“Bryson Household” ceases to exist for phone researchers

family-silhouette.jpgFor several months I have been threatening to disconnect our home land line.  All 6 members of the Bryson household have a cell phone and I found myself answering the “home phone” on a regular basis when the call was not for me.  Finally, in December, the Bryson’s became a wireless-only family.  Now we save the monthly cost of our telephone bill and I don’t have to answer the phone unless someone wants to reach me personally.  

Apparently, the Brysons are part of a massive trend that will change the face of the research industry. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that another 2.5% of American households are now without land lines making 22.7% of all American households wireless only.  At this rate, in 11 years less than 50% of American households will have a “home phone” land line.  My guess is that this trend will accelerate and we are more like 5 years away from that reality.  
As we enter this next decade, the research industry must resolve this problem.  Will we depend on mobile phone panels to fulfill our research needs?  Will we migrate all research to online or in-person and abandon the concept of telephone interviews altogether?  Before you say “no way” consider the plight of door-to-door interviewing which was a research staple in the 1950s and 1960s.  Or, will we find a “third way?”  
The telephone we know as a research tool is becoming extinct.  Individuals now carry personal communications and information devices with them 24/7.  No longer do we simply call a publicly-listed household and ask for the decision marker.  We must have an individual’s personal number, have permission to use it and have a relationship with that individual that leads to engagement.  
In 2010, you can no longer reach the “Bryson household.”  You may call any of us…but you have to find our number first and give us a reason to talk to you.  For telephone researchers, the “Bryson Household” ceased to exist in 2009.

Online Communities: The participants’ experience

ESOMAR Online Conference

The paper presented at the Conference titled, “It Works for Us but Does It Work for Them,” focused on community participants.  The findings were taken from the 17% of these panel members surveyed who had taken part in a community.  Of these, 71% said they “always” or “usually” enjoy participating, so the communities have more positives than negatives.
Generally, participants said they enjoyed participating because communities are a convenient way to provide input on a product or brand and participants felt marketers were truly listening.  Communities are convenient because participants can generally enter and leave when they want and participate as much as they want.  They also liked the fact that they developed familiarity with other community members who they saw there on a regular basis.  Participants also appreciated the optional ability to be anonymous and, presumably, be more honest.
Some of the “dislikes” participants mentioned were the low and uneven distribution of incentives or participation rewards.  Because prize drawings are public, they are open to criticism about fairness.  Participants also questioned the sincerity of some participants, believing that they tended to posture for the marketers than providing true opinions.  
Communities appear to provide strong benefits for participants as well as researchers.  Therefore, they are likely here to stay but will “morph” over time into many different variations. We will continue to watch the community phenomenon unfold along with other techniques to better understand the mind and behavior of the consumer.

Study: Participants prefer focus groups

ESOMAR Online Conference

Earlier this month in Chicago, I had the opportunity to hear Ray Poynter present his paper “It Works for Us, But Does it Work for Them?”  This was a study of 1085 research participants.  The bottom line was that focus groups remain the #1 most enjoyable form of research for participants.  Here are the percent of participants of each method who say they “always” enjoy participating.
  • Focus Groups 51%
  • Online Research Community 39%
  • Online Survey 37%
  • IDIs 33%
  • Telephone Survey 12%
Findings show that people enjoy focus groups because of the high involvement, face-to-face interaction that allows them to share their opinions and bounce ideas off of each other.  They also like the format where people are listening yet there is a specific and limited time commitment.  Participants enjoy the opportunity to “get the inside scoop” on new products or ideas.  Of course, they also appreciate the generous incentives andfree food and drink.
Interesting, there are some significant fears as well.  Some fear judgement by other participants or having to disagree openly with someone else.  Others fear of public speaking and knowing that every word and action is being watched and recorded.  Interestingly, participants expressed frustration over the limited timeframe.  They don’t always get to voice their complete opinion and one person might dominate the discussion and use up “their” time.   
I’ll report more on this paper in another post.  If you would like the whole paper, you can get it for EUR 15.00 at

How will mobile qualitative evolve?

When you boil it down to its core, qualitative research is about using communication methods to understand how people think, feel and what drives them to do what they do.  The focus group facility was an application of the family kitchen table or the business conference room.  The current growth in online qualitative coincides with the explosion of “social media” which demonstrates the ease with which people can connect and communicate via the internet. 

So, what is next?  The future may just be in mobile phone research.  Its difficult to imagine at this point what form that takes but it is equally difficult to argue against the persistent march of technology off our desktops and onto our mobile phones.  The new Apple iPhone being introduced this week will have 100 new apps and many new features for communicating and obtaining information.  Also, IBM has just announced a $100 million investment in mobile phone research over the next 5 years.  The research will focus on: mobile enterprise enablement, emerging market mobility and enterprise end-user mobile experiences. Analytics, security, privacy and user interface, and navigation will be also be covered by the research effort.

‘Mobile devices are gradually becoming ubiquitous,’ said project leader Guruduth Banavar. ‘We hope this research will serve the millions of people who now use their mobile devices for managing large forces of enterprise field workers, conducting financial transactions, entertainment, shopping, and more.’

Concurrently, 20/20 Research has seen tremendous interest in our mobile text messaging product for uses ranging from gentle homework reminders to in-depth logitudinal research to recruiting assistance. 

For those of us who have been in qualiative for many years, our world is changing almost too rapidly to keep up.  The future a bit intimidating.  It is also very intriguing.  The potential is vast.  Hang on.  The qualitative future may be a lot of things but dull is not one of them.

ARF: Online “Professional Respondents” Less than Expected

ARF Logo.gifMany of the questions we get about online research deal with response quality and/or quality of participants online versus face to face methods.  The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) hosted the Online Research Quality Council to discuss issues surrounding respondent quality.  The group just completed a wide-ranging study of online participants utilizing 100,000 participants from 17 different panels. 

The following are three findings of interest from the study.  More about the study can be found on the ARF website at:

The study results address a number of critical questions, including:

  • Is there a small group of “professional respondents” on everyone’s panel, doing it for the money, and gaming the system rather than providing thoughtful answers?  The answer is a resounding “no”.  A small proportion of people are on more than one panel, and the panelist pool is not small, in fact comparable or better than mail panels in their heyday. People who are on multiple panels and who take numerous surveys in a month are, on average, better respondents. 
  • What drives good survey-taking behavior? The underlying driver is length of survey.  Shorter surveys produce fewer “bad respondents”. The optimal number of surveys taken is higher than most expected, and those who are motivated by wanting to share their opinions rather than being in it for the cash gifts also tend to give more thoughtful, consistent answers.
  • Are people taking the same survey more than once?  The potential exists, although it is less than initially reported.  The industry must develop operational approaches to ensure that a survey is not taken more than once.

Massachusetts Acts to Quash Medical Incentives

I serve on the Government Affairs Committee for MRA/CMOR and one of the issues we have been dealing with for months is the intent of state legislatures to stop any payments by pharma to doctors.  Research is getting caught in the middle.  Several states have already established research reporting requirements and some are considering bans on any payments to physicians from healthcare companies directly or through third parties (research firms).  The latest state to act is Massachusetts which has recently enacted a regulation requiring reporting of all payments to physicians.  For more information on how you can let your voice be heard go to  Here is the opening of the MRA’s “action page.” 

Help Save Research in Massachusetts!

New regulations in Massachusetts could cripple research with health care practitioners. By requiring the public reporting of market research incentives for practitioners that originate from pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, the new Marketing Code of Conduct will make practitioners less likely to participate in vital marketing research that provides enormous benefit to the public and significant income for the research profession. Read this MRA Shield article for more on the new regulation, and see MRA’s public position paper.

As an individual, YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the fight to protect this vital vein of research and to get this regulation changed. Even if you are not a state resident, you can still ask your employees, co-workers, colleagues, friends and family to take action.

Massachusetts Residents: Take Action!

Solution for viewing small market focus groups

A few weeks ago, I got a project to conduct two focus groups in Pampa, Texas.  In case you don’t know, Pampa is an oil town in the Texas panhandle about 60 miles from Amarillo. 

Of course, there is no focus group facility, so we set up in a hotel.  One problem was that there was not a hotel in town with two conference rooms where we could set up closed-circuit viewing.  Clients wanted to view the groups but I preferred that they not be present in the room with the participants.  We did a little brainstorming and found a solution. 

20/20 Research’s QualMeeting service is essentially an online video streaming service.  Therefore, we set up a video camera in the room with a feed to a laptop computer.  Because I was concerned about potential technology failure, a technician/camera operator set up and operated all the equipment.  We had a second technician at 20/20 during the streaming to ensure that any and all problems were dealt with immediately..

Read More…

Sweet 16: Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with facilities

Even us “old dogs” can use a reminder sometimes.

Apparently our good friend Judy Langer is doing a lot of writing these days.  A few days ago we posted her Quirks article on ethnography.  Now she has teamed up with our friend Manny Schrager (owner of Consumer Centers of NY and NJ) to write an article for QRCA on dealing with facilities.  Here are the 16 suggestions.  There is a lot more detail in the artilce.  For the entire article, go to:

  1. Put things in writing
  2. Talk to your facility too
  3. Keep the facility up to date on dates and times and changes.
  4. Communicate regularly throughout the project
  5. Make the effort when recruiting from a client list to use the client’s name when recruiting
  6. When considering algorithms, use them with care
  7. Don’t choose a facility on price alone
  8. Accept or reject “holds” quickly
  9. Don’t wait until the last minute with special requests
  10. Ask about the physical facility setup
  11. Do a supply a self-administered rescreener
  12. Brief the qualitative assistant (Host) on your needs and expectations
  13. Work with your qualitative assistant
  14. Build a relationship with your facilities of choice
  15. Make payment arrangements in advance
  16. Remember the Golden Rule
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