Aug 262014
No More Surveys

Back in March 2010, I caused quite a stir with a prediction, at the UK’s MRS Conference, when I said that in 20 years we would not be conducting market research surveys. I followed my conference contribution with a more nuanced description of my prediction on my blog.

At the time the fuss was mostly from people rejecting my prediction. More recently there have been people saying the MR industry is too fixated on surveys, and my predictions are thought by some to be too cautious. So, here is my updated view on why I think we won’t be conducting ‘surveys’ in 2034.

What did I say in 2010?
The first thing I did was clarify what I meant by market research surveys:

  • I was talking about questionnaires that lasted ten minutes or more.
  • I excluded large parts of social research; some parts of which I think will continue to use questionnaires.

Why no more surveys?
In essence there are three key reasons that I think surveys will disappear

  1. The decline in response rates means that most survey research is being conducted with an ever smaller proportion of the population, who are taking very large numbers of surveys (in many cases several per week). This raises a growing number of concerns that the research is going to become increasingly unrepresentative.
  2. There are a growing number of areas where researchers feel that survey responses are poor indicators of true feelings, beliefs, priorities, and intentions.
  3. There are a growing number of options that can, in some cases, provide information that is faster, better, cheaper – or some combination of all three. Examples of these options include: passive data, big data, neuro-stuff, biometrics, micro-surveys, text processing of open-ended questions and comments, communities, and social media monitoring.

Surveys are the most important thing in market research!
There is a paradox, in market research, about surveys, and this paradox is highlighted by the following statements both being true:

  1. The most important data collection method in market research is surveys (this is because over half of all research conducted, in terms of dollars spent) is conducted via surveys.
  2. The most important change in market research data collection is the move away from surveys.
Because surveys are currently so important to market research there is a vast amount of work going on to improve them, so that they can continue to deliver value, even whilst their share of MR declines. The steps being taken to improve the efficiency and efficacy of surveys include:
  • Mobile surveys
  • Device agnostic surveys
  • Chunking the survey into modules
  • Implicit association
  • Eye-tracking
  • Gamification
  • Behavioural economics
  • Biometrics
  • In the moment research
  • Plus a vast rage of initiatives to merge other data, such as passive data, with surveys.

How quickly will surveys disappear?
When assessing how quickly something will disappear we need to assess where it is now and how quickly it could change.

It is hard to know exactly how many surveys are being conducted, especially with the growth of DIY options. So, as a proxy I have taken ESOMAR’s figures on market research spend.

The table below shows the proportion of global, total market research spend that is allocated to: Quant via surveys, Quant via other routes (e.g. people meters, traffic, passive data etc), Qual, and Other (including secondary data, consultancy and some proportion of communities).

The first three rows show the data reported in the ESOMAR Global Market Research reports. Each year reflects the previous year’s data. The data show that surveys grew as a proportion of research from 2007 to 2010. This was despite a reduction in the cost of surveys as F2F and CATI moved to online. From 2010 to 2013 there was indeed a drop in the proportion of all research spend that was devoted to surveys. However, given the falling cost of surveys and the continued growth of DIY, it is likely that the absolute number of surveys may have grown from 2010 to 2013.

Other quant, which covers many of the things that we think will replace surveys, fell from 2007 to 2010. In many cases this was because passive collection techniques became much cheaper. For example the shift from expensive services to Google Analytics.

The numbers in red are my guess as to what will happen over the next few years. My guess best on 35 years in the industry, talking to the key players, and applying what I see around me.

I think surveys could lose 9 percentage points in 3 years – which is a massive change. Does anybody seriously think it will be much faster? If surveys lose 9 percentage points they will fall below 50% of all research, but still be the largest single method.

I am also forecasting that they will fall another 11 percentage points by 2019 – trends often accelerate – but again, does anybody really think it will be faster? If that forecast is true, by 2019 about one-third of paid for research will still be using surveys. Other quant will be bigger than surveys, but will not be a single approach; there will be many forms of non-survey research.

I also think that Other (which will increasingly mean communities and integrated approaches) and qual will both grow.

What do you think?
OK, I have nailed my flag to the mast, what do you think about this issue? Are my forecasts too high, about right, or too low? Do you agree that the single most important thing about existing data collection methods is the survey process? And, that the most important change is the movement away from surveys?


Aug 192014

Back in July I asked ‘Who are the most influential market research people on Twitter?’ After some banter we narrowed the question to the #MRX tag and mid-July. I asked for nominations, Jeffrey Henning prepared a special version of his #MRX tweeted links report, and we have had input from ColourText, Texifter, and NodeXL.

You can read the full report by clicking here, and the full report includes several links back to much fuller and interactive information form some of the people who have made this report possible.

But here is a meta-analysis of the findings. To produce the list I tabulated who made the top ten of at least one of the lists, counted how often they made the top ten, and ranked them by that.

So this meta list is a follows:

























































A five means the account was identified as ‘influential’ or widely linked or widely reacted to or linked to popular links by most of the routes used in the report. A 1 means the account made one of the top ten lists.

Of course, this does not mean these 27 are the most influential, nor does it mean the people at the top are the most influential, and it does not mean that influence exists in the way it is often assumed to (see this great TED talk by Sinan Aral on this topic).

Read the full report by clicking here.

I’d like to give my thanks to NodeXL, Jeffrey Henning, Texifter, and ColourText for helping produce this report, and to @lennyism for his support in getting the idea off the ground and for helping share the results.


Aug 172014

Beacons are devices that send a signal to people’s mobile phones, which identifies when somebody is close to a specific beacon, which in turn allows locations (e.g. a Starbucks) to know that somebody is in their store, which allows a range of marketing and market research options to be enabled. Beacons are the key that unlocks location-based research, which is one of the key requirements of ‘in the moment’ research. OK, there is a lot of jargon in that sentence, so let’s unpick it.

In the moment research. Traditional research was based on asking respondents to remember what they had seen and done. This was not too much of a challenge with really big things, like how many cars or refrigerators did you buy this month, and if you bought one, what brand was it and roughly how much did you pay. But if you want to know where somebody bought their bottled water, how they felt about the way they were served by a barista, or how their commute into work today went, the interactions need to be investigated during the activity, or immediately afterwards. This sort of research is called in the moment research. Location-based research. This means that the location triggers the research. For example, somebody visits a supermarket and the supermarket research activity is triggered. Later they visit a station and a travel related activity is triggered.

Beacons and iBeacons. The first beacons that were used for location-based activities were based on sound. The beacons were fitted in locations, such as a store, and emitted a very high frequency signature. The sound was too high pitched for humans to hear it, but mobile devices running the appropriate app could detect it. The beacon was in a location such as a store, when a participating respondent entered the store the beacon, the store, the company running the service, and the participant’s phone all know the participant is in the store. Which means the location can be recorded and an action initiated.

Sonic beacons have been superseded by beacons using Bluetooth LE (the LE stands for low energy), with the key example being Apple’s iBeacon. Although iBeacon is an Apple device it can work with iPhones and Android devices.

ShopKick. The most high profile user of beacons is not a market research company, but a marketing company, ShopKick. ShopKick persuade people to sign up to their system so they can earn awards for visiting participating sites. ShopKick can then use their system to send messages, coupons, request for actions etc.

The near future? Beacons are unlocking location-based research and in the moment research, which is going to increase the reach, sensitivity, and validity of market research.

What’s Hot in Research? Beacons are one example of something that is hot in market research. To find out more about what is hot, check out this post on the NewMR website.


Aug 142014

One of the questions I get asked most often is “What’s hot in market research?”. I will be broadcasting my update as NewMR lecture next Wednesday, August 20, (you can register for it here).

But here is a sneak peek into what is hot, still hot, bubbling under the surface, and not so hot.

Still Hot
It is important when looking at the ‘new stuff’ not to ignore stuff that has been around for a while, but which is still growing in market share, importance, and usage:

  • Mobiles in traditional research. Mobile is a big and growing part of CATI, online surveys, and F2F – this trend has a long way to go yet.
  • Communities. Communities (including Insight Communities and MROCs) have been the fastest growing major new research approach for a few years now, and this is going to continue.
  • DIY. We hear less about DIY these days, that is probably because it has become normal, this sector is growing, both in terms of part of being a key part of existing MR and partly because it is growing the scope of market research.

These are three of the items that I think are the hottest topics in MR, in terms of their growth and potential. All three of these are going to be game changers.

  • Beacons. For example iBeacons, which use geofencing and allow location-based services (including research) to be offered in much easier and more practical ways than is offered by methods such as GPS.
  • In the moment research. Research using mobiles and research using participants to capture information as people go about their normal day, including qual, quant, and passive, is making research more valid and sensitive.
  • Micro surveys. The most high profile micro (or nano or very short) provider is Google Consumer Surveys, but there are a variety of other providers, such as RIWI. Also, Beacons, In the Moment, and Communities are all leveraging Micro Surveys.

These three are going to make a major impact soon, but not quite yet.

  • Text analytics. The technology is not quite here yet, but when it clears the last few hurdles it will hit market research like a freight train – for example shifting the balance from closed questions to open questions, and finally driving more value out of social media discourses.
  • Web messaging. Apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line are growing faster than anything else globally. A few people are looking at how to leverage these for market research, and more will follow.
  • Research bots. One of the key factors limiting the use of social media, communities, and the use of video is the requirement to use people to do the moderation and analysis. Bots (software applications short for robots) are going to change this and open a new, vast range of options.

Not So Hot
These three are all interesting niches, some people are making a good living from them, but they are not scaling in a way that makes a difference to most brands or researchers.

  • Facial Coding. It answers some questions, but is limited in terms of its range of uses, delays, scalability, and cost.
  • Webcam qual. The benefits are usually too small and the resistance from potential participants are too high to make this a generally useful approach.
  • Social Media Research. Whilst social media research, especially monitoring, has become essential, it has not grown into what was expected.

What about?

  • Big Data
  • Behavioural Economics
  • Gamification
  • Smartphone ethnography
  • Neuroscience
  • Geotracking
  • Wearbles
  • Quantified Self
  • Biometrics

Want to know where these items fit in this picture? Tune in to our webinar next Wednesday, 10am New York time, which is 3pm London time. Click here to register.


Aug 132014
Sue Cardwell 2

Guest post by Sue Cardwell, marketing manager at Infotools Sue is a keen proponent of effective data visualization for business success. Sue has 10 years of experience in the consumer insight field across several countries. She now lives in Auckland, New Zealand and works for Infotools. Sue is an inveterate blogger and self-confessed chart geek who loves creating new vizzes in her spare time. You can see more by Sue Cardwell here.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series. If you would like to contribute a post to this series contact

“Do you want to allow this app to post to Facebook?”

No, I did not! I felt each new socially-connected service was an invasion of my private life. I was a classic lurker: someone who watches what other people post on social, but is shy about sharing.

But I’m also a marketer. We get excited about the shiny new toys of social media. Gradually I found my barriers being broken down in favour of the benefits I gained.

Time for a major attitude shift. As I gained confidence with social sharing, I made the decision to embrace transparency. I am who I am, and I’m happy for you to see that. If you wished, you could find out that I’m a data viz fan who loves hiking and cooks a mean pizza. I made and still make plenty of mistakes (over-sharing, anyone?). But being authentic means making mistakes sometimes.

My activity got me noticed. People recognised me when they saw me at market research events, and strangers were happy to talk to me. (I found out later that what was happening is called the Mere Exposure Effect. People like and trust something more when they are exposed to it more times.) I had more meaningful conversations and I felt more connected to my market research community.

Later I became the marketing manager of Infotools, a company that makes brilliant market research analysis and visualization tools. I was keen to spread my positive experience of social sharing with people there. It’s especially great for Infotools because we’re head-quartered in New Zealand so it’s not always handy to catch up with our clients and peers at events in the 100 countries we deal with. Social media erases borders and time zones.

But not everyone was as keen as I was to be visible on social media! Often, my enthusiasm met with resistance, fear and scepticism.

My theory on this is that market research attracts analytical minds. As researchers, we’re cautious observers, who love to explore lots of information before acting – if we ever get around to acting. Compared to say the advertising industry, we aren’t natural soapbox shouters.

However, we do love a good debate. We adore analysing research techniques and approaches to find the best solutions for delivering insight and business results. LinkedIn and Twitter are ideal places to do just that. Social conversations advance our industry by exchanging and developing ideas, and also by building community and culture.

So I challenge market researchers: feel the fear and do it anyway! You have everything to gain.


Aug 122014
Maya Middlemiss 2014

Guest post by Maya Middlemiss, Managing Director of Saros Research, a UK-based company specialising in market research recruitment.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series. If you would like to contribute a post to this series contact

This post focuses on what social media means to Saros Research. Research participant recruitment is all about connecting with people, reaching out to potential new audiences – and the social media revolution of recent years has given us an amazing array of new tools with which to do this. Our social media and content creation strategy is at the heart of our database development process, alongside a range of powerful offline tools which will always be needed as well.

We create and curate extensive content to introduce the idea of research participation to people, and encourage them to register as potential participants – via our own blog and also guest blogging (such as a resident slot at Birds-on-the-Blog). Having pioneered database-driven recruitment in the UK since the turn of the millennium we are aware that there is still a vast potential audience out there who simply don’t know they can get paid to share their views in qualitative research – and we are continually on the look-out for ways to engage with them. Our analytics help us decide where to put our efforts, to reach out to different audiences, based on the demand coming from our research clients.

We use our Facebook Page to disseminate our content, and also to place teasers for projects we want people to apply for – as well as to recruit to our database. As our main B2C channel, we find it a good way to get feedback from members and participants as well.

Similarly with Twitter, where we also curate a range of industry and related news several times a day. Twitter is becoming an increasingly important client and participant communications channel for us, and a good way to get urgent shouts-out rapidly to a wide audience. Twitter is also a great monitoring and listening tool, to find out relevant conversations are going on which we can engage with appropriately.

We use LinkedIn to build authority, distribute our own and others’ industry and business-related content, and to engage in relevant groups. We are still evaluating the impact of the new LinkedIn publishing platform, which seems to function so far as a useful B2B guest-blogging tool… But, one we are using without losing sight of the importance of owning one’s own content: anything you publish on someone else’s site costs you in overall control and traffic.

Anything else? Well are Pinning of course –isn’t everybody? It’s not going to big for us I don’t think. And our Youtube channel is important, for sharing user feedback as well as illustrating exactly what we do, not least because of it’s close connection to Google+.

Of course, participant recruitment is a specific niche within market research where it remains vital to be continually communicating with public audiences. It is resource-intensive to do it the way we do, but makes sense for database-driven recruitment. It might make less sense for other research companies, or those operating in different niches – it helps that I have a personal passion for social media, and write and blog and consult on it anyway…

As with any marketing activity, you need to know what your intention is, and how you will measure whether you have been successful with it, before you can decide what exactly to do. This direction needs to take place at a strategic level, even if the execution happens at a junior one – and I believe this is where many organisations slip up. Perhaps it’s simply down to not having anyone senior enough to create and implement the social media strategy, but a lot of quite large companies seem to bolt-on social media as an afterthought or leave it in the wrong hands, then wonder why it hasn’t worked out for them.

Things change very rapidly in the social media world, there are a great many shiny things to go chasing after, and measuring ROI can be challenging. Even identifying what to measure is difficult, it’s easy to get distracted by vanity metrics – so many people like and follow us! But how does that impact the bottom line? You can waste a great deal of time on the wrong things if you don’t identify your objectives very clearly at the outset. Also if you screw up you will do so very publicly – as many brands have learned to their cost.

For most of the research companies we recruit for, use of social media will tend to be driven by different factors to our own – prioritising authority building over reach, for example. And managing what we do remains part of a process under continual review, we can never assume we’ve finally got it nailed because the landscape keeps changing.

But we love social media here at Saros and will continue to use it for all the right reasons.


Aug 112014
Mary Aviles

Guest post from Mary Aviles of Bauman Research. Mary has 16+ years experience in strategic marketing, competitive intelligence, trends analysis, market research, product management, content management and now social media listening.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series. If you would like to contribute a post to this series contact

In his recent Greenbook blog post, Ray Poynter–someone we consider one of the rock stars of market research (#MRX)–discussed the current limitations of social media monitoring and listening for market research applications. From a quantitative focus, we totally agree with the challenges he cites and we very much appreciate his raising these issues. In fact, in working with the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) Social Media Research (#SMR) Special Interest Group (SIG), we’ve struggled with many of these same issues: poor quality sentiment analysis, the inability to export social media comment streams, the challenge of analyzing items like retweets, shares and the contents of those links. Certainly, there are significant hurdles to overcome in social media research. These can be extremely difficult if we’re talking about quantitative research. Several remain challenging if we’re talking about qualitative research as well, but as a supplement to qualitative research we see a lot of potential for SMR and we’ve been having some success.

The good thing about SMR with a qualitative focus is that we are interested in directional information. We don’t need to be overly worried about big data and sentiment analysis at the qualitative stage of the project. QRCs absolutely can use social media to answer questions AND uncover questions/issues we hadn’t considered. Social media is ideal for many of the foundational activities that we perform, like identifying lexicon and developing relevant “buckets” or project-oriented categories. While we realize that Mr. Poynter’s focus in this post was not qualitative, he suggests that social media research cannot be used to “map or understand the space” and that “brands can’t use it to test new products and services, or almost any future plan.”

But we have had success using social media to help establish a foundation for our client work that we then use to inform our qualitative research process. We absolutely depend on social media to round out our secondary competitive analysis which we use to develop market landscapes and trend analysis. We find that analysis of social media can provide valuable insights on positioning, reputation, engagement, responsiveness, influence, marketing and communication strategies, industry lexicon and significant content/categories of importance to key target communities. Social media commentary offers unique visibility into relevance, appeal and consideration. In this way, on our projects SMR contributes in a unique way. It doesn’t duplicate other findings and it provides added value to our overall qual–allowing us to ask better questions, use better lexicon or recruit better respondents. It’s also an extremely efficient way to become familiar with a particular space or industry.

I’d like to offer the following business-to-business (B2B) client example. Recently, during work for a company in the identity theft space, social media research led me to review the ample online media coverage of the Target data breach. In doing so, I familiarized myself with several key data breach and identity theft influencers. I was able to analyze aspects of their Twitter streams as well as commentary on mainstream media outlets such as 60 Minutes and USA Today and more topical industry sources like KrebsOnSecurity. Yes, the analysis was largely manual. I had to cut and paste and hand cleanse the verbatims. Yes, it had to be shared anonymously and could not be attributed to specific demographics. Yes, it is highly biased due to the nature of the topic and the propensity for security “enthusiasts” to follow and comment on these topics. However, this analysis provided very valuable directional information to our client both about attitudes and associations with their competitors as well as guidance on a specific service and the companies that provide it–which was one of the client’s questions that our larger research engagement sought to answer. Beyond delighting the client with our initial findings, we have incorporated this analysis into the crafting of our qualitative research instrument for our next phase which includes both focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDIs).

We also agree with Mr. Poynter that–like PR, marketing and sales–QRCs do sometimes have a different focus than quantitative market researchers. As such, we find SMR a highly effective supplement (and perhaps eventually an alternative option) to some of our more established MRX methodologies. We look forward to a project where we might attempt to, for example, put a client question (or message or creative or concept) out before the appropriate TweetChat audience and build on those results. And, analysis-wise–since we often take a quali-quant approach–in the near future:

  • I am anxious for more access to more accessible visualization tools and technology
  • I’d like the ability to better manipulate tools like Revelation Word Trees and utilize more shareable results with clients ala Wordle
  • And, speaking of Wordle, I’d love the chance to show creator Jonathan Feinberg what we can do with a word cloud and get his thoughts/help furthering that technology

At any rate, we are excited about what the future holds! What’s on your wish list?


Singapore MRSS Conference – for me the best one day event of the year!

 Posted by on August 8, 2014  Uncategorized  Comments Off
Aug 082014

Yesterday I was the closing keynote at the MRSS Asia Research Conference in Singapore, and I think it was probably the best one day event I have been to this year. The programme was strong all the way through and the people were great.

Amongst the standout elements were:

  • Dave McCaughan sharing a lot of information and thoughts about how mobile phones are re-shaping the world, looking at it in a much wider context than just market research.
  • Melissa Gil from SingTel and Vijay Raj from Unilever giving the client’s perspective, with Melissa sharing some great insights into how SingTel are blending their big data (they are a telco) with their Vision Critical Insight Communities, and Vijay describing what is wrong with ‘business as usual’ and setting out an agenda for change.
  • Ben Smithee from the USA shared a vision of the future that was articulate and inspiring, and set out his thoughts on why market research is such a great profession – a performance which won him the best presentation award.
  • Pravin Shekar from India stormed the room with his Jugaad presentation, full of innovation and inspiration. If you get a chance to see his new mini-book take it, a fantastic bit of marketing and thinking. We understand that Pravin will be standing for election to be the next President of ESOMAR and the delegates in Singapore certainly think he would be a fantastic option.

I made two contributions to the event, on the Wednesday I ran a Social Media workshop, with a focus on the challenges in APAC, and at the conference I shared my perspective on how market research has changed and how market researchers need to change, in order to stay relevant.

You can download a copy of my conference presentation from here.

You can download a copy of my workshop presentation from here.

We also had great presentations from Stephen Jenke, Rob Vasler, Nancy Jaffee, Manisha Dikshit, Arno Hummerston, and John Smurthwaite. The event was in a great location (The Fairmont in Singapore), the MRSS people were fantastic, there was a speakers’ dinner the night before the conference (which is a great way of helping develop thematic conference content and flow), the networking and food were good, and OnDevice took several of us for a drink afterwards – it doesn’t get much better!


My Take on Social Media – Tara Lyons

 Posted by on August 5, 2014  Uncategorized  Comments Off
Aug 052014
Tara Lyons

Guest post from Tara Lyons, Managing Director,Indiefield, UK.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series. If you would like to contribute a post to this series contact

Social Media At Indiefield

The Market Research Industry faces two challenges with Social Media; marketing ourselves and conducting Market Research. For now, I would just like to reflect on the marketing issues and leave our thoughts on using Social Media for Market Research for another post.


Indiefield is a small B2B Market Research Fieldwork company. It is fair to say that we have, to date, adopted more of a “wait and see” strategy.

In many ways, we have been reminded of the situation some 15 years ago, when we were swamped with website “gurus” telling us that every company had to have a website with very little concrete evidence about what actually worked and how you could measure any sort of ROI.

There are many surveys that would seem to back this up:

A CMO Survey showed that 49% of Chief Marketing Officers are not able to measure the impact of social media on their businesses. Not surprising, given the lack of agreement about even what metrics businesses should be measuring!

Meanwhile a Gallup Poll claimed that 62% of Americans said that Social Media had “no influence at all” on their purchasing decisions.

It seems to us that the case for Social Media driving B2B sales is a long way from proven.

On the other hand, 15 years ago we still went ahead and launched a website. The fear of missing out is a strong one, after all! And Indiefield now have a small Social Media presence across the usual suspects. See more by clicking here!

A Social Media Marketing Strategy

Despite the above, we feel that some consensus has been building about some of things that Social Media can do in the B2B marketplace. We have recently appointed a Social Media Manager and have been testing various products and tools like HootSuite etc as well as a few bespoke ones of our own (our current favourite is Sprout Social btw).

As a company we (obviously) feel that well designed and executed face-to-face market research will continue to play an important role for the foreseeable future. In fact, we feel that, with the advent of big data and Social Media Market Research it will become even more important (as, for example, discussed in these NewMR articles: here and here).

So how do we communicate our important mission and demonstrate thought leadership in our areas of expertise? This is where we believe Social Media can help to engage with customers and potential customers by providing access to interesting and useful content that is easy to share.

How do we go about doing this? Our plan for the end of 2014 is as follows:

  • Integrate blogging software into our company website.
  • Transfer responsibility for company wesbite from IT to Marketing Team.
  • Develop our Content Strategy around our Buyer Personas.
  • Integrate our CRM systems, Social Media tools and website content.

I look forward to reporting back to you on the learnings that we have!