re 100% right, people take surveys, for the most part, during their free time. We, as an industry shouldn’t be dictating what that free time is or how it is spent. If someone likes playing video games or they like to play with mobile apps that earn them rewards, we shouldn’t care about why they want to engage in surveys, nor should we care what the incentive is. What we should care about is if the participant is willing to take the survey on whatever device they are on, that they are human and have insights worth hearing. And, if the next big jump is surveys completed through Siri or Amazon Echo, or other device types, then that is where we need to be.
BB: I agree. Whether it’s applicable to The Sampling Place or not, we really need to meeting people on their terms and also communicating with them in a way they feel most comfortable. A lot of companies are moving towards video and getting recorded responses, whether it’s through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook live etc, people are comfortable with the platform and this is going to be key moving forward. You can gain so much from video that you can’t get through quant or open end responses such as facial expressions or tone. This ties into what you were saying about “other device types”. The talk right now is online vs mobile, but it is much broader than that – it’s meeting respondents wherever they are and whatever device they are using. If that’s a virtual reality headset on which a user is gaming, then we integrate a feedback system into that platform. Or take it to the next stage and create a feedback system through The Internet Of Things, where we gather feedback either passive or directly from any of their smart products. An example may be a smart lock on a front door unlocking could activate the Alexa system to ask one or two questions about a particular topic and over time we gather snippets of information that compile up to a holistic look at someone’s experience. I think we need to to be moving towards “the internet of all things” and the surveying of people through different approaches.
SC: I would add that we need to get better at making sure these experiences are optional for the user and they are permission based. I think a lot of times the execution of these concepts, such as video, include respondents who feel forced or cornered and that they are only going to get their reward if they agree to participate, but they have also already committed 10 minutes to the research. We need to be better at putting expectations upfront and communicate that we respect the respondent’s choice to participate in some ways and not others.
BB: That is interesting about what you just said about respect. There is a lot of interesting research happening around Data Quality and how that is influenced by the amount of respect you show to the respondent. Example, things like trap questions, yes they weed out those who are not paying attention but they also treat those who are paying attention like a bad respondent. Our industry starts from the guilty until proven innocent stance, but a shift away from that mindset will lead to an increase in data quality. A person who feels respected and listened to is more likely to give you more of their time, be patient through the experience and be more thoughtful as opposed to someone who feels they have to prove they’re not a criminal.
SC: Totally agree. And I think we should look at Respect the Respondent as a future blog topic.
As Sean and Baillie suggest, as we, the market research industry, move forward there is lots to think about and even more to do to ensure the best insights are achieved. What are your thoughts on the state of the industry and what is the future of MRX? Leave us a comment below. If you are interested in learning more about The Sampling Place and would like to book a walk through, then fill out the contact form below.