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1 Topic, 5 Blogs: “Interactive Questions in Market Research”

Posted by Josh Mendelsohn on Tue, Dec 15, 2009

I am privileged to be one of 5 bloggers who, each 15th of the month - will produce a POV on an issue facing the Marketing Research industry. You'll also be hearing from Annie Pettit (organizer), Bernie Malinoff, Joel Rubinson and Brandon Bertelsen. Links to their posts will follow.

I am also particularly excited about this first topic: interactive questioning and its impact on the research industry. A little background... I work at Chadwick Martin Bailey, a high end, mostly quantitative research firm with a focus on segmentation, brand, product development, and customer loyalty work. I have been here for most of the last decade, with a two year stint at Invoke Solutions in the middle. So I see the traditional angle and the non-traditional angle from an inside perspective.

Question: Is technology helping or hurting the research industry?

Answer: Yes.

That is to say that it is not a matter of helping or hurting, it's about accepting and embracing the reality of technological advances and the evolving requirements of respondents and clients.

"We're not in the entertainment industry." - Anonymous market researcher

Recently, my friend Jen Drolet from iModerate presented findings to my firm from a research study conducted with eRewards and M/A/R/C that was presented at CASRO largely about interactive questions and their impact. After some questions about validity and cost a researcher in the audience stated, "That's great, but we're not in the entertainment industry." I wasn't shocked at all by this response. I have found researchers to be among the slowest to adopt new tools and techniques, especially ones that increase cost to the client or require extra work or training. But I disagree with her premise.

We are constantly asking people to fill out questionnaires or participate in a focus group for minimal incentives. Which is fine in a vacuum, but people don't live a vacuum. They are choosing to give you their time over watching television, playing with their kids, listening to music, watching youtube videos, updating their Facebook profiles, or reading a good book. If research is too boring or feels too dated, they will simply stop participating.

"If it's not fun, why do it?" -Ben and Jerry's

The good news for advocates of interactive surveys is that most people agree with this Ben and Jerry's motto. No one is suggesting we completely overhaul the way we conduct surveys, but as long as it doesn't affect validity researchers need to look for opportunities to include interactive questions, open-ended questions, and images. It also means we need to get away from the academic, passive language that researchers are trained to use and make the research experience more conversational and reflective of the brands and target audiences involved. If all else is equal, make the experience more fun and engaging for respondents.

"There is a right time and place for everything." - Josh Mendelsohn

This has always been my philosophy on beer and music, but it applies to research methods as well. Every audience and question has its own set of requirements. For example, older audiences need bigger font sizes, not gaming style imagery and younger audiences need to be able to interact with the survey and feel listened to. Insurance companies may need to be more professional in tone while "cool" consumer brands may want to adapt a casual language and visual style. Our job is to pick the best solution for the situation at hand and not blindly insist on using or not using the latest, greatest interactive question types.

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." - Andy Dufresne

My favorite quote from "The Shawshank Redemption" applies to the state of the industry as a whole. There is no question that clients' demands for speed, interactivity, and hybrid solutions will continue to grow, especially as the age of clients comes down. As research providers we have two options. Spend time adapting our methods to today's business and cultural environment or find ourselves slowing being phased out. Without adapting, we'll have a hard time differentiating ourselves from one another and from self service tools. It's time to get busy living.

Read the other 4 blogs:

Joel Rubinson of the ARF: http://blog.joelrubinson.net/2009/12/getting-the-most-out-of-online-research/

Annie Petit of Lovestats: http://lovestats.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/1-topic-5-blogs-rich-media-in-surveys/

Bernie Malinoff of Element54: http://element-54.com/2009/12/1-topic-5-blogs-impact-of-rich-media-question-types-in-mr/

Brandon Bertelsen: http://bertelsen.ca/journal/1-topic-5-blogs-new-media-survey-questions

Posted by Josh Mendelsohn. Josh is our VP of Marketing and loves live music, pugs, tv, great food, market research, New Orleans, marketing, Boston and sports. You can follow him on twitter @mendelj2 and at The Better Research Blog

Topics: methodology, research design