Researching the researchers!
Technology is enabling new and exciting ways for the
market research industry to reach and interact with
participants. But what are their experiences and
preferences when it comes to online surveys, focus
groups, product trials or face-to-face interviews?
Karen Johnston investigates.
As an industry we continue to put an enormous effort into using technology to effectively engage thousands of participants to garner their opinions about our clients’ products and services, often via multiple devices.
At Stable Research we constantly engage with our 100,000 panel members, but this time we wanted to find out what type of research people participate in, what research they prefer and why. In other words, we wanted to find out about us.
So, how did we go about this self-examination?
Because we wanted this research to reflect our panel, we felt it was important that we didn’t apply any quotas. We put together an online survey with some input from the Research News Editorial Advisory Group and the final results were then analysed by McNair Ingenuity Research.
While the survey confirmed some well-recognised facts, there were a number of elements that stood out as significant in terms of incentive to participate.
The survey was sent to around 10,000 of our panel members of varying age and gender across Australia, matching with ABS Census distribution of age and gender.
Not surprisingly, more women than men responded and the profile was a bit older – although not too much more so than the general population – and a vast majority responded via a computer, rather than a tablet or mobile phone.
In total 940 responded, and they were more likely to be married with kids at home than a population survey would achieve.
As well as demographic information, survey questions focused on various elements associated with survey participation, level of engagement, survey tools, pre-tasks and homework, incentives and timings.
There were a number of salient points reflected in the data.
Technology used in responding to survey
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Level of participation and engagement
• The majority had previously participated in an online survey – 84 per cent had completed an online survey before, and this represented 30 per cent of all research that they had engaged in (comparable to the 2012 RICA survey which found 34 per cent of research to be conducted online). Reflecting the Stable panel, 66 per cent had previously participated in a focus group, which represented 23 per cent of research they had engaged in (higher than the RICA survey result of 14 per cent).
• Females were more likely to have participated in central location/street intercept research in shopping centres, train stations or similar locations. Younger participants were less likely to have taken part in a group, as were people outside metropolitan areas. However this latter sub-sample were more likely to have taken an online survey in the past.
• The majority will continue to participate in most forms of research, especially online surveys (96%) and groups (at nearly 83%). The exception was intercept/central location research, with less than half indicating they would do so. Online communities are an avenue for further participation, with three times as many people indicating
they would participate in one than have already done so. Non-metro participants are less likely to take part in groups, in-depths or CATI in the future.
• Qual reigns for enjoyment, with focus groups and indepths found to be the research that was enjoyed the most. Least enjoyed were street intercepts and CATI. It appears that people most like to interact with other people, and on their own terms, instead of having their day interrupted to take part in research.
• On balance online research participation has increased in recent years, groups have remained stable, and depths/phone/street participation has declined.
• Participants received an average of less than one invite per day. In general they responded to an average of three out of four of all invitations received.
Research participation motivations and preferences
Research topics enjoyed the most
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• Timing trumps incentives when considering whether to participate.
• Timing (whether busy or not) was especially important for telephone research.
• Interest in the topic is especially important for the oldest participants.
• People attend research mostly because they enjoy giving their opinion. Incentives are more important for younger married couples with no kids, and females are more likely to be interested in finding out more about new products and services than males.
• Almost half of the participants have used a mobile phone for research (even more so for those under 40 and significantly less for those over 50). Use of videos, blogs
and specialised apps for research resulted in a feeling of greater engagement compared with mobile browserbased surveys alone – possibly because this type of research
is more likely to be qualitative in nature.
• FMCG and health are the most interesting research topics, especially for females. Topics like media, government and social issues were of more interest to men, and food,
health and other grocery items were of more interest to women.
• The top three research turn-offs are completing prequalifying questionnaires and never being contacted again, completing surveys and failing at the end, and irrelevant /
repeated questions. It’s also interesting to note that length of survey fell just outside the top three.
Incentives, timings and homework
• Two in five participants think incentives for online surveys are too low.
• Evenings are the most popular time for answering a survey on a weekday; daytime for weekends. (No shocks there).
• A majority felt that pre-tasks/homework helped with prep before and discussion during research.
From our perspective it also felt good that we received
some very positive comments from participants about the
survey process. Some even thanked us for asking for their
So what are participants telling us?
In continuing to focus our efforts on better utilising technology to engage participants and measure opinion we must also bear in mind the benefits associated with face-to-face engagement. The results indicated that social interaction continued to provide a strong incentive to participate, especially with focus groups that are easy to access.
Participants engaged through these focus groups enjoyed having something to talk about. This could include opinions or experiences created by the use of pre-research activities.
Long screeners for surveys or recruitment were found to be off-putting, so perhaps these could be pitched as surveys in and of themselves.
As an industry, the continued focus on technology must be balanced with the acknowledgement that a significant number of participants enjoy engaging in person.
While online surveys are quick and cost-effective, part of their future development could include research into trying to emulate the focus group atmosphere that engages people and allows them to provide their feedback in more detail.
To this end, it appears that the use of videos, blogs and specialist apps are a step in the right direction.
Examples of respondent quotes following the survey:
“Thanks for finally letting me express my feelings on this subject”
“This is great makes us feel more like we matter – good one!”