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How reliable is market research data?


Tuesday, 23 May 2017


How reliable is your market research?

I hope it is self-evident that market research is only as good as the data it is built on.


“74% of market researchers cite reliable data as the most important issue in study design.” GRIT Q4 report, 2016

As I have commented in previous articles, most market research studies are not used in decision-making.

“Most research, perhaps 80% of it, is irrelevant to decision-making.” The Golden Age of Research Reinvented, 2017.

I wonder if the two points are connected?

What’s going on in consumer market research?

The Green Book has been leading the way in challenging market research practice:

“We MUST change or risk losing access to respondents” GRIT, 2017

In a follow-up to the alarming Q4 2016 GRIT report, a further investigation has revealed more damning evidence of the poor way the research industry treats its customers. New findings in the GRIT Consumer Participation in Research report confirms that there are significant issues that undermine the reliability of market research results: 1. Only a quarter of all respondents globally are satisfied with their experience participating in research. 2. Over half of all respondents admitted that the design of a survey impacts their willingness to complete it 3. Over 50% of respondents said surveys should be less than 10 minutes in length

“The results of the study just reinforce our belief …. That the industry does a poor job of putting the respondent first, despite having the means and the knowledge to do so.” GRIT, 2017.

The authors’ conclusions: 1. Go “mobile first” in survey design 2. Stay under 10 minutes 3. Think like marketers when designing research 4. Give respondents fair reward and give them choices 5. Use research as a brand engagement and relationship building opportunity.

What’s going on in Healthcare research?

Industry body BHBIA has made an attempt to tackle the issue by setting up a Response Rate Task Force:

“This followed data presented at the BHBIA Annual Conference in May 2015 showed that the industry has been experiencing a decline in healthcare professional response rates in market research.” BHBIA, 2015

Some two years later, at the 2017 Annual Conference, we had another update. Whilst there are few clear actions coming out that would have a substantive impact on the issue, the chairs did warn that screeners had been identified as a key area that is eroding participation. A screener process is meant to assess whether someone qualified for a survey. Whilst BHBIA recommend 10-12 questions (at least a 2-3 minute process, which is already way too long in my view), most screeners are longer than that and screeners of 5-10 minutes long and 20-30 questions are now not uncommon. Does this strike you as an appropriate way to treat important people like Oncologists?

Why the lack of respect?

Specialists are very important people in society. If we meet them in person, we treat them with respect and know their professional time valuable. So why do market researchers continue to behave in the opposite way?

For the market research industry, data is important but people are not. As GRIT observes, the industry is incapable of seeing the connection between the two.

What does that mean?

Most of the quantitative research done is worthless if the data it is built on is not reliable. It should be obvious that most, if not all, questionnaire designs are creating their own bias. Market research in its current form is flawed.

How is the industry responding?

Like Ostriches. No one wants to hear it and any efforts to change are notional at best and ignored at worst.

Stop tinkering!

The industry needs a radical re-think of what is does – a process akin to zero-based budgeting – start again and entirely re-design its approach on everything.

Put the respondent first and build from there

Market research should be about bringing the voice of the customer into the heart of corporate decision-making. Respondents are customers and human beings and should be treated with respect. Research needs to fit into their lives and respect their time. Get this right and market research can be influential.

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