Market surveys, love em or hate em, will they continue to get results?

By Jeremy O’Brien. WordPress Jeremyob ID 216224841

One survey says that 35.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot? Would you believe that?

I wouldn’t believe all the statistics that come my way but I do recognise that usually we do need good data to make decisions. Marketing is no exception to this and given that marketing research is the main source of new “primary” data for marketers (Iaccobucci, 2014) and people seem to be more and more reluctant to participate in surveys – I wonder how much longer they can deliver?

Market research is an area that at one time or another, all of us will have been exposed to. The clipboard carrying crowds that follow us around shopping malls and airports as well as the myriad of online pop-ups, emails and phone calls asking us questions when we are trying to eat dinner – all have one thing in common; they are asking us for our time and they offer little in return. Some of them even create a further negative experience through sales pitches disguised as “surveys” and the possibility that the person surveyed will somehow become a target for future surveys and marketing activity because they responded.

As consumers we know that poorly targeted, repetitive and persistent advertising is annoying, “No for the 100th time I do NOT wish to enlarge any part of my anatomy – thank you!” but when we are in the market to make a purchase we can appreciate when a company is well positioned to provide products and services that meet our needs with the minimum of fuss, almost as if they knew what we needed before we did? Perhaps in these cases, well targeted products and advertising becomes less of an annoyance and perhaps even convenient and helpful.

A large part of why companies with a good marketing strategy are able to meet those needs is because they conduct research to understand the market and what consumers (you and I) might want; unfortunately until quite recently the majority of this information has been gathered somewhat intrusively, through telemarketers calling at meal times, through people approaching you wanting to take up time out of your busy schedule, through unwanted spam in the inbox from any number of companies wanting to take time out of your day to pick your brains so they can sell more effectively to you. In light of these intrusive techniques it is surprising that a market researcher can actually get enough people to respond to a survey at all!?

In fact, probably due to decades of these dubious practices we know that more and more people are actively removing themselves from the population of people willing to take surveys. It seems that people in the street or in the shop are loathe to provide their details for fear of being added to a telemarketing list and when the phone rings people are checking if it is someone they know or if it is likely to be a telemarketer before they answer.

Take telemarketing as a quickly quantifiable example, a quick look at the “Do Not Call” Register launched in Australia a decade ago shows us that the number of telephone lines placed on this list is over 10 million which represents around 30%registrations-per-month

of the approximately 30 million landline and mobile numbers available in Australia today and this number is steadily growing.

What does this mean to the future of market research in Australia? There is evidence here to show if this trend continues we may have the situation where more than half the population isn’t counted in the data at all and only those with a grudge or a gripe will bother to respond.

Perhaps our experience in the future will be determined by those few respondents who will further skew the data away from being “representative of the population” with a corresponding impact on businesses’ ability to engage with the rest of us with the right product or service when we need them to.

Statistical massaging can only save the data for so long after all!?

References and Further Reading:

Iacobucci, D 2014,  Ch3,15, Marketing Management (MM), 4th Edition, Cengage Learning

William G. Zikmund, Barry J. Babin, 2014, Essentials of Marketing Research 5th Edition, Cengage Learning.


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