The Tragic Tale of Research Participants
By Melanie Courtright
This year, for the first time, the GRIT report explored the elements that come into play when designing and implementing research and it threw up some fascinating, yet slightly worrying, results. In parallel to the GRIT report, last year Research Now partnered with ESOMAR to conduct a uniquely expansive survey into the public perception of the market research industry, surveying over 6,000 people through multiple methodologies, in the US, UK and Germany. Combining some of the data points in these two surveys highlights what should be a significant concern for our industry.
Firstly, the GRIT report indicates that, in the last 3 years, there has been little to no change in the percentage of surveys that are optimized for mobile which stands at an embarrassingly low 15%. What also concerns me significantly is the importance of ensuring that participants have a positive impression of market research after they have contributed to a research project. Only 5% of client-side researchers and 9% of research providers judged this to be of significant importance when designing research studies. Only 4% of client-side and 7% of supplier-side researchers felt it important that participants speak highly of their research experience. And we wonder why respondent rates are falling?
In our public perception survey, we found that CATI participants had the lowest exposure to market research, compared to other methodologies (online panel and social media panel), with almost half of those in all 3 markets taking part in research less than once a year, or never. Because of this, it is clear that the data taken from the CATI sample provides the clearest view of the perception of market research in the broader general public. Data provided by the CATI participants showed that in the US only fewer than half of those surveyed agreed they trust market researchers with their data. And while participants in the US are comfortable sharing information such as their favorite supermarket or their thoughts on advertising, the study indicated they were far less comfortable sharing more personal information. Only 25% were comfortable sharing information about salary and just 30% were comfortable sharing their internet search activity.
When you combine these figures, we start to develop a detrimental story of the industry’s lack of consideration of participants and the public – and what that could mean in the long term for the industry.
The industry needs to do far more to communicate the value of the research to the general public; we should no longer treat them as a commodity but as people that need to be engaged with. The need to foster a human connection with participants is underlined by the degree of distrust and discomfort in sharing more sensitive data. We are proud to have partnered with ESOMAR on this study and we support them and others as they take steps to educate the public on the value of research. But we need to ensure the process of engagement continues when people become our participants. How can we hope for better data quality and healthy databases when many research providers care so little for the participant experience?