Business-to-Business Participants Ready For New Ways To Share Opinions
Fall 2014 GRIT Report commentary by Beth Surowiec, Executive Director of Clear Seas Research, sharing her thoughts on the current state of the market research industry.
As little as five years ago, our clients in building materials/construction, food and beverage, packaging, and manufacturing industries frequently opposed online data collection methods for business-to-business respondents. “My customers aren’t available online”. “My customers aren’t tech savvy.” “My customers can only be reached by mail.” “My customers don’t use smartphones”. Today we know these business-to-business respondents are online, they do understand mobile and digital technologies, and most importantly they want to share their experiences to help reshape their industries. Not only that, research done online is becoming more effective.
In reviewing the 2014 GRIT report findings I was pleased to find roughly two-in-five researchers are exploring new technologies and new methodologies. These areas of exploration are reportedly driven by increased use of tablet computers/smartphones, increased use of mobile communications, client budgetary limitations, and client demands for innovation. Another valuable reason worth considering is the impact the inclusion of new technologies and data collection methodologies may ultimately have on the respondent’s ability to share their opinions, experiences, and industry insights. Providing business-to-business respondents with more engaging data collection approaches, may yield more engaged research participants and therefore, better quality information.
Mobile device usage, acceptance, and technological advancement experienced a strong upward trajectory in recent years, enabling employees to remain connected at all times. While some employees make a conscious choice to disengage upon leaving the office, the new norm appears to allow for your work and personal life to blend. Today we find that offering business professionals an online survey appears to be a welcome distraction.
While traditional data collection methods are often relied upon to achieve industry feedback, it’s time for researchers to better assimilate their approach to better reflect how many of today’s business professionals communicate on a day-to-day basis; email, instant message, text, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to mention just a few. By incorporating some of these communication methods into research experiences respondents will likely become more engaged, as they think about the industry they are passionate about from a different perspective. Our experience shows that many business-to-business professionals are delighted to share their knowledge IF the survey tool is well designed; they believe they have something meaningful to contribute; it’s conceivable that the results will be used to drive industry change; and they benefit (topline research findings, individual incentives, charitable contributions on their behalf, etc.).
Historically, concern around the quality and security of information collected online has been at the forefront. How do you know who is completing the survey? How can you ensure they only complete the survey once? How do you protect confidential information from being publically shared? These concerns still resonate with organizations, research suppliers and clients as evidenced in the 2014 GRIT report. While we still must proceed with caution, some of today’s online survey platforms do effectively aid researchers in ensuring data quality and data security by verifying and validating survey respondents, providing respondent specific watermarks to discourage printing/downloading/ sharing of confidential images, providing pop-ups to discourage speeders, and being able to identify repeat survey participants. With the quality control piece being addressed, researchers can focus their attention on survey experience enhancements such as image/ video incorporation which can be applied to both quantitative and qualitative online methodologies.
The survey platforms and surrounding technologies of today will continue to evolve, enabling high quality data collection in a secure environment. It’s up to the research community to take a chance, be creative, be engaging, and provide respondents with the most positive, dynamic, meaningful experiences possible. The fruits of our labor will provide superior data quality and actionable information; which may result in additional information needs and ultimately more market research. It will be interesting to see where our efforts take us in the next five or ten years. Will the market research community focus more on providing creative, strategic, engaging survey experiences that capture unbiased, detailed information for strategic decision making? I know that’s where we are headed. Where will your focus be?