Google Consumer Surveys and impact on Market Research
I entered the Research Industry when I was 16 years old in the call centres and have been a part of the industry for over a decade now in a wide variety of roles.
Industry after industry Digital Innovation has caused a disruption. A few years back at a conference I raised the question “What if the Market Research industry allied with someone like Facebook or Google“? It’s a question that had probably crossed most peoples minds who work within the industry, and was a matter of time until there was some sort of movement in the space.To put it rather bluntly, that Google, Facebook or any of the other networks might be a crucial and significant part of the industry was always a reality that had to be faced one day.
So firstly, what is Google Consumer Surveys?
1. You create online surveys to gain consumer insight
2. People complete questions to access premium content
3. Publishers get paid as their visitors answer
4. You get nicely aggregated and analyzed data
Google gets $0.10 per question from market research companies, while online publishers walk away with half of that. Google does place a condition, that if readers don’t want to answer the question, the publisher has to provide an alternative such as signing up for an email alert.
The Research industry is an extremely progressive one which has constantly evolved keeping in mind digital disruptions and changing consumer behavior and I believe this kind of movement within the Market Research space will benefit in the long haul then harm.
I had a great chat with Lenny Murphy who runs the Green Book Blog the other week and attended the conference. Based on a conversation with him, below is a series of thoughts, implications and opportunities.
1) Google plans to treat this as a Phase 1 launch of an overall bigger scheme. Which means that this isn’t likely to be another Google Wave which will just go away (I might be wrong here though Lenny confirmed this was the case). It seems like Google is covering off not only an extensive library of survey types, but also a core focus on a simple DIY questionnaire module as well as reporting and data visualization. This may likely integrate with their other services and also across other browsers and obviously platforms like Android.
2) The quant survey scene may be impacted, however for specialist quant enabled methodologies, I don’t foresee a direct impact at this stage. This may in fact accelerate what the Market Research industry (and consumers) have been saying for some time, shorter/snappier/more effective surveys. And DIY surveying isn’t a new trend, Survey Monkey with $1B funding has been garnering traction for some time.
3) As this article states: “For market researchers, stopping at one question is like eating only one potato chip – impossible for all but the most strong willed. The key to satisfying both researchers and respondents is to always field questionnaires to individuals as subsets.”…..“If Google has to choose between satisfying the respondent or the researcher, they’ll choose the respondent first every time: the implied contract they are creating for respondents is that they will never have to answer more than two questions. Of course, their survey authoring user interface lets researchers write questionnaires of any length, but with only one branching question (the screener).”
4) Online surveys and online panels is a very large part of Market Research, but the Research industry overall is a massive one which has a lot of other areas.
So what are the core opportunities for Market Research despite the disruption?
1) Methodologies like Sensory and Qualitative (online and offline) will become “super-niches” and have an even stronger foundation.
2) With the drive in video driven content and apps like YouTube, Viddy and SocialCam as well as the latest wave with image driven networks like Instagram and Pinterest a possible surge in Video Ethnography and Image Ethnography is possible. An image after all does speak a 1000 words?
3) As this post says: Integrating Survey data and behavioral data is powerful. With so much data, the ability to integrate various forms of data will not only give more holistic insights, but cement the role of the researcher all the more central. By allowing survey data to be fused with any form of behavioral data (and also many layers of “social” data) the data itself gets amplified. SMART Data.
4) Data Visualization: I cannot stress the absolute importance that these changes have on data visualization. As I’ve said to countless people across the last few years, the role of the researcher will ultimately get even more fundamental (as well as the marketing scientist). But no matter how smart both of them are, if the data and insights aren’t presented in something which is simple and striking then the rest of the puzzle, I believe, won’t gel together properly. Whether the data is presented in the form of media-rich presentation, Infographics, Videographics or any other form, presenting the data in an exciting way is fundamental in this shift. This also means the type of skill sets needed within a research team will evolve (designers, digital designers, video editors, image editors etc).
5) Smart device driven research and Online Communities: Smartphones come with an array of tools from images, videos, to GPS. Ditto for tablets. It’s something that most people have on them (and this is shifting more and more from a global perspective). Engaging research will shift more and more onto these platforms, which means creative research design becomes all the more fundamental (evolution is crucial). The integration of these tools with MROC’s will also be a growth area I believe.
6) Abstract Data Consultants, Insight Storytellers, The Holistic Data Geek, Visualization Genius, Image Expert (feel free to add your own)….I also feel we may see a range of new titles coming which take into account the various and different roles emerging within the Market Research Industry to take these changes into account. Ultimately, technology comes and goes (and adoption is driven by human behavior), disruptive technology usually makes things cheaper, faster, smarter or provides an entirely new way of doing something in a 21st century era. However the ability to help make better decisions and understand more is an entirely human function for which the onus falls onto the “researcher” (or whatever the titles of the future maybe).
7) Lastly, this article from Victoria Gamble summarizes the sentiments really well.
“It’s just a phase people are going through”
“People will come back to us. We offer ‘real research’, not this cheaper, low quality stuff”
“It’s only the young doing it”
“What we offer is ‘better”, people will come around to our way of thinking once they’ve been burnt”
This feels short-sighted. Time will only tell. But it does seem to me that we need to think about what these shifts mean, and take them seriously – rather than dismissing them as a trend. I do think “digital” (whatever that means, and however it ends up) is here to stay.
So I think that we need to focus on the skills market researchers offer that make us unique and evolve, now, rather than when it is too late.
Looking forward to hearing what others have to say on this front.
Prashant Harish Hari