It’s no secret that there has been a decline in traditional online survey response rates. Online sample sizes that were once feasible are now a challenge to deliver. In the age of mobile technology, bite-sized information consumption and shorter attention spans, market research methodologies have (mostly) not kept up with today’s consumer.

In the process of trying to understand consumer behavior, data collection has mostly continued with traditional methods – expecting respondents at times to bear the cognitive load with long, self completion surveys, resulting in “bad data” and a decline in response rates.

In a world where online sample becomes a cheap commodity, we tend to forget that sample is actually people. Sample is to research as soil is to growing food. We need to understand how we can best maintain and enrich our soil. In that, there is something for everyone.

That’s why we think it’s important to look into the way market research is conducted. Recently, we executed a study on the benefits and challenges of passive metering and surveying. In the first part of the study, we explored if consumers’ perception of their online activities reflects their true browsing behavior by analyzing the websites and apps they use and investigating for which purposes one data collection method is better suited than the other. Additionally, the second part of the study focused on the research experience of participants for both data collection methods. We asked our respondents a variety of questions about different aspects of both data collection methods in order to get an idea of how their experience can be improved and how we can prevent a further decline in response rates.

For this study, we used data from 485 respondents in Australia, which includes their tracked behavioral data as well as their completed post-surveys. We passively tracked their online behavior during the entire month of April 2017.

From the early planning stage of selecting the data collection methods to the actual experience that people have during the execution, there are a lot of interesting take-aways from this study that can have an impact on the research results.

do we really know and respect the effects of our practices on the people we rely on for information?

It’s crucial to carefully choose the appropriate method for collecting data to get a better understanding of today’s consumers and to reveal the insights you are looking for. Since people can’t correctly report their online behavior, passive metering will deliver more accurate data than survey data if the purpose of the study is to find out WHAT people are doing online. A combination of both methods can also help to assess WHY people behave the way they do. The fact that people have a better experience with passive metering than with surveys, but still want to have the option to express their full opinion, can also be addressed by combining both methods.

Moreover, it’s important to respect and appreciate the efforts of research participants by improving their experience. The main reason for people to participate in market research is still rewards, which might lead to the conclusion that the more attractive the incentives are, the happier the participants are with their participation. However, there are also other factors that affect the experience consumers have when participating in market research e.g. the way the data is collected in terms of usability and privacy or the effort it takes to receive an incentive.

To avoid misconceptions regarding the data protection, we see that the communication about the privacy of passive metering needs to be improved to ensure research participants are aware what data is collected for which purpose.

The participants’ demand for more efficient surveys as well as their frustration when being screened out, can be addressed by using passive metering for targeting a specific survey sample. This way of sampling can improve the relevance of the survey, so the experience they have with it and prevents them from dropping out. Recent research has also indicated better targeting increases participation rates, reduces dropout rates, improves survey experience and yields the same or better survey data quality.

To conclude, we think there are two primary factors to always keep in mind when conducting a research in order to succeed in the future: Data quality and user experience.

You can read the full results of this study on the Wakoopa blog.

Simon_van_DuivenvoordeSimon van Duivenvoorde