OPINION11 May 2023

More needs to change to democratise market research

AI CX Opinion Trends UX

The research industry needs to respect the modern consumer and understand what is going to make them want to complete surveys, argues Oscar Carlsson.

Chess pieces in circles

The market research industry is at an impasse. Data is more important and more accessible than ever before. But do we understand its impacts of democratised data, and the progress that still needs to happen to drive appropriate industry evolution and innovation? 

We’re seeing an influx of self-serve market research platforms. Through the likes of solutions like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms, smaller companies and individuals are able to get in front of target audiences at a fraction of the cost for what a traditional research firm would charge, if not for free.

And let’s face it, social media is the ultimate self-serve research platform. Between brands posting polls to collect real-time customer feedback and influencers leveraging their large follower bases as their own personal respondent pools, social media apps have become the go-to source for instant data collection gratification. This is where the value exchange starts to evolve in an interesting way.

Historically, consumers have been incentivised to complete digital brand surveys or polls through basic gamification. Ran out of lives on Candy Crush? Complete this 15-second survey and score a bonus life for free. With social media, the value exchange becomes a bit more muddled. Why do consumers bother to answer influencer/celebrity polls on social media? What benefit do consumers get from helping, say, a popular TikTok influencer choose what she should eat for breakfast? There’s an innate thrill, a feeling like the consumer is a part of something bigger. A feeling like the consumer has the power to influence the influencer and tap into their world. 

It’s this kind of evolution of the value exchange that the market research industry needs to emulate. Today’s consumers are already over-stimulated and in a perpetual state of technological exhaustion. They’re being bombarded by targeted advertisements, social commentary, emails, texts and notifications on their phones, tablets and screens. It’s time for the market industry to think what’s going to make them care.

Surveys have to be high quality and intentional. The industry needs to respect the user and understand what is going to make them want to complete a survey. That starts with ensuring questions are relevant to consumers at the right time when they are engaging with the content they are consuming. Clear and concise questions, that aren’t repetitive, will take the least amount of time to complete and deliver the best possible results.

And that’s just tackling the world we currently know. The market research industry also has to grapple with how to appeal to consumers across the multiverse. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic of conversation, and it’s one that the market research industry, in particular, would be remiss to ignore. 

Just take a look at ChatGPT. We’re living in a time where brands and everyday consumers alike are testing chatbot limitations, exploring every possibility and leaving no stone unturned. Have a question on market trends? How consumers’ sentiments are shifting related to a certain product or market demographic? Throw it to ChatGPT. It won’t tell you how it’s sourcing its answers, but it will provide them. 

Which opens up a larger dialogue within the industry around data trust and proper sourcing. Market research means nothing if companies — and the end users, consumers — do not feel the data is accurate or objective. While AI can help responses and data analysis, you can’t always guarantee that it is not biased. AI doesn’t operate in a bubble, and can be influenced by the learning data used. 

What this should signify to the market research industry is that trust matters more than ever before.

As we dig deeper into the potentials of the multiverse, more questions will abound around the logistics behind ethical data collection — and while the bots may not have an immediate answer, the market research industry can claim its stake now and set the tone.

It’s no secret that the democratisation of market research is a good thing. More access to insights data means that more companies, regardless of size or resources, can create better experiences for consumers. But, as a collective industry, we have not yet addressed a number of key challenges.

It’s time for the market research industry to take action. To tackle defining a new and improved value exchange for survey data collection. To grapple with social media apps and tap into the appeal of influencer and celebrity culture and that culture’s mindset that seems to make data collection seem so normal and fun. To step out ahead of AI and define the standards around ethical data collection and transparency. And the time is now.

Oscar Carlsson is chief information officer at Cint