Editor’s note: It’s no secret I am a fan of Google Consumer Surveys and am on their Advisory Board, and this week everyone else should have figured out why I support them; they are very, very smart. During their GreenBook webinar “What’s Next For Google Consumer Surveys” they unveiled 3 impending changes to their model that left many of the over 1,100 registrants alternately excited or frightened, depending on whether they were client side or supplier side. Based on my review of the registrants, there were roughly as many client side registrants as suppliers, indicating the high degree of interest from both sides of the table in what Google had to say.
What did GCS reveal? The extension of up to 10 questions, the roll out into the Android ecosystem, and the combination of both an integrated programming experience regardless of web or mobile and flat pricing for any study over 20% incidence ($1.50 to $3.50 sliding scale based on number of questions) have potentially massive implications for online survey-based research.
Here is my quick take before we get into the much deeper and more strategic view from Ellen Woods.
1. Trackers, Testing, & Conjoint done easy & cheap: With 10 questions combined with the ability to do modular surveys (10 surveys of 10 questions each, over 10,ooo respondents for instance) Google effectively just created a commodity priced model to do most any type of consumer focused tracking study, a variety of testing projects, and yes, even basic trade off studies. The methodological utility for using GCS has been expanded exponentially.
2. Sample has bottomed out: $1.50 to $3.50 per complete for 20% incidence and above. Do I need to say more? If the sample part of our business wasn’t already a commodity, it sure is now. Why do you think virtually ever sample provider around is scrambling to reposition themselves with new product and service offerings? They see the writing on the wall.
3. All-in-one efficiency: Program for PC or mobile at once in an incredibly easy and intuitive interface with integrated analytics and reporting. All literally at the press of a button. All that is missing is automated report writing, and I bet that isn’t too far off.
4. Global reach coming soon: For now the GCS PC and mobile solutions are limited to US, Canada & the UK. After that will be in every other English speaking country and then will come the rest of the world. It’s just an issue of translations. By this time next year it is likely that GCS will be a truly global solution.
5. Single source & Big Data: With the shift into mobile, no more inferred demographics. They KNOW who each and every Android user is. Since it’s an App integrated into the Play marketplace, they also (likely but not confirmed) will have access to virtually every other type of data available on phone usage. Imagine targeting by app usage or type combined with geolocation. The ability to precisely target and engage respondents globally is simply staggering, and no one else (not even carriers or Apple) can do the same.
The bottom line? Combine this with all of the other info coming out about companies like Axciom, Twitter, IBM, etc… launching a variety of competitive approaches to traditional MR and it certainly paints the picture that he industry isn’t just changing IT HAS CHANGED ALREADY; all that is left to see is how that change will shake out. Beyond any doubt if you are on the supplier side and make most of your money via online surveys (especially trackers) then it’s time to rethink your business model, especially revenue streams. I simply don’t think the existing model will be sustainable for much longer, although on the flipside you can start using GCS or other comparable solutions for your field work (like Harris Interactive has done). It’s time to embrace other emerging approaches and move upstream.
To view a recording of the webinar yourself use this link: http://www.greenbookblog.org/webinar-whats-next-for-google-consumer-surveys/
Here is Ellen’s take on the Google webinar.
By Ellen Woods
There’s no question that Google’s role as an ISP has provided them a unique view of digital communication and that they are the iconic company of the last two decades. Within the business world, only IBM and SAS could claim a similar impact, and their market dominances were much slower to take form. Google, who arguably has access to the world’s largest capture of data, has escalated their pathway to success by using proprietary data to underpin a time honored business formula defined by: calculated risks, supporting each product entry with incremental revenue, and focusing on sales of their products.
In March of 2012 Google announced that they were entering the market research arena with a program that was fast, easy, and affordable. There’s no question that Google understands the power of the data they collect and the mindset of consumers. Following their basic formula, they first introduced the process through a vendor to test viability in a low profile effort, and a few months later in 2012 introduced an internally supported, branded “slice” of their capabilities to watch market reaction. Since they don’t make a market entry without thoroughly researching the viability of a product or service, it was clear that this “trial” was to identify the path of highest profitability before they made a full market entry. When they do strike, it is with G Force change.
In the Greenbook.org webinar they hosted on September 25th, they introduced their next steps, which were to say the least, aggressive, with clear intent to own as much market share as possible. Their webinar had one of the largest attendances of any webinar in recent memory and there was a general sense that their plans were well thought out.
Google understands the mobile space very well and they have prepared for capitalization of it much longer than most organizations. They understand mobile limitations and have a very strong plan for the mechanics of data collection across a platform that is rapidly replacing more traditional devices. They also are driving a more visual approach to surveys which newer Smart Phones support well, and which are easier to view and more entertaining than traditional grid surveys.
The real difference though is that they aren’t encumbered with the weight of techniques or tired sample; they focus on meeting the clients’ needs, not on techniques that differentiate themselves from other vendors. They are playing an end game where sales drive the process. As they move into a more full service approach, they will encounter some of the barriers associated with traditional research, but it will be different for them because Meta data is a part of their DNA and their access to sample allows them to simplify processes back to the days of RDD measurements. True, it isn’t census based, but that doesn’t really matter anymore because there are no true block aggregates. They may struggle a bit with stratified quota maps but so do traditional vendors and in fact, they probably have a better chance of hitting low incidence sample than most panels.
Much of their staff also comes from more traditional backgrounds, so they have monetized methods to avoid scope creep and other issues that often sink the profitability of projects. They are providing options that let the buyer decide how much risk they want to take up front. The transparency has to be refreshing to many research buyers who are weary of the back and forth that occurs internally and externally.
Google also monetizes both the research process and the respondent because their incentives generate advertising revenue that is then apportioned back to them. They have very little risk and it’s only a tiny fraction of their business model, so there is no real downside, and their profitability model will generate positive revenue almost from the start. It works great as long as they can maintain response rates, which will be a factor at some point. Once the dust settles though, they are likely to find that their average projects remain relatively small and that the profitability will be in volume sales, where they sell blocks of studies or questions.
Yesterday’s webinar likely left many researchers with a lot of questions about what the future holds for traditional research. They are right to be worried. The industry has been heading for a showdown for quite a long while and may have finally arrived at the OK Corral. However the Google offering plays out, successful or not, the industry will be impacted. Research has already moved toward a more internal and strategic function in many organizations and unless a firm provides value through insights, they are likely to find client relationships eroding. It doesn’t help that many have gone back to seller doer models where the focus is on the project value not the client. While there is still value in statistical research, the days of large trackers and giant market studies that tethered clients are quickly moving into the past. Sampling and speed are culprits, but the biggest change is with Smart Phone usage. It’s also fair to say that many consumers and businesses aren’t really sure of the relevance or value of quantitative research. Fortunately, that’s not the case with more qualitative insights such as communities, ideation, innovation and product research. VOC is still also an important component but is becoming a component of community research, while satisfaction if finding greater relevance in IVR and point of sale collection.
The real lesson here is not about what Google has done or will do but what the market research industry hasn’t done. It’s clear that focusing internally isn’t driving the dollars and probably fair to say that clients care more about the quality and the timely delivery than the process. Pinpoint sample may not be a strong suite of Google (at least not yet) but there is a trust that the sample is viable and the collection process is simple and quick and cheap. It validates their qualitative findings and it can be fed into their dashboard data to inform the larger picture. It’s about listening and getting answers that sell products and services… and that is sales 101 or in this case, the key to survival.