Betsy Hoag became Greentarget’s Director of Research and Planning earlier this month following more than 20 years of experience in marketing, research, strategic planning and consulting. Betsy spent the past nine years at Kairos Consumers, an international consumer and B2B research firm she co-founded. Some Greentarget clients might know Betsy, who’s worked as a consultant with us for the past year. Here’s more about what lies ahead in terms of research options available to professional services providers.
Survey fatigue is a big issue facing quantitative researchers these days. Can you explain why that’s happening?
There’s no question about the value of quantitative research methods, notably surveys. But the broader research community is dealing with some challenges that aren’t going away. First, there are a lot of
online surveys out there, which means finding the white space from a topical standpoint is pretty challenging. Even if you’re able to get a good survey respondent pool — which is no easy task — you want to make sure that the survey covers something interesting and novel. That requires due diligence in understanding the data that is already available, and how best to leverage it with and against new research.
As for the survey fatigue itself, it’s important to remember that we are dealing with respondents who are seeing a lot of online surveys in their daily lives. It’s just not novel anymore to fill out an online questionnaire — in fact, it can actually be annoying. Whereas we once counted on reasonably high response rates from clients’ lists, we have seen response rates fall to lower than 5 percent, even when a healthy incentive is offered.
That’s why prior to planning any survey, it’s important to ask where a quantitative approach is the right fit. In cases where “why?” and “so what?” must be answered, qualitative research is the optimal path. And even if quantitative is the way to go, a qualitative element might be an important piece in making sense of the quantitative results.
So besides doing your homework, what’s the best way to deal with survey fatigue?
Shorter surveys typically get better results, especially when respondents are not paid to complete the questions. It’s best to aim for a survey that will take 10 minutes or less to complete, or 20 to 30 questions.
This is more easily done if we have clear objectives that inform our questions. The inclination, especially with a multidisciplinary team working on a survey, may be to include as many questions as possible. Aside from exhausting respondents with this firehose approach, there’s a good chance you’ll divert their focus.
Finally, respondents who are taking a survey without an incentive are more likely to get tired. But panel providers — who have an extensive global reach of census-representative populations as well as professional service samples — can help. These companies recruit and incentivize a specific number of respondents within a specific population to whom the survey is distributed via email.
What about qualitative research — are you seeing anything interesting?
I’m a big believer in online qualitative research tools. In particular, online bulletin boards seem to be a natural fit for the types of clients Greentarget serves. Bulletin boards are used a lot in consumer research and the forums are making inroads into B2B research. Essentially, the bulletin boards allow a group of anywhere from five to 30 to share information, ideas, and opinions around a set of preloaded questions. This approach has the interactive qualities of focus groups or in-depth interviews with several advantages — the first of which is that it can work around professionals’ busy schedules.
The process is straightforward. A trained moderator uploads questions to the discussion platform. Respondents then receive login information, along with details regarding the discussion. There may be a homework element as well, where participants are asked to think about a challenge or issue prior to the discussion kickoff, so that they come to the board armed with some ideas. Clients can also watch the process by logging in anonymously. Because the discussion occurs over an extended period, and is broken up into multiple question sessions, clients can review initial results and contact the moderator through the platform and suggest follow-up questions.
What’s the next frontier?
New online focus-group technology on the horizon will feature real-time translation and use video. The translation will appear as text on the screen affording a new level of interaction between the participants and the moderator, as well as the participants themselves. We expect to see this technology adopted in the B2B research world within the next couple years.
Organizations need to adapt by becoming smarter and more strategic about their research. The war for wallet share has become especially pitched and it’s crucial to glean insights and data from decision makers. Good data and research have never been more valuable — and it’s never been more challenging to do well than in the digital age.
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