FEATURE28 December 2012

Preview of 2013 – part 3


David Day on the lasting impact of the recession, Barry Ryan on what to expect from the EU’s data protection overhaul and Tim Britton on why getting to grips with big data will sort the winners from the losers.


Digital, global, local, mobile

There’s no doubt that it is tough out there, but our experience is one of evolution in how clients buy and conduct research so that even in these straitened economic times clients are not necessarily spending less, but they are becoming more discerning. Like anyone on a budget, clients want the best return on investment for their research spend. We see three clear trends emerging which we expect to continue and accelerate over the next few years.

“It was only comparatively recently that clients were wary of using online research outside the major developed markets. Over the last two or three years this has completely changed”

David Day

David Day

Firstly, the final barriers to wholesale acceptance of online data collection are coming down. It was only comparatively recently that clients were wary of using online research outside the major developed markets – citing internet penetration, historic trends and relatively cheap, people-driven fieldwork as the reasons. Over the last two or three years this has completely changed. Those same clients now want consistency and reliability in their data collection and are pushing more and more of their work towards digital data collection.I say digital rather than online because, perhaps ironically, it’s in those emerging markets where online penetration is still patchy or skewed that we are moving from traditional face-to-face or CATI collection directly to mobile surveys. As our clients invest more in their own digital marketing activities and consumers spend more of their time and money on digital platforms, these then become the natural place to conduct all types of research.

So the second trend we are seeing is the true embracing of the digital environment as the place to talk to consumers. Today we can access our respondents online, via mobile devices and through social media platforms. We can survey them, invite them to online focus groups or custom communities, track their internet behaviour and relate their social media opinions to our questionnaire results. All this requires permission of course and is one of the reasons that panels will be with us long into the future.

Finally, either because of the economic climate or the globalisation of business, international clients are becoming much more global in their outlook. They are moving away from having individual markets buy and run their own local research projects towards a more joined-up research programme. This is challenging for both clients and agencies as the balance that clients need to be able to strike is how they get the efficiencies of scale in purchasing research globally without losing the benefits of knowledgeable, local researchers.

David Day is CEO of Lightspeed Research

Data protection and the European crisis

As we approach the fourth year of the EU’s project to overhaul its data protection rules, and the anniversary of the publication of the Commission’s proposed regulation, it is perhaps time to take stock of where we are:

  • The so-called ‘research exemptions’ remain in the current proposals and have not been challenged in discussions in Parliament to date. The key to this status is the research sector’s robust and responsible data handling practices, including the use of anonymisation and pseudonymisation. Our traditions of informed consent and respondent confidentiality have served the sector well.
  • The focus of the parliament has been on online behavioural advertising (OBA), which tracks users and compiles a profile of their interests in order to serve relevant advertising. The OBA debate has been running in parallel to the data protection discussion since 2009. Legislators are keen to introduce a requirement for consent for such profiling and to allow for automated decisions to be reviewed by a human operator (as currently required in the UK). Researchers engaging in online tracking as part of media measurement need to follow this development closely.
  • The 1995 directive still works. The current system is not perfect, and has an inherent patchwork quality, but it has shown itself to be effective and durable, making Member State governments in particular wary of a wholesale replacement of the rules.
  • Jobs and growth may trump privacy and consumer protection. The backdrop to this entire debate is a European economy in crisis. Opening up the online market could be a key element of getting the EU economy moving again – but restrictive rules on personal data are unlikely to help. As the crisis continues, the pressure to prevent or remove rules that inhibit jobs and growth is only going to grow.

Barry Ryan is director of the Market Research Society policy unit

Big data = big winners

Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney in the US presidential election offers a lesson for what the big trend in market research will be in the coming year: big data. According to a campaign insider, Obama’s team interviewed 30,000 people a day for a year – and that was just in Ohio. What the campaign recognised was that in a tightly fought election, success and failure would occur at the margins and they needed to understand what those margins were if they wanted to win.

The same is true for consumer behaviour in a recession: decisions are made carefully, with small differences between offers being the deciding ‘buy factor’. It is the brands that grasp the importance of understanding these marginal influences – and who can use a variety of data sources to interpret them – that will be the big winners.

Tim Britton is chief operating officer EMEA, YouGov

  • On 31 December, we will publish the final part of our Preview of 2013 series covering US legislation, co-creation and new media


11 years ago

David Day seems to automaticaly link digital with panels. In our exprience, client are increasingly accepting digital data collection but at the same time becoming distrustful of panels. It is important not to burden digital data collection with the increasing taint of panel sampling. As for Tim Britton's big data - I hope there was a need for 30,000 interviews a day or was it the only way that they could end up with a decent final sample. Probably best to sample properly in the first place.

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11 years ago

For the coming years, I think it will be most important and most difficult at the same time to make the data collected via panel surveys look reliable and valid. Despite the challange of interpreting answers depending on their origin (you would not believe how many people "have" an Ipad in China e.g. according to some surveys I worked on lately) I see the combination of more or less anonymous respondants and clients who are not aware on how to do a proper Screener (if its obvious the survey is about IT decision makers, panelists are of course tempted to prentend to be such) as a main problem. Poorly designed questionnaires in combination with panelists "in it for the money" will result in poor results and data and on the long run damage the reputation of online surveys. Low costs compared to other methods are something going for online surveys, but online if the results remain on an acceptable quality level.

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11 years ago

Re Tim Britton, Big data = big winners Apparently, Obama’s team interviewed the whole state of Ohio. Or was it the same 30,000 people every day?

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