Digital answers… why ask questions?

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The latest Asia Research Seminar <em>Digital Answers… why ask questions?</em> looked at some of the fundamental issues surrounding data collection, how we ask questions in survey research, and whether we even need to ask questions at all.

Testuji Okuuchi from CINT pointed out that online has solved a number of challenges to do with timings and costs. However, CINT noted the rising concerns about the best way to recruit, maintain and contact potential panelists. Truly knowing your audience and engaging them on their terms is more important than ever. CINT presented a case study from Mainichi Publishing in Japan who developed their own insight community to promote their ad dontdontevaluation and effectiveness program.

Karen Schofield from Join the Dots also spoke about how research needs to engage consumers on their terms. Referencing social media, she looked at the benefits of limiting open-ended responses to 144 characters (like a tweet), one of which was that it ironically generates increased consumer responses. Today’s consumers are conditioned to maximising their opinions in the limited number of characters as on Twitter. Using an example of two parallel surveys conducted in the UK on the perceived consequences of Brexit, Schofield showed that one survey ran a traditional format of rating questions and providing open-ended responses, while the other used a star system of rating questions (associated more with online reviews than surveys) and an open-ended followup similar to a tweet.

The latter approach produced more polarised response, but because of the richer open-ended responses due to the tweet style limitations, respondents actually expressed themselves more usefully and colourfully, as if they are writing an online review.

Anthony Dobson from BDRC Asia, presented some of the latest developments in advertising through smart media. Using a case study from Sky TV, Dobson showed how their technology is allowing advertisers to be a lot smarter in targeting specific households, almost down to neighbour levels, by including features that only show adverts that are relevant to specific household types and highly localized adverts to specific neighourhoods (identified by postcode).

Such research technology can be considered intrusive, as was highlighted in the early days of market research. In 1957, Vance Packard published The Hidden Persuaders, which vigorously attacked the invasive nature of market research and subliminal advertising. “We’re moving into the chilling world of George Orwell and his Big Brother,” he warned. This was the era of McCarthyism where fears of brainwashing were rife.

Now in 2016, a study exploring privacy concerns and the Internet of Things revealed that 80 percent of consumers have privacy concerns, but factors such as discounts, coupons or high-value information were often enough to get them to opt-in to research. Permission and market research go hand-in-hand when surveys are involved.

With more passive methods come the risks of privacy concerns, trust breaches and even brand damage when not handled correctly. Surveys, conversely, get a participant’s express permission before delving into their minds and the intimate details of their lives. To deliberately misquote the 1980s pop group Bananarama, “It ain’t what you do, it’s who you do it to”.