Google Consumer Surveys and Disintermediation: A Client Perspective
Editor’s Note: The blogosphere has been full of great posts regarding Google’s new Consumer Surveys offering, with the opinions running the spectrum from good to bad. A few to take note of (besides our earlier posts by Simon Chadwick, Jeni Chapman, and myself) are the product review from USamp, the thoughts from Kinesis Survey Technologies, a great review of the “Big Data” aspect from Neil Gains, and a nice objective overview on the InsightsByDesign blog.
In my post I had referenced last year’s much read analysis by Jason Anderson of Blizzard Entertainment on the increasing level of disintermediation occurring within the traditional market research industry due to the rapid development of self-service technology solutions. Today Jason chimes in with a client-side view of Google Consumer Surveys. I won’t say you’ll enjoy it, but I hope everyone will read it and think about the possible strategic implications of Jason’s view. It’s bitter medicine, but often that is the best kind.
By Jason Anderson
Market research buyers and sellers, technology providers and consultants: can we take a private moment and be brutally honest with ourselves? Thanks.
Google has disintermediated all of us. (OK, maybe not the consultants…you’re a wily bunch with keen survival skills.)
Google Consumer Surveys has severed a dependency between research client and research vendor. They offer transparent pricing, a crisply defined methodology, integrated analytics, and real-time reporting for the majority of research questions. There may be some more complex scenarios that still require the pricing and processes defined by the status quo, but the order of magnitude difference in cost will motivate any reasonably informed buyer to re-evaluate our options.
Are you a panel sample provider? My condolences. We all know that there’s no way you’re going to be able to compete on price, which means your only selling points are geography, specialized targeting, client relationships, and integration with existing systems. But you will never overpower Google’s long-term technological edge, and unfortunately all of those advantages will eventually be matched or become irrelevant. That’s OK, though — we all know in our hearts that the system was ripe for change.
Are you focused on qual feedback? “Whew!” you must be thinking right now. Sadly, it’s not that simple for you either. I can now choose between running a focus group, for example, or getting 20,000 responses. Between an online moderated chat with 50 people or 10 directed questions with 1500. The need for qual research isn’t going away, but there are good arguments to be made for a shift in the mix.
Google has also severed the dependency between the corporate research department and their internal stakeholders — the marketers, strategic planners, and mid-to-senior management layers that are the audience (and ultimately, the funding source) for our work. Simple research scenarios can be executed directly by any renegade or smart person with a credit card…and it will probably be a corporate card at that.
Google Consumer Surveys accomplishes what we’ve known we should be doing but had neither the resources nor motivation to pursue:
- The consumer feedback process is integrated seamlessly into the web experience. It doesn’t reside in an awesome-but-proprietary silo, and it doesn’t require a web developer or knowledge of HTML or other web services APIs.
- The survey experience, from the respondents’ perspective, is exactly what I want as a web user. It’s fast, doesn’t require a 30 minute commitment, is compatible with any of my web-enabled devices, and provides immediate gratification.
- The survey experience, from the researcher’s perspective, is exactly what I need at least 50% of the time. I have a specific question or two I’m trying to answer, that I must wrap with 20 pages of typing tool boilerplate and demographics data collection. Will I need to simplify my questions? Yes. Will this simplify the analysis? Yes. These are both positive consequences.
Google has made much of my job cheaper, faster, better. Unfortunately, they have done this so well that I now have to work twice as hard to define my role among the myriad internal competitors who would rather take full ownership of the research process. You think it was hard to clamp down on competing research from rogue SurveyMonkey accounts? Good luck shutting this down.
The silver lining is that Google’s initial offering, while thought through very well, still has some holes. They can’t help me with my research needs in Europe or Asia, they haven’t resolved multi-language issues, and there is no qualitative feedback component. They only have seven question types, and there’s no practical solution for larger surveys of highly engaged users. I see all of these as temporary issues, however, that will be rectified in the next few years.
If you disagree with my assessment, you may want to first talk to a Yahoo! employee about Google and see how they feel about it.
Our new market participant was founded on the power of Big Data, and they continue to find new ways to show the world how powerful data can be. Their world depends on measurement, analytics, and scale; that world is currently worth around $206 billion. Our entire industry is worth less than $40 billion. Google will capture billions in new revenues from this service, and some of that is money previously planned for other research vendors.