The Challenge of Sample Supply in a Changing Insights Landscape

By: Jackie Lorch
VP of Global Knowledge Management

Major forces are changing the face of the research and insights industry, highlighting a longstanding concern in online research that is becoming an urgent reality: it’s increasingly difficult to find enough people willing to feed the surging demand for data.

The New Forces Threatening Sample Supply

Surveys are becoming increasingly difficult
Even as we endure a global pandemic, the demand for data is exploding. And as marketing becomes more sophisticated, the type of data required demands more from our participants; our questions are increasingly intricate and cognitively difficult.

Time to complete surveys has decreased
The supply of people willing to give us their time is decreasing. Twenty years ago, answering survey questions was one of the more interesting things to do online; now thousands of online activities demand our time.

Rejecting the wrong participants results in disengagement
In an age of microtargeting, researchers want to speak to smaller needles in the haystack, so participants who volunteer to take a survey are rejected three out of four times, causing many to give up on survey taking altogether.

Questionnaire Length
We haven’t made progress in shortening questionnaires. The average questionnaire length at Dynata – which can serve as a reasonable proxy for the industry – is 15-20 minutes and has remained at that level for years. Dynata research shows a steady drop rate as each minute ticks by. People are busy, and survey-taking can be hard work.

Questionnaire Design
Many questionnaires aren’t far removed from telephone surveys transferred to online. Participants haven’t been placed at the center of rethinking questionnaire design for online.

The Increasing Value of Data
Consumers are smarter and more empowered than ever, with a heightened awareness of the value of their data. They’re willing to share – but only on their terms.

Privacy Concerns
Most people have privacy concerns and are reluctant to share date of birth or address and email address over the internet. Yet we routinely ask people to give us this information – and much more.

Cost of Recruitment
There is pressure across the industry to supply more participant time at ever lower cost, while the cost of recruitment increases. The result is often less investment in quality sourcing and quality control techniques.

Lack of Transparency
The market for buying online sample is more complicated, and often not transparent.

The speed of business means there’s less time to test questionnaires or discuss sampling in detail before the project fields.

DIY Technologies
The rise in DIY technologies means that anyone today can create and field a questionnaire; quality is inevitably more varied.

Non-Mobile Friendly Surveys
Many people today prefer to take surveys on a mobile device. Almost half of Dynata participants and more than two=thirds of 18-24-year-olds respond via mobile device. Yet we’re still creating surveys that are not mobile-friendly.

For the first two decades of online research we’ve been able to rely on the goodwill of people across the globe to answer our questions, without thinking much about the overall panel ecosystem, and how decisions we make about our own research impacts that ecosystem. The risk of demand outrunning supply has been known for years, but only now, due to these significant changes has it become urgent.

In the insights industry, how can we act collectively to maximize the use of people’s time and protect our common participant asset? We must put our participants front and center, rejecting them less often and making their experience easier. Here are 10 ways to do that.

1.Define the target audience for the research study precisely and use rigorous screeners to reduce the chance of the wrong person qualifying for a study. Discuss the target at the bid stage: the sample provider may be able to target for the intended audience.

2.Avoid unnecessary quotas, using only those that are relevant to the topic being studied.

3.Write a brief questionnaire with simple language.

4.Test the survey among people outside the project team; they’re more likely to spot problems that might cause people to drop out.

5.Make sure the survey is mobile-friendly.

6.Put the research company name and a contact email on the survey so people will feel more confident in the legitimacy of the survey and have a way to share comments.

7.Use reasonable quality control questions which are true measures of quality.

8.Ask people at the end what they thought of the survey. Their comments can help identify questions that were confusing and aid in interpreting the data —and include genuine thanks at each survey exit point.

9.Ask the sample provider to append or pass demographic, geographic and other data they hold to your completed interviews to avoid re-asking these questions.

10.Understand how changing business realities and the realities of recruitment cost are impacting the supply of panelists.

Our common resource, the pool of people we as an industry recruit from, has changed. And it’s not just they who have changed, because “they” are people just like us; we’ve all changed. We all demand impenetrable privacy and security of our data; we all want more personalization and customization of the services we use. We all trust online experiences a little less than we used to.

Only by cooperation and using best practices to protect the participant can our shared asset survive. A renewed focus on improving the participant experience doesn’t need to be a revolution; an evolution will do. Let’s look for marginal gains in all aspects of the survey process. And most of all, let’s start from a position of trust in and respect for the people who give us their time.

For more information on how Dynata can help you navigate the changing Insights landscape, contact us.