On the 9th of November, the ASC invited some panel providers to attend a discussion on panel harmonisation. The discussion was orchestrated by Tim Macer.
Here was my speech – the written version at least as I may have ad-libbed a few unscripted things.
Market Research is changing. You have heard it a million times – not in the way that Ray Pointer announced. There will be more surveys in 10 years than ever. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of them won’t be run by MR institutes. The goose with the golden eggs is dead – client now run their own surveys which means MR companies – just to stay in business – have to be more competitive.
Goose with the golden eggs (before / after)
They started to delocalise in India, in Romania or in Ukraine. But that was not enough. To save more money, they have started to use automation.
This has its advantages – of course the surveys were a little bit more formatted… but Millward Brown had done that successfully for years. But once the bugs are eradicated, it’s efficient, fast and most of all cheap. And no blockade by disgruntled employees – although that’s more a French problem.
The problem is that end-clients are following up the trend – they can do automation too! They are using Zappi Store and Wizer… and SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo and ConfirmIt (and Askia). And ToLuna. And SSI self-serve. And Lucid. And Cint.
I have mentioned it at the ASC’s last conference: we have entered a golden age. The age of the API. A golden age for geeks like me at least: the internet is changing into a gigantic API where information is exchanged through web services. Everything is interconnected and uses the same interfaces.
I do not know if any of you have used IFTTT – If This Then That. It’s an app where you define a condition and an action. If I get near the house, put the lights on. If the temperature gets below 17 at night, put the heating on. If I enter the kitchen in the morning, put the radio on and start the coffee machine. If I have no milk in the fridge, order some. The IoT – the internet of things – is happening through one common interface through web services… and all industries are playing ball because they want their share of that big cake of a connected world.
I know we all have panel providers on stage so they might disagree with me. But panel data is no longer the only oil on planet Research. Customer databases are increasingly used because they can be energised by communities. And there is all sort of big data available at large – aggregated or not. It could be a loyalty card data, www foot prints or mobile phone data.
And just like for a good Bordeaux wine, to get quality you need to master the art of Blend. The merlot a bit dry and earthy – that will be your panel data. There is some cheap Merlot and very good Merlot too. And the Cabernet Sauvignon with its fruity flavours – that will be your behavioural data.
But unlike the IoT industry, Market Research providers have not decided to play ball. There are the ones who do not facilitate automation because they are afraid of losing control and burning panel. And there are the ones who do but work in isolation.
I do not believe there can be one company that will fill all the needs in Panel data. ToLuna is posturing itself as a one stop for all MR needs: the software, the panel and the behaviour. SSI is doing something similar and the merge with ResearchNow is going to be very interesting. The Leonard Murphy analysis about that on GreenBlog was great btw. And it won’t be scraps left for the others – because the need for data is growing – the need for specialised quality data will be growing too.
But we need a common language. A common grammar. What is a social grade? How do I define national representativity? And how do I trigger a soft launch? How do I notify that a quota is full?
But there is another side to this discussion. If we let anyone access a survey which is tedious, long, repetitive, with grids, 2 max-diff exercises and one 20 minute trade-off, how do we reward the dedicated weirdos that filled that nightmare of a survey? How do we warn them that they are in for the long run? Because we might lose another goose with golden eggs. How can we stop the cull of panellists and the ever drop in response rates?
I suggest we build metrics: number of questions, number of responses in a question. And then number of words per question, number of similar questions, number of mandatory open-ended questions… and then build a model.
$(Survey) => (Length(Survey) x TotalTediousness(Survey))-1
And then remunerate the panellists (and their providers) accordingly.
While I was preparing this discussion with all of you, most of you mentioned of how slow moving our industry was. It’s not just that: it’s protective, short-sighted and technologically unaware. And that’s everything the ASC is not. It’s at the ASC that triple-S, a format to exchange survey data between competing survey software was created and promoted. It’s two of my competitors, Steve Jenkins and Keith Hughes, who patiently showed my errors and taught me how to write a proper triple-S file. Let’s all be a little bit more like them and a little bit less like Apple who introduces a new plug and a new format with each new version.
That’s my manifesto – a call for arms… please discuss and let’s move it forward.