Threats and Data Hoarders: 3 Takeaways from SampleCon

Last week, I attended SampleCon, the preeminent annual conference of the market research sampling, or survey, industry. As one panelist put it, “there is a LOT of market research in this room.” This year’s conference focused on the challenges, trends, and possible solutions influencing the sample industry in a rapidly changing consumer environment. As a company that focuses on consumer behavioral measurement, this was a great opportunity to share some of our groundbreaking methodology with our peers, and learn about some of the latest trends in the measurement and market research landscape. Here’s a recap of three of the top themes of the conference.

1. Those who don’t evolve with new technology will be left behind

A major theme of this year’s conference was the real threat of new technology leaving measurement businesses behind. With so many aspects of the industry changing—from the way respondents interact with technology, to the measurement landscape itself—businesses need to prime themselves to be more agile in order to succeed. As Sima Vasa, CEO of Infinity Squared Ventures put it, “We need to use every sort of data available. Online shouldn’t be such a small piece of the measurement pie.” And even within the scope of online technologies, device usage is rapidly changing. According to research we published last year, the amount of time we spend using mobile devices versus PCs continues to increase, and apps have overtaken desktop web as the primary way that consumers engage with online media content.

There was a heated discussion around using mobile surveying and “DIY” recruiting methods such as Facebook advertising and whether this was too fast, too soon. Our perspective at Verto is that it is essential to move as quickly as possible with the changing consumer landscape, and that new technology can be a benefit to market research if you’re approaching it in the right way.

During our presentation, “Changes in Measurement Approach & Methodology – Passive, Behavioral Measurement & Single-Source,” Jay Imus, Verto Analytics Vice President, and I outlined the evolving consumer landscape over the past 50 years and the measurement industry’s lag behind. As we outlined in our talk, the new era of “modern measurement,” focuses on the holistic experience of the user: cross-platform and cross-device.

2. Shift from “data hoarders” to storytellers

Another trend emphasized was the need for market researchers to shift from data to insights. Market researchers sit at the center of many organizations – including product, strategy, marketing, and sales teams. Often, researchers are asked to provide business-critical data for strategic decision making; submitting a raw excel file of the data will no longer cut it. Market researchers have a real opportunity to construct their opinions, based on data, in a meaningful way to see change in the business. This shift from data hoarding to storytelling makes the role of market researchers more valuable, and more closely linked to ROI.

As our CEO, Hannu Verkasalo, mentioned in a recent blog post, “It is increasingly important to build insights and not simply track metrics. Insights can and should provide a deeper level of understanding when it comes to consumer behavior.” As an example, understanding the “day-in-the-life” view of a consumer is a much richer way to tell a story about the way they interact with technology, rather than just self-reported metrics.

3. “Bring the people back to the panels”

SampleCon speakers also emphasized the need to humanize the sampling process, by creating better experiences and incentives for respondents. Ultimately, this is an industry that thrives on measuring consumer attitudes and behaviors. However, it’s easy to lose sight of the people behind the data. Problems such as survey fatigue, failure to finish surveys, and problems with recruiting will continue to plague the industry if there isn’t a remedy. Several helpful suggestions were brought up by the conference speakers and audience:

  • Increase incentives. Plain and simple – if we want more respondents taking and finishing surveys, it needs to be worth their time. This is especially true for the consumer side.
  • Shorten surveys. Survey times expanding out to 25-30 minutes (especially without proper incentives) – are unacceptable.
  • Share outcomes with respondents and panelists. A lot of participants aren’t doing it for the incentives, but rather the impact they might have on new products or technology. Package any public data and make sure to share with them to close the feedback loop.
  • Survey the people where they are. Although there was a lot of debate in the panel on mobile, most of the conversation I had about mobile surveying were overwhelmingly positive. It gives a great way for people to take surveys wherever they are.

The role of researchers is evolving and they are tasked with more today than ever before. Some will be resistant to changes in technology, but others will see it as an opportunity that can improve the way research is done. The move towards digital and mobile can enhance everything from recruiting to the respondent survey experience to the results that are produced. The researchers that jump on board with new approaches are the ones that will be most likely to succeed.

Interested in learning more about Verto’s approach to audience measurement and consumer behavior? Download our presentation from SampleCon or discover more about our Smart Poll product, which helps bridge the gap between the traditional methods of market research, such as surveys, and more modern forms of measurement, like passive metering.