October 18, 2019
Many businesses, politicians, governments, ad and communications agencies live and die on market research - which is great if you’re in the market research business! Typically, we’re seeking to better understand what a given audience thinks and therefore how they behave. While the results are not always what one wants to hear, the real problem is in assuming that the results are in fact an accurate reflection of what’s really going on.
There are some key issues with this type of research that scream buyer beware. But, of course, frequently is the buyer aware!
As a species, humans were never programmed to accurately complete the research task. Our ability to communicate what we did when, and what we were thinking at the time we did what we said we were doing, is all a bit of a stretch. The Ad Contrarian – one of the world’s most influential marketing blogs– frequently argues that consumer research is a misguided crutch because not only do people not know what they really think, they don’t say what they really mean, and they don’t really mean what they say when they do say something!
While this might be an extreme argument, the point is fairly made in that we shouldn’t just rely on what people tell us. That said, one of the perennial issues facing researchers is how to conduct more efficient and insightful research that allows people to communicate how they’re really feeling and what they’re really doing. One answer might just lie in an adaptation of the SMS Survey.
Although no longer new within the industry, SMS surveys have generally only been used to increase response rates to surveys, especially amongst those aged under 30 – useful on the one hand, but not that helpful in improving data accuracy.
The real potential of SMS lies in its ability to engage in the moment and capture the what and the how. Rarely in the world – and quite possibly for the first time just recently in New Zealand with Research First’s study into online reading behaviour for Read NZ Te Pou Muramura - has SMS been used for real-time behavioural data collection. This method allowed us to ask people what they were doing ‘right now,’ and therefore sample their behaviour in real-time, garnering authentic responses to stimuli in their environment. Not only did this approach allow for an instantaneous response, it was easy to complete.
Capturing responses in the heat of the moment circumvents any opportunity people have to craft a less authentic response over the period of time between action and survey completion. Moreover, SMS surveying allows for branched surveying in which participants’ responses trigger different questions, making it a more interactive and therefore interesting, experience.
So, next time you really want to understand behaviour don’t impede the quality and usefulness of the findings by a poorly designed approach.
Research First – making the complex simple.