For the 5th consecutive year, industry experts from Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Greenbook, and L&E Research gathered to discuss the future trends of market research and technology. The most recent GRIT report shared that the top two unmet needs reported by buyers is technology and sample, so it’s no coincidence that this year the primary topics of conversation were centered around technology and sample.
Technological innovations in qualtech have slowed in the past year as companies seem to be focusing on profitability over growth and innovation. There has been a lot of consolidation within the MRtech ecosystem, combining platforms and solutions to offer more flexibility to users. Providers are refining their platforms, making improvements that make research processes more user-friendly. The tools are robust and can streamline efficiency in many research areas, but a comprehensive platform still seems to be out of reach as no single solution is all-inclusive. While we are seeing evolution within qualtech, we are still not seeing revolution.
Technological advancements in the past few years alone have provided a plethora of solutions, but most are geared to remote and online qualitative research. The industry continues to question if and when in-person research will return. Facility-based research plummeted in 2020 due to stay-at-home orders, local mandates, and everyone’s hesitation to gather, and sadly continued to further decline in 2021. We aren’t seeing focus group facility research volume that matches levels of 2019 and years prior, and we may never see those same levels return, but in-person research is definitively increasing and 2022 is showing a strong rebound. Lenny Murphy of Greenbook shared that research has to be “Fit for purpose”. Charlie Rader of Procter & Gamble echoed this sentiment by sharing, “There’s only so much you can represent on screen”. In a nutshell, if it can be conducted remotely, then there is an abundance of technology that can support the chosen methodology; if however, your research requires use of senses (touch, taste, smell, etc.), it must be conducted face-to-face or via HUT.
Concerns with acquiring quality sample continues to plague researchers. On the quantitative side, bots and fraud are highly problematic. While the issue of fraud in research is not new, the global pandemic and corresponding increase in online research opportunities exacerbated an existing issue. Some brand researchers have claimed that they are removing up to 80% of their collected quantitative data due to confirmed or suspected fraudulent activity. L&E Research recently collaborated with CASE (Collaborate, Advocate, Spearhead, Educate) members to discuss some of the sample challenges researchers face in an in-depth webinar discussion. Qualitative research is much more involved for participants, so while qualitative still experiences fraud, an experienced qualitative research recruitment company can help to mitigate most of this by administering a high-quality and targeted screener to secure the right panelists.
On the qualitative side, the struggle seems to be focused on supply and engagement. Many research buyers have cited participant supply as another obstacle impeding research objectives. It’s no coincidence that the top complaint qualitative recruiters hear from potential panelists is along the lines of, “I complete all these screeners, but I’m never selected to participate in a research study!” As an industry, we must all take a strategic approach to building a more efficient process that keeps participants engaged in research; without their feedback and opinions, research will cease. They are the lifeblood of our industry, and unfortunately, we haven’t done our due diligence to assure a positive experience for them.
In order to keep qualitative panelists engaged, they need to qualify to participate in research, and not simply fill out screeners. Screeners must be developed to only include questions that would qualify or disqualify potential candidates, including necessary demographics. If a question is only collecting information, save it to ask in the research session with those who do meet the qualifications. Screeners should never be used to collect market data, and suppliers can reduce this practice by only providing screening data for those who are fully qualified and recruited for the study. As an industry, we need to collaboratively bid a fond farewell to 10-page / 30-question screeners – this taxes participants and is damaging to the overall participant ecosystem.
Another execrable practice observed is the use of quantitative panels for high-incidence qualitative recruitment due to the lower price point. While researchers can procure low-cost recruitment within quantitative panels, the research results may not elicit qualitative insights. Qualitative research recruiters must build their member databases with a focus on ID-validated and articulate participants who have demonstrated a willingness to spend more time on an involved activity: some people simply aren’t built for qualitative research. On the flip side, quantitative panels should be built for volume, and level of respondent engagement is less a factor since most obligations are brief and generally don’t require a great volume of elaborate open-ended answers. High-incidence studies are used by many qualitative recruitment suppliers to “reward” members who have completed a multitude of screeners, but never seem to fit the qualifying criteria. In order to contribute to the overarching health of the respondent pool that all qualitative recruitment suppliers share, if your research target is low incidence, or even specific product users, consider balancing your recruitment needs with a segment of high incidence recruits; product non-users may have an unique perspective to offer!
Part of ensuring respondent engagement is offering a hearty incentive amount. “Cash is King”, and that holds true when considering panelist incentives. A solid incentive not only encourages a strong response rate to screening outreach efforts (to provide a more diverse pool of candidates screened), but once secured, participants are more apt to complete the obligation to which they have committed. When multi-million/billion dollar decisions are on the line, and consumer insights are part of the decision-making process, is the combination of an uber-cheap recruitment fee and an inequitable incentive a risk you want to take if it means the participants are not of the highest caliber?
Finally, a powerful and dynamic technology suite to manage the database is critical for recruitment suppliers to operate efficiently. Software that can accurately track and retroactively update data points based on current screener information will reduce touchpoints to non-viable candidates, so they are completing fewer screeners, therefore eliminating frustration with our industry’s usual participant procurement process. Our industry has made strides when it comes to database technology, but we still have a long way to go. One day, perhaps recruitment can be conducted without the use of a screener, by using personas, or solely through technology, shifting away from the “ask” environment, and relying on observed data.
We hope you found this summary to be helpful! If you didn’t register for this webinar you can watch this webinar in its entirety by clicking here.
Be on the lookout for our next webinar, which will be in January 2023. If you can’t wait until then, you can always view our on-demand webinars. Don’t forget to join our mailing list so you can keep up with what is happening at L&E!