As technology changes, market research has evolved dramatically. It’s possible to use completely new technologies to survey geographic areas that were difficult to reach ten years ago.
At the same time, changes in technology usage among the general population have meant some market research survey techniques that were once in wide use, like telephone surveys, have become viewed by the research community as unreliable. Meanwhile, technologies like Findyr have created a renaissance in older survey techniques, like face-to-face surveys.
How have market research surveys changed over time, and what can researchers expect to see in coming years?
Reliability and Methodology
While technology has changed, the underlying principles of data science have not. For instance, researchers need to ensure they have a large enough sample of the population they’re examining, and they need to make sure the sample is representative. No developments in marketing or technology will change that.
However, one of the most promising developments in survey methodology has been the use of big data. Big data is the collection of large amounts of identifying information about various populations, which is then organized and interpreted in ways that provide new insights.
By harvesting and using big data, researchers can identify demographics they may not have known existed before. They can easily understand broader trends in the market, which they can then drill into to derive greater insights by targeting smaller markets for more granular surveys.
Developments in Survey Administration
Researchers administer surveys in person, by phone or on the internet. Widely accepted as the most reliable method, in-person surveys fell out of favor for decades as researchers moved towards telephone and then the internet to collect data.
However, more recently, the pendulum has swung back in favor of face-to-face interviews. While surveys conducted by telephone were once the gold standard for getting the opinions of large numbers of people across a geographic market, the quality of data has long been suspect. In fact, many companies sold phone lists to researchers to represent select demographics, creating a sizable bias issue.
Furthermore, the advent of cell phones changed the survey landscape. Most cell phone numbers are unlisted, so researchers can’t get ahold of them so easily. What’s more, many households have completely abandoned landlines in favor of one or more cell phones. Targeting people — especially young demographics — by phone has become much more difficult and requires much larger sample sizes.
Even though phone surveys are fraught with problems, internet surveys are in many ways worse. While internet surveys seemed to hold a lot of promise for researchers twenty years ago, they’re largely held to be an unreliable source of data. Results are colored by self-sampling, and it’s easy for respondents to spoof IP addresses or find other ways to answer surveys multiple times.
Many interviewers are moving back to face-to-face interviews to gather information. Face-to-face interviews are typically longer than a phone or internet survey, and they’re usually conducted one-on-one, either via consumer intercepts, going household to household or by selecting individuals from a focus group.
Face-to-face interviews are so valuable because they allow intimate, in-depth discussion of topics. Their open-ended format allows researchers to ask follow-up questions that are impractical or impossible with other survey formats, and this rapport and depth makes them one of the most reliable survey methods.
In-person surveys used to only be possible in close physical proximity. Researchers had to conduct surveys locally, outsource them to local vendor or employ teams to travel out to survey people. As a result, face-to-face interviews have typically been very expensive and time consuming.
But now, technology platforms like Findyr include trained data collectors on the platform who can administer surveys through making face-to-face surveys far quicker and less expensive to complete, while improving the quality of the data.
New technology has brought exciting new developments to the world of market research surveys, with the pendulum swinging back towards face-to-face interviews, which are experiencing a renaissance, and which are by far the most reliable source of survey data. Phone surveys have lost credibility, and internet surveys remain dubious. Meanwhile, big data is making it easier to pinpoint demographics, allowing more granular surveys. Researchers will undoubtedly uncover more insights by leveraging big data along with Findyr’s technology platform and trained data collectors.