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Friday, 27 November 2015

Survey research will be dead by 2020 – discuss

From: Research 2011 conference blog

Will survey research still be with us in 2020? There’s little hope of researchers agreeing on an answer to that question any time before about 2019, but there was a healthy airing of views on the matter in a workshop session at Research 2011 yesterday.

Ayisha de Lanerolle of the Conversation Agency chaired the discussion, which involved a few dozen delegates taking turns to respond to one another’s arguments for or against.

It began with the familiar points: on one hand, people don’t know why they do what they do, so surveys can never get below the surface, and on the other hand they’re still a useful tool if used correctly, alongside all the shiny new stuff.

Kantar’s Tom Ewing responded to criticism of survey research, saying: “I agree that people don’t know why they do things - but I think that’s one of the most interesting things about people.”

Pete Cape of SSI focused on the issue of survey quality, suggesting that if the industry doesn’t up its game, survey research will run out of goodwill from respondents. “There’s nothing wrong with the respondent and everything wrong with what we do to them,” he said.

Doug Edmonds of 2CV defended surveys as a cost-effective and useful way of getting information, but warned that traditional quant research could suffer “if it doesn’t start playing with the other children in the playground. It will live if it learns to integrate with that.”

At the end of the session Discovery’s Ken Parker suggested that research agencies should put their money where their mouths are when it comes to surveys, instead of just extolling their value to clients. “How many of us [agencysiders] have actually conducted a survey on our new products before launching them?” he asked. In a room of forty people, only two hands were raised.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Well, surveys certainly won't be dead but there will be a lot less of them. I guessing social media research will take half of survey dollars in under ten years, possibly five years.

    There are certain aspects of surveys that absolutely cannot be done any other way. Every research objective has its research tool and we can't throw away tools. But there are many aspects of surveys that can be easily replicated and done better via alternatives.

    Let's just make sure we keep research dollars in research hands, no matter what the tool is.

    Annie Pettit, Chief Research Officer

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  • Annie, I think your prediction is not only bold but also a bit North American and/or consumer research-centric. I'm doing a lot of research in Middle East and Eastern Europe lately - consumer and B2B. Face to face and telephone are still very big and online is small (and online panels are limited in what they can deliver in some of these countries).

    So I think social media research will take survey dollars but not so fast, not everywhere, and not a very large slice of the pie. I think these methods will co-exist and perhaps complement eachother for a long time.

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  • If surveys - and by "surveys" I mean quantitative research with particular attention given to sampling and non-sampling bias - are dead by 2020, I'm going to assume a lot of brands will be dead, too.

    The explosion of do-it-yourself tools have given any quasi-marketer the means to conduct poorly thought-out surveys that ask the wrong people the wrong questions from the comfort of their Aeron chairs. This isn't a good thing and is particularly bad for the brands they represent.

    New tools may evolve how we do what we do, but there's still and always a need for solid, projectable, quant research - and surveys, in all their various forms, online or off, are still the way we get these insights.

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  • I agree with Annie that we will see fewer surveys by 2020, but they won't be dead. Just different. (At least I hope that we can bring ourselves (and our clients) to part ways with the 20+ minute text-based survey!)

    By 2020, I hope to see better integration between shorter surveys that are more graphic- based (to maximize respondent engagement) and social media text analytics.

    Ultimately, researchers will need to at least stay involved in the design of surveys, to help ensure that questions are worded properly, in the right order, etc.

    Amanda Durkee

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  • In 2020, survey research will still be widely practiced, and there will still be conferences debating the death of survey research!

    By 2020, we will no longer use the term 'social media research' because online business and social media/networking will be mainstream. However, we will make better use of organic and purpose-designed online communication channels, including for qualitative understanding and surveys/measurement.

    And many of the approaches we consider 'innovative' today, will be being talked about at conferences in 2020 as "traditional research"!

    Ah, the wonderful ebb and flow of life and business!!!

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  • The day that society stops asking questions will be a sad day. MR reflects that need. Sure we can do things better and differently but never stop asking questions.

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  • In 2020 research will still be alive as will surveys. With the advent of the DIY, folks who never could "afford" traditional surveys will now be able to utilize some form of research methodology. Especially non-profits.

    I liken this to the the printing industry when desktop publishing became more ubiquitous. It doesn't necessarily mean that everyone will be a top-notch researcher any more than they were suddenly producing excellent printed materials.

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  • Loving the insight from all the different angles here. We've written a little reply bog from a quant fieldwork perspective.

    Thanks All

    Alison White

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  • Survey research to find out what's really going on (in contrast to its use as entertainment,, filler, and to give people an opportunity to express themselves, and to promote and sell products) will decline because its deficiencies are more widely documented and acknowledged. This blog, the Research 2011 conference, and my book, THE PROBLEM WITH SURVEY RESEARCH, are just three of the increasing comments, analyses, and evidence eroding confidence in polls, interviews, and other instruments and procedures that ask questions of respondents.

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