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.