1. Research Now
  2. Greenbook 2
  3. SSI-Greenbook-Banner
  4. Greenbook-480x60-purple

Conference Success Series: You Can’t Get There From Here

Today’s post is the third of four in Annie Pettit's Conference Success series, providing tips on effectively organizing, sponsoring, and even participating in research industry events. This piece focuses on picking the perfect venue.


Editor’s Note: We’re ramping up into conference season in market research, and there are more and more choices for speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees to pick from (although why anyone would attend any other event but IIeX, I just don’t know!). We decided to ask Annie Pettit, who arguably attends more industry events than anyone else in the industry (and who always provides useful critiques of them) to distill what she has learned about making conferences a success into a series of posts. Here is the third one. Enjoy!

By Annie Pettit

There are some quaint fishing villages on the east coast of Canada where you can watch the fishermen unload their daily catch of lobster, shrimp, and clams. You can even chat with them about their unique lifestyles if you speak English. But, if you weren’t raised in their fishing village, there is no way you will understand a word of their English.

While it would be fascinating for a conference to grant us an amazing opportunity to conduct ethnography in an isolated village, most attendees would be extremely annoyed. Let’s unpack the reasons why.

Flights: The worst path to a conference is one that involves finding a ride to a major hub, followed by a flight to another major hub, followed by a flight on a tiny airplane to a local airport, followed by a 90 minute taxi ride to an outlying community. If you can indeed get there from here, you’ve wasted the majority of a day and emptied out your wallet doing so. Ideally, the best conference location is a huge city with a major international airport and an impressive public transportation system. Think Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Toronto. These cities have multiple airlines competing for business which means potential conference attendees won’t be disappointed by unaffordable flights. And, they can hop directly onto local transit for $10 without worrying whether a taxi service is going to refuse the trip (oh, pesky little New York!) or rip them off. I love the cutesy hamlets and isolated resorts, but leave those to personal holidays.

Hotels: I’m a cheap date and I suspect that most people from small research companies are pic2too. Make sure there is an abundance of hotel choices so that more people can find affordable lodgings. In my case, I look for hotel rooms that have locks on the doors, clean sheets on the bed, and a private bathroom. I don’t care if the room is only 75 square feet (yes, I stayed there). Fancy spas and on-site restaurants increase the costs and most conference goers won’t have time to use them anyways. Indeed, some of my favourite hotels have been two star historic buildings with oddly shaped rooms named “Anne” and quirky amenities like a light fixture that is a model ship in a lightbox. Even better, the cheaper the hotel is, the more likely it is that the wifi will be free. Not kidding.

Local facilities: While we may not need fancy hotel facilities, we do need some facilities, pic3particularly people who are fortunate enough to be able to add a Saturday or Sunday to their trip. We would much appreciate a local coffee shop that serves regional treats for breakfast, a small fruit store, some local restaurants that specialize in regional favourites, and a few generic clothing stores for people whose luggage is on its way to Kathmandu. In most cases, this requirement rules out business parks and resorts which usually feel like prisons anyways. Even better, list the facilities in the conference program so that people know where to go if they’re having a pantyhose (or macaron) emergency.

Local activities: If your conference managed to pull together all of the above items, then pic4you’ve met the requirements for basic human needs. Congratulations! But, if you want to go one step further, there are a few things you can do to improve your grade from a B venue to an A venue. First, nothing beats green or blue space. Find a venue that is walkably close to a huge wooded park where people can take a one hour fast-paced walk without going in a loop 37 times and without smelling seven other people huffing and puffing on their electrical devices (smoking or cycling!). Find a venue that has walkable access to a river, lake, or ocean, ideally one in which people can swim without being slimed to death. Find a venue near world renowned museums or one-of-a-kind attractions like The Icelandic Phallological Museum, or the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum.

Sorry Paris, Ontario. You have a great bakery, but that is not going to cut it this time!


Top Market Research Agencies Announce Launch Of Research Choices

Informational and education portal increases transparency and choice for online research

research choice


Editor’s Note: This is a great step forward and we here at GreenBook commend all involved for their leadership in launching Research Choices and encourage all of our readers to engage with this important new initiative.


Top market research agencies comScore, GfK, Kantar, and Nielsen announced today the launch of a joint initiative to boost transparency and choice for online audience measurement research.

Both the US Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission have consistently called for all sectors to raise consumer awareness and understanding of online data collection practices and facilitate access to existing choice mechanisms.

This joint initiative and the associated portal are being facilitated by ESOMAR, the World Association for Market, Social, and Opinion Research at the behest of the founding Research Choices participants.

Matthias Hartmann, CEO of GfK, comments: “The trust of our clients and participants of research projects is a core value for GfK. Strictly adhering to all data privacy regulations and respecting consumers’ intent goes without saying for us. The new Research Choices initiative is a big step forward to bringing more transparency to our research methods and to providing an easy option for consumers to decide on their participation in online audience measurement research.”

“I welcome the launch of Research Choices, as the first world-wide and industry-wide initiative designed to reiterate our profession’s undertakings, and its self-regulatory strength. Initially focusing on the audience measurement sector, it is the sector’s hope and intention to progressively broaden the service to cover all digital research activities,” said Laurent Flores, ESOMAR President.

When completed, the web-based portal, accessible online at http://researchchoices.org, will provide the general public educational content initially demonstrating how online audience measurement research and online market research generally is conducted as well as highlighting participating companies’ privacy policies and tools to exercise opt-out and choice.

Further development of the portal will be spearheaded by the Research Choices partnership. The partnership is open to all responsible research organisations that are members of a national or international research association subscribing to the ICC/ESOMAR Code or an equivalent national ethical code for market, opinion, or social research.

The Research Choices initiative will complement the full range of other initiatives by all research associations and federations globally to renew trust and confidence in market, opinion, and social research strengthening public awareness of responsible research and its continued commitment to inform decision-makers whilst preserving the anonymity of research participants.


Conference Success Series: Hey buddy, can you spare a comb?

Today’s post is the second of four in Annie Pettit's Conference Success series, providing tips on effectively organizing, sponsoring, and even participating in research industry events. This piece focuses on creating branded freebies attendees will actually want to use.

pic 1

Editor’s Note: We’re ramping up into conference season in market research, and there are more and more choices for speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees to pick from (although why anyone would attend any other event but IIeX, I just don’t know!). We decided to ask Annie Pettit, who arguably attends more industry events than anyone else in the industry (and who always provides useful critiques of them) to distill what she has learned about making conferences a success into a series of posts. Here is the second one. Enjoy!

By Annie Pettit

Dear conference vendors,

Thank you very much for the squishy eggs and the pads of paper. Thank you for the crazy pens, the chocolate bars, the huge water bottles, the beer cozies, and the funny lapel buttons. I don’t recall which companies I got these things from because I recycled the chocolate bar wrapper before I left the vendor hall, and I left the
water bottles in my hotel room because while 36 feels right, owning 37 water bottles feels a bit excessive. And let’s not discuss the shirt that is really a florescent billboard that doesn’t match anything I own.

Are conference freebies a bad thing? Are they a waste of money? Well, if your goal is to make people happy, then mission accomplished. Chocolate will always do the trick, especially if you don’t enforce the unwritten rule of first talking to the booth person. But if you want people to repeatedly see your logo and remember you a few months from now, it isn’t going to cut it. Cheap and neato isn’t going to cut it.

I understand that logos are a must. If you don’t print or stick a logo on the item, you won’t get any recall. But, people will not keep or use items with blatant or obnoxious branding. Giant used-car-salesperson fonts or your odd brand colours will relegate most items to homes that need no research services. (My teenage nieces thank you for their painting shirts.)

Your logo can NOT come first. Logos must be discrete, in neutral pic 2colours, and not the point of interest on the item. This is especially true for t-shirts. Your brand and logo are terrifically unique and memorable and loveable… and that’s your opinion. If you want me to advertise your brand wear your shirt (or a Fruit of the Loom country club sweatsuit), put a discrete logo on the sleeve or back of the shirt and then be creatively researchy on the front – cute sayings, funny memes, silly jokes, stats quotes, bad charts. And no, your tag line isn’t funny nor is the unique play on words of your tag line.

So what is a good freebie? It is indeed simple. A good freebie is something people carry with them all the time. For instance, I have a reusable shopping bag that I always carry with me because more and more stores around the world are ditching one-use plastic bags. (Yay!) It’s a black nylon bag that folds into an attached pouch which can be clipped onto a belt loop. The bag has a discreet logo for Millward Brown on it. Yes, I know the brand name on the bag. I love that bag. When I go on bakery walks (10 bakeries in one day is my record), that bag is extremely useful.

What else would be a good freebie? Well, let’s take a look at every item in my travel bag.

The Entire Contents of My Travel Bag

Reusable shopping bag – Millward Brown pic 3
Notebook – Research Now
Spork – unbranded (I eat out of grocery stores when I travel)
Glasses wipe – M3 Global Research
Business card case – unbranded
Bottle opener – GFK (I LOVE local rootbeers)
2 different pens – Research Now
Chapstick – L&E research (more in my luggage)
Mints – Focus Forward
iPhone cord – Unbranded
USB plug – GMI (in the wall, not in the picture)
Multiple tip cord – L&E research
Earbuds – GFK
USA wallet – Research Now
First aid kit – Research Now
USB stick – American institute for Research
Fitbit cord
iPad and keyboard
Seashell from AMSRS
1.06 change in Euros from ESOMAR
and in my luggage, a good quality, light blue t-shirt from Jibunu that speaks to my nerdiness

If you’re astonished at all the branded items I had in one little bag, you can imagine my astonishment upon discovering I’d kept so much! Do you see the huge opportunity staring you in the face? Who will create a small fun coloured solid plastic comb? The race starts now.

In need of a branded comb,



4 Tips for Telling More Impactful Stories

When it comes to sharing data, great storytelling can mean the difference between lackluster results and mind blowing success.


Editor’s Note: We’re strong believers in the power and importance of storytelling. So much so, in fact, that we invited industry thought leader and growth hacking expert Kristin Luck to deliver a workshop on that very topic at IIeX Europe 2016 (3-4 March in Amsterdam). In advance of the event, we asked Kristin for some tips on telling more impactful stories that we can all put into practice TODAY to supercharge the impact of our research. Enjoy!

By Kristin Luck

Our brains are insanely greedy for stories. We spend about a third of our lives daydreaming—our minds are constantly looking for distractions—and the only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us.

As researchers, telling stories doesn’t necessarily come naturally. We are inundated with data constantly. But it’s important to remember that when we’re reading straight data, only the language parts of our brain work to decode the meaning. When we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well. Stories have the ability to engage an audience in a way that logic and bullet points never could.

Whether you’re using research to convince internal stakeholders, inspire clients with data or sell your next big idea (or project!), great storytelling can mean the difference between lackluster results and mind blowing success. So how to become a master storyteller? Here are 4 tips for great storytelling that I’ll be digging into during my workshop at IIeX Europe.

  1. Establish a connection and make your audience root for you. Personalizing your stories is key to connecting with your audience but steer clear of the “humble brag.” In interviews and client meetings you’ve likely been trained to talk yourself up, but in storytelling, people want to root for an underdog. Storytelling is not pitching.
  2. Make it memorable. Making a story memorable is as important as establishing a connection. Stories can be about very small stuff, so long as the emotions involved are big.
  3. Deliver meaning. Stories are memorable patterns with meaning. The challenge with being a researcher is that something what we’re presenting (for instance selecting the label for a new brand of soup), doesn’t have a lot of meaning. This is why storytelling is critical to our success not just as researchers but as business owners.
  4. Don’t forget your “hook.” Finding a hook, that link between the research and the story, is imperative. There’s a great quote from Christina Baldwin: “Words are how we think, stories are how we link.” Make sure your story has a clear beginning, middle and most important, an END that brings it all together.

Establishing connection, making stories memorable, delivering meaning and finding your “hook” – we’ll be digging in (and practicing) these key principles and much more during my storytelling workshop on March 4.

Interested in doing some reading before the event? Make sure you check out one of my favorite storytelling books, Lead With A Story by Paul Smith. Also my pal Anthony “Tas” Tasgal’s new publication, The Storytelling Book, has already been nominated for Marketing Book of the Year.

I hope to see you in Amsterdam!


Who Speaks for the MR Industry?

Real change will take place when we can collectively speak for our industry.

The Lorax


By Kevin Lonnie

Would that be a trade association (e.g. ESOMAR, CASRO, The MRA, ARF, AMA, QRCA, etc.)?  Can we name an association that clearly speaks for a majority of researchers?  No, they’re all too myopic.

What about conferences?  Is there a single must attend event?  Well every association listed above will tell you their annual conference is a “must attend” event.  But beyond the associations, we have IIR’s TMRE (The Market Research Event), the IIeX (Insight Innovation Exchange) Events held globally as well as the recent entry of the Quirk’s Event.   And that’s just to name a few of the larger conferences.

If a single association or event doesn’t speak for all of MR, what about thought leaders?  In my opinion, the vast majority of thought leaders are suppliers (e.g. Jeffrey Henning, Tom Anderson) or blogger/journalists (e.g. Lenny Murphy, Bob Lederer, Ray Poynter, etc.)

The problem with thought leadership originating from suppliers or journalists is that it doesn’t emanate on a high enough level to effect change.  The MR industry has its own caste system with corporate researchers viewed as the top of the food chain.  Well then, what corporate researcher leaps to mind as a recognized thought leader?  Would anyone gather more than single digit recognition?  My expectation is the top candidate would show support numbers similar to George Pataki, who I had forgotten was running for US President until he held a news conference to announce he was dropping out.

Speaking of a splintered industry, why do we still hang on to the term “The Market Research Industry” when significant portions of our reach/spend have nothing to do with marketing?

Does anyone care that market research and marketing research are actually two different disciplines?

Until we find a unified voice and successfully advocate for our industry, we will continue to rely on brick & mortar focus groups and ridiculously lengthy surveys.  In other words, we will reactively give corporate clients what they ask for instead of proactively suggesting alternatives that are more in touch with a 21st Century reciprocal society.

We can offer more.  We can be creative and strategic.  But first we need to speak up for ourselves.  We need to be the guardians of our own future.  And that means speaking with one voice.

For example:

  • Instead of a survey well after the actual shopping experience, how about offering customers a five question mobile survey when they enter your store, with a discount waiting at checkout?
  • Instead of passively asking customers what they think of a new concept, how about asking them to create alongside your R&D team?
  • Instead of a 45 minute tracker survey, we can answer all the “what’s” via behavioral data so that a much shorter survey focuses exclusively on the “why’s” of consumer behavior

I don’t think it’s the inertia of existing business models that is limiting our ability to change.  I think it’s an absence of leadership. Real change will take place when we can collectively speak for our industry.   Until that happens, we’ll just keep yapping to ourselves.



Attracting and Retaining Millennials

As Millennials continue to enter the workforce, grow into management roles, and even create their businesses, it is crucial for employers to understand what attracts, motivates, and engages this unique generation.



By Sima Vasa

We have all heard and read about the growing importance of Millennials.  Millennials are a generation that has seen rapid change in socialization via technology.  A generation that carries more debt earlier than past generations. A generation that has had to grow up quickly in terms of understanding the preciousness of life due to unrest in the world.

These factors, along with other key characteristics (e.g. more ethnically diverse, more open, more tolerant, more connected, and less trusting), shape their attitudes, behaviors and preferences. As Millennials continue to enter the workforce, grow into management roles, and even create their businesses, it is crucial for employers to understand what attracts, motivates, and engages this unique generation.

There are some common myths and truths that are being used to describe Millennials in the workforce.  As employers, we must determine what is the truth versus fiction.  Below are perspectives and considerations utilizing secondary research and primary research collected from the Millennial Mix Advisory Panel.

  • Enable influence

Millennials not only want their voices heard but want to know that their opinions are factored into the decision making process.  As a result, it is important to create opportunities for people to feel comfortable and able to share thoughts and opinions regardless of age or experience.

  • Create entrepreneurial opportunities

Millennials were asked to name a company or organization they would want to work for and not surprisingly, entertainment and technology companies with high growth rose to the top, such as Google, Disney, Apple, Netflix, and Microsoft.  Even more intriguing was that after that group of companies, Millennials mentioned non-profit organizations or creating their own business.   This speaks to two critical points to consider: culture and entrepreneurship.  Organizations have to consider the non-tangible aspects of culture that attract Millennials such as work hours, organizational collaboration, the impact of their work on the larger business, etc.  In addition, it is crucial to create opportunities that allow Millennials to satiate their entrepreneurial spirit without much micro-management.

  • Create blended groups

As Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, many of us tend to work with a lens of hierarchy and experience when engaging with Millennials.   These are all valid constructs but… Millennials prefer to work WITH you and not necessarily in the command and control of you.   It is important for other generations to understand this and stop living in the past of “what was” and “what we used to do” and dive headfirst into learning new things and sharing experiences that combine those of with the new perspectives of Millennials.

  • Provide regular feedback

It is important to frequently provide feedback and salary increases.  This is the reality of what this generation requires.  We can attribute it to social media or helicopter parenting, but either way, we as employers have to ensure that Millennials within our organization do not feel like just another cog in the wheel but rather an asset that loves to learn and understand how they are doing and how they fit in to the higher objectives of the organization.

  • Be authentic

Many Millennials do not trust large faceless organizations.  They want the truth and transparency about the realities of an organization.  Millennials value this deeply and as result if you create a culture of authenticity you will likely gain the loyalty of Millennials.  In fact, when asked ”If you were to like a company and your job, how long would you expect to stay?”  More than 50% indicated they would stay for 3 years or more!

  • Create stable, low-stress environment for consistent learning

Millennials want to evolve.  They do not want to “feel stuck” as they perceive the position of previous generations.  As a result, they value consistent learning and low stress environments to evolve in their .  Low stress environments are often cited as environments that promote teamwork, collaboration and ultimately create a playful, fun approach to solving business problems.

  • Respect the concept of a life

Generally, Millennials do not want to be chained to their desk or work standard hours. In fact, when asked if they agree or disagree to the statement “The person who gets in early and stays late is probably getting more work done,” 42% of the Millennials disagreed with the statement.  This disagreement speaks to two things: Millennials want a life outside of work filled with wonderful experiences, and being in the office does not necessarily mean getting work done. Millennials understand that just as much work can be done with flexible hours, and are more focused on getting the job done than logging office hours.

These are just a few considerations for employers to integrate into their perspectives.   It is imperative for us to embrace and work collaboratively with the Millennial generation as they have the drive and ability to solve many of the challenges we face in the Sample Industry today and tomorrow.

Please join the discussion at Samplecon, as I moderate a panel comprised of Millennials from across our industry.


Reality: Mobile Surveys Will Beat Traditional in 2016

If the current trend continues, then mobile interviews will exceed PC conversion in 2016 further disrupting survey platforms and research designs that aren’t mobile friendly.



By Patrick Comer

If the current trend continues, then mobile interviews will exceed PC conversion in 2016 further disrupting survey platforms and research designs that aren’t mobile friendly. Ink has been spilt over the onslaught of mobile respondents and the total lack of preparation or even care that research agencies and survey designers have for the user experience.  I remember a CASRO Tech in NYC when a researcher suggested that we should ‘keep mobile respondents’ out of surveys lest they mangle norms.  All of this reminds me of the challenges political researchers face as the number of cell phone-only households grow.  My hunch has been that while progress has been hard to see for a number of years, a lot of good work has been done in the background in 2015 to resolve this problem. When I looked at the data, I found that mobile conversions are close to reaching parity with PC conversions.  2016 is the tipping point.

The suggested improvements to be mobile-friendly break down into a few key areas:

  1. Interview Length: The mobile respondent session seems ideal for a shorter interview length.  With many PC based surveys lasting 15 – 25 minutes, researchers should shorten the interview to match the new environment.
  2. Survey design: Are the questions and survey-flow taking into account the mobile user in terms of screen size but also usability?  For example, complex grid questions are the bread and butter of some survey methods, but are unworkable on mobile.
  3. Responsive Design: Rendering the traditional survey on the mobile browser can be awful.  So introducing responsive design to the survey tool allowing any screen size to be presented well.

How well have buyers and sellers improved the mobile user experience and by what method can we judge the change?  We pulled the past two years of data from the Fulcrum Exchange* looking for the difference between the conversion rates of mobile and non-mobile respondents. You’ll see incremental improvements began to accelerate during the second half of 2015.

* all data comes from the Fulcrum Exchange from January 2014 to January 2016 including almost 30 million interviews over 24 months and used by over 200 buyers and 300 suppliers across 80 countries. 

Mobile interviews are growing fast

Over the past two years, we saw an increase in the total number of interviews (2.6x overall growth).  In that same time frame, the number of interviews from mobile respondents grew by almost 700%.

graph 1

% Mobile entrants and completes – getting to parity

Not only are the number of mobile completes growing but more mobile survey takers are showing up.  In early 2014, 13% of all survey sessions coming were from a mobile device.  By the end of 2015, this number had increased to 23%.

More importantly, the % of all completes that are taken on a mobile device has risen by 2.5x over the 24 months period reaching 20% of all surveys on the platform.  Many will say that that only 23% mobile entrants is low compared to other platforms.  My guess is that panel companies over-index historically to PC users given that most surveys wouldn’t render on the mobile device.  Is this a learned response?

graph 2

Rapid improvement in mobile conversion rates

In early 2014, PC users were 76% more likely to complete a survey than a mobile user.  Now, we are reaching parity between the two.  What’s important is that overall conversion rates in Fulcrum have doubled in the past 24 months… so it’s a tripling of mobile conversion rates in the same time frame.  The improvement was even more dramatic over the course of  2015 alone.

graph 3

What is driving this change?

Length of interview (LOI) is getting shorter not longer for the first time in forever.  We looked at the number of surveys under certain LOIs:  less than five minutes, less than 10 minutes, and less than 20 minutes.  Across the board we see shorter LOIs, but the largest growth area was in the “<5 min” from 2% to 7% of all surveys.

graph 4

The volume of mobile respondents in surveys is rapidly increasing.  Half of all surveys in January 2014 had ZERO mobile responses compared to only 20% now.

graph 5

So what’s going on here? Why are mobile conversion rates improving?

First, no matter what they say, more surveys are being engineered with the mobile respondent in mind.  Responsive design is driving a lot of the change along with questionnaire design in terms of types of questions included. Maybe more importantly the length of interview is decreasing which gives mobile users greater opportunity to complete a survey.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see mobile conversion parity in 2016 and then the most interesting transition will happen… mobile users will convert better than PC.  My impression is this will be the turning point for survey design and we will see a rapid decrease and under-performance of traditional surveys as more users and suppliers focus on mobile friendly.  Compelling news for those 40 minute trackers… you know who you are… the conversions against those will plummet creating additional delivery and cost challenges.

Additionally, sample suppliers are getting very savvy at programmatic or real-time provisioning of respondents to surveys.  Rather than just demographic matching on the fly, mobile conversion has now become one of the de facto variable considered.  So a mobile respondent originally intended for a survey with a low-mobile conversion rate may be routed to a mobile friendly one.  Obviously, this has positive effects on the respondent experience and supplier delivery but what are the unintended consequences?  Is the research biased against mobile responders if the questionnaire isn’t mobile friendly?  Perhaps we will see researchers try to implement a mobile quota cell representing the current percentage for mobile penetration.

So we are seeing more questions than answers but the trending is clear:  2015 was the year when mobile respondents were treated better with both buyers and sellers actively working to drive parity.  If you haven’t transitioned to mobile friendly by the end of 2016, then you’re research goals will start to suffer.


Are The Best Days Of Online Research Panels Behind Us?

Future research panels will be smaller, but will serve many purposes.



Editor’s Note: When we were compiling our 2016 predictions, Frank Kelly of Lighspeed GMI submitted his regarding panels. It was so good, I asked him to expand it into a whole post, and here is the result. And since next week is Samplecon, this seems like an ideal time to devote some time to disparate views on what the future of panels looks like. Frank’s post captures many of the possible paths to the future, and I think he is pretty spot on with the likely direction the industry will take. It’s good stuff.


By Frank Kelly

Research fieldwork methodologies come and go. Postal panels, central location interviewing and CATI all had their moments, but are now outmoded. By all indications, the peak of online panel research was more than five years ago when we had large, responsive, deeply profiled panels. Today, panels are less responsive; respondents do not remain in panels as long and two key benefits of panels, sample selection and panel profiling processes, have largely been replaced by lower quality dynamic pre-screening and respondent allocation algorithms.

When researchers made the transition from CATI to online research, the rationale for change was that online was faster and cheaper; however, not necessarily better. As we now transition from samples drawn from research panels to a traffic allocation method using generic respondent sourcing, the industry is making a similar decision to favor speed, cost and efficiency over research quality. Still, I think that a sustainable research panel model will yet emerge; it will just not be designed to support bulk survey completions as its primary function, but will be based upon permissioned access to a range of research information gathered from a cooperative and engaged panel. 

The Role of Panels Today

Research panels have splintered into a wide range of panel types, each dedicated to one primary purpose as described below:

  1. Online Access panels today are primarily used to get survey completions, although they are also used to find respondents for other panel types. In my classification, only panels explicitly created and marketed to respondents as research panels fit here.
  2. Purchase panels are designed to measure purchases over time from FMCG to electronics and these panels support research services for both manufacturers and retailers.
  3. Consumption and Usage panels focus on such things as the ingredients you use to prepare a meal or the face care regimen that you use.
  4. Measurement panels track television, radio and internet usage and historically have been pure currency panels that could not support other research services, but that will change, perhaps not for the currency panels themselves but other panels will offer these measurement capabilities.
  5. Community panels are similar to market research panels but tend to focus on understanding client and customer behavior. Increasingly, these will be combined with market research panels

The most obvious change facing the industry is the decline of online access panels in favor of various methods of amalgamating respondent sources and allocating them to studies, these methods now account for the majority of industry survey volume. To be clear, some clients do have a distinct preference for research panel respondents and the market will continue to provide for their needs, but a  large part of the market has moved to lower cost, lower quality methods.

Over the next five years we will see similar disruption in the other types of research panels as bar code scanning apps proliferate; we will see more competition in the purchase panel area. I believe that we will see explosive growth in various types of usage and consumption diaries as mobile devices open up new methods of data capture. Similarly, measurement panels will need to adapt to changes in the way media is consumed and distributed. As the technology behind community panels becomes more widespread and less complex, we will see a new set of competitors emerge.

Future research panels will be smaller, but will serve many purposes. What the market wants is not distinct single-purpose research panels that are cost optimized for a specific function, such as pumping out survey completes, but rather a true multi-purpose research panel that can provide a range of insights and solve a range of related business issues.

There have been many attempts at a single-source panel that captures a range of marketing stimuli and the resultant actions of those stimuli. These single-source panels were commercial successes but operational nightmares due to the cost and complexity of running them. Thanks to advances in technology and data storage, these multi-purpose panels will become more manageable and popular again. The research panels of the future will gain the access and trust of a relatively small group of respondents (in the tens of thousands) and gain access to a range of carefully curated data streams. These respondents will enjoy participating in a variety of research related tasks, from maintaining mobile diaries to involvement in discussion forums for which they are fairly compensated. They will also complete surveys, allow their media and purchases to be tracked, their debit and credit cards to be scraped along with their utility and mortgage bills.

Trust is the key ingredient driving the future of research panels; it can be earned by establishing a strong brand that treats respondents well. Trust is critical as we ask respondents for ever more invasive access to personal data.

I see the research market heading in two directions simultaneously: towards smaller, well managed research panels that attract loyal members that are willing to share their thoughts and behaviors in an environment where their input is valued and appreciated. The second direction entails large database marketing and loyalty firms that have large groups of people for which they capture data which is unrelated to research, but as a byproduct of those marketing activities, there is the opportunity to collect some useful consumer insights.

It is essentially a Small Data versus Big Data debate. I think the multi-faceted research panels will lead to a wining Small Data strategy, likewise Big Data will play an important part in the future of research, but I think those types of insights will be more closely tied to specific marketing execution. The future of panels is bright, but they need to return to what made them special; quality, representative samples, trusting and satisfied members and a diverse range of research activities. If we do not head swiftly in the Small Data direction, we risk losing the skilled people in the industry that understand how to properly build and manage research panels.


Enjoy A Festival Of NewMR

The Festival of NewMR is bringing a combination of big names and new faces to global MR audiences 1-5 February.

festival wide


By Ray Poynter

The Festival of NewMR has been bringing a combination of big names and new faces to global MR audiences since 2010, and the next Festival is 1-5 February.

The format of the Festival is online so that people who can’t attend face-to-face events can catch up with key market research presentations and discussions, and it has the added benefit of being free.

The format of the Festival also ensures that broadcasts take place across a variety of time zones to ensure that everybody should find there is something convenient for them.


This year the Festival comprises five sessions, spread over five days. The program is available here, but the key elements are:

  • Atlantic Monday, 1 February, 10am New York/ 3pm London. Keynote presenter Leslie Townsend, founder of Kinesis and leading expert on mobile market research.
  • APAC Tuesday, 2 February, 11am Tokyo/ 1pm Sydney. Keynote presenter is Shoba Prasad, a multi-award winner and expert in the fields of qualitative research and cross-cultural research.
  • Americas Wednesday, 3 February, 10am Seattle/ 1pm New York. Keynote presenter Fiona Blades, founder of MESH and a truly innovative researcher.
  • EMEA Thursday, 4 February, 1pm London/ 2pm Paris. Keynote presenter John Kearon, Chief Juicer at BrainJuicer, a true disruptor of ‘business as usual’.
  • Futuring Friday, 5 February, 10am New York/ 3pm London. Greenbook’s Lenny Murphy and NewMR’s Ray Poynter team up to review the future of Market Research, along with a star-studded panel of guests.

Other highlights of the week include: case studies, a new model for brand tracking, better uses of video, an introduction to data visualization, applications for big data, data analytics, social media and immersive qual. See the whole program at http://newmr.org/events/2016/festival-of-newmr-2016/ and register now; it’s free! 


Conference Success Series: How to Win Attendees and Influence Researchers

Today’s post is the first of four in Annie Pettit's Conference Success series, providing tips on effectively organizing, sponsoring, and even participating in research industry events. This piece focuses on the often overlooked details that make a conference great.

successful events


Editor’s Note: We’re ramping up into conference season in market research, and there are more and more choices for speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees to pick from (although why anyone would attend any other event but IIeX, I just don’t know!). We decided to ask Annie Pettit, who arguably attends more industry events than anyone else in the industry (and who always provides useful critiques of them) to distill what she has learned about making conferences a success into a series of posts. We’ll be sharing one each for the next four weeks, and here is the first one. Enjoy!


By Annie Pettit

If you can’t organize 1000 conference details to perfectly suit 1000 attendees, why not simply organize them to suit me! So, from someone who has never had to struggle with the minutiae of organizing a conference, here is the path to my heart.

Hours: Longer is better (gulp!). Companies pay registration fees so their employees will learn, not go on holidays. Give us every opportunity to recoup those costs in education. Start at 8am with sponsored, optional breakfast talks and demonstrations, and finish at 6pm. Learners will learn. Skippic 1pers will skip.

Session Lengths: Talks that are designed to make attendees aware of a new technology or methodology can be short – 15 minutes is sufficient for an attendee to determine whether they want personalized information from the speaker. Talks that are truly educational can be 30 minutes. Have one concurrent session full of 15 minutes talks and the other full of 30 minute talks. And then be thankful you’re not at AAPOR which often has EIGHT concurrent sessions!

Keynotes: Find keynote speakers who have fascinating market research stories. Instead of engaging a TED talk speaker whom we can watch any time we like, why not use those funds to bring in a field worker from Afghanistan, Cuba, Morocco, or Sudan? I would love to listen to an hour of stories about conducting door to door interviews in the favelas of a poor country, a world of market research I will never be able to experience. Research stories can be keynotes.pic 2

Disrespectful Speakers:  Keep your promises. Immediately shut down speakers who go over time. You aren’t being rude. They are. And, when you say you won’t tolerate sales pitches, beware the cartoons of Tom Ewing. Walk the talk in one of two ways: 1) Have a designated sales pitch track where companies are invited to overtly pitch truly innovative methods and technologies; 2) Create and manage an industry wide Do-Not-Speak list. Sales pitch once, shame on the speaker. Sales pitch twice, shame on the conference organizers.

Students: I love market research conferences that have poster sessions. pic 3Students benefit from a slow introduction to sharing their research with professionals. And, every attendee, from the most junior to the most senior, has the chance to share their work even if they don’t to win an on-stage positions. Let’s help everyone inspire others.

Diversity: Because it’s 2016. Before finalizing any speaker decisions, check the diversity of your speakers. Keep in mind that when you choose speakers based on written abstracts and speaking styles, you are unconsciously favoring the communication style you like and the demographics that go with it. Read the abstracts and choose the best, but be aware that different voices communicate differently. Then, if you can brag about it, let the world know about the diversity of your submissions and selections. If half of submissions were from women and half of your speakers will be women, be loud and proud!  Otherwise, beware the name and shame list or the live tweets.

Activities: Many people love the networking opportunities provpic 4ided between sessions, during breaks and meals, and at the end of the day. But, a good chunk of people are desperate for quiet or organized activities. Provide a quiet room with work tables and wifi, where cell-phones and talking are prohibited. And, on the other end of the spectrum, schedule break-time activities for people who want to network but are socially incompetent (stop looking at me!). Things like a soap box corner, a ping pong table, a poster session, or a research meme competition complete with all the requisite art supplies.

Refreshments: In my perfect world, there is a table in the main hall that is permanently stocked with hot and cold beverages – coffee, tea, soda, juice, water, locally brewed rootbeer (everyone has been asking for rootbeer).

Bloggers: Prolific bloggers will be delighted to cover your event without being asked if you provide: 1) Tables so they can set up all their tablets, phones, cameras, cords, notebooks, etc.; 2) non-trip-hazard and nearby electrical outlets; and 3) wifi.

Hashtags: Make it easy for everyone in market research to monitor your event even if they don’t know you’re hosting an event. Dump the event specific hashtags like #CASROmanage, #ISC, #esoCONG, #AMSRS2015, and #NetGain10, and use hashtags that everyone is already using: #IIeX, #AMSRS, #CASRO, #ESOMAR, #MRAmrx, #MRIA.