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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Survey research is not getting easier

Observation:  Today’s Research Brief provided a summary of findings from the Pew Research Center about the challenges involved with building truly unbiased public opinion research.  On the list of challenges:  Greater difficulty contacting prospective survey participants, and lower participation rates, overall.  Click here to see the Research Brief, or to see the Pew Research Center report, click here.

Implications:   Granted, this story focuses on public opinion research, but the findings here serve as a canary in the coal mine of consumer research.  One of the reasons survey respondent rates are going down, in my opinion:  Everyone seems to be doing a survey, and many consumers are suffering from research fatigue.  It seems that every time I buy anything or dine anywhere, the cashier circles a website on the receipt where I can take a survey for the chance to win a gift card or the like.

This is important, because it is critical for companies to acquire the input and feedback of the customers they serve.  But as the Research Brief story indicates, it might be more important than ever to have a back-up source (or several) for information, beyond the simple survey.  Shopper intercepts (both in-store and online)?  Simple observation?  Focus groups?  Interviews?  More refined analysis of your sales data?  Secondary (subscription) research?

In what ways might you gain—or retain—the accurate input of your customers, with regard to their preferences, priorities and purchasing motives?  Certainly, this much is true:  When the right chance to conduct research is available to you, do not ask one gratuitous, unimportant question.  Every response matters, so make every question count!

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

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