How DIY Surveys and online polls disrupt the market research industry

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The world’s leading survey provider, Survey Monkey, went public on September 26th, 2018 to the tune of $1.5 billion. Google Consumer Surveys has reached 50 countries, and Instagram makes polling users instant and engaging. While crunching big data and tracking trends are vital objectives, surveys remain an invaluable source of information for market research businesses.

 

As survey providers and platforms grow in popularity, accessibility and audience, businesses can conduct informative and wide-reaching surveys in a few clicks, gathering data and necessary insights with ease. The traditional market research business model– and particularly firms armed with clipboards and hefty questionnaires–are under threat.

 

Market research ain’t no Monkey Business

During Survey Monkey’s IPO, the SAAS stock soared 60%, showing the initial undervaluing of the group. Survey Monkey now holds a 5% market share, and is the second largest online survey provider, largely thanks to straightforward user experience, increased mobility so surveying can be done on-the-go, and the employment of a smorgasbord of technology making its market research faster and more effective.

 

Survey Monkey pips Google for its wide-reaching features. It offers more question types, templates and even detailed questions written by survey experts. In the customer service arena, 24/7 support ensures a comparative advantage, and real-time data slicing is a neat touch.

 

Nonetheless, despite Survey Monkey’s success, according to Forbes, Google Surveys accounts for a staggering 91% of the online survey market, far outstripping its competitor. While Survey Monkey has its advantages, Google Surveys stands by helping its clients find respondents across the Globe at a low cost. For example, pricing for 1 Google question surveys is between 10-30 cents, and 2+ question surveys cost between 1-3 dollars.

 

According to Heather Primm, Director of Operations at Data Decisions Group, Google’s tool allows for quick responses to urgent questions and access to immediate results. “A great fit for those urgent one-off questions that come up in a meeting at 5 pm and need to be answered by 9:30 am the following morning.”

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One question, thousands of responses

Google Surveys initially launched in 2012 as Google Consumer Surveys, but dropped the “consumer brand in 2016 creating two distinct products: the pay-as-you Google Surveys and the commerce-centric Google Surveys 360.” In March this year, Google continued to build on its heavily solicited service: Google expanded its survey offering to more than 50 countries, as well as increasing support for 12 different currencies and 18 languages. To top it off, Google has smartened up the billing process and enriched contracting flow for surveys.

 

Michael Cumberbatch, Product Manager at Google Surveys comments, “in 2012, the mission was to make quality research available to organizations of all shapes and sizes… Now you can survey users around the world.” Google’s future plans include opening up iOS targeting, and further reducing the cost of surveying so that small businesses can access data previously only accessible to large companies.

 

A Market Research Menace?

Google’s improved software threatens to disrupt the industry, particularly by making complex market research methods available to a vast audience at a low cost. As their News Blog explains: “The idea behind Google Consumer Surveys is to create a model that benefits everyone. You get to keep enjoying your favourite online content, publishers have an additional option for making money from that content, and businesses have a new way of finding out what their customers want.” Surveys enable companies to ask simple questions on their websites and get back quantitative results quickly, accurately and cost-effectively.

 

Much like Survey Monkey, Google is not selling a full-service market research tool, but a hybrid of the cheap, do-it-yourself online survey products, combined with an expensive, hands-on approach offered by a traditional firm. It allows marketers to create, launch, and analyze surveys and perform market research while extending the ability to survey your own website or tap into Google’s panel of more than 10 million online respondents. Analysis of surveys by experienced market researchers must follow; but with user segmentation and basic analytical skills, businesses can quickly pick out consumer trends.

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The market research industry must take note. It has never been easier—or cheaper—to conduct a survey in any number of countries across the globe. As a result, concerns are raised over the “dumbing down of research” and that clients begin to circumvent traditional research firms in favour of easy access tools.

 

Moreover, with few quality controls in place, the proliferation of biased results can corrupt more data. Robert Gray, President of Insightlink Communications, asks: “If we, as professional market researchers, can no longer provide thoughtful survey design and reliable findings to our clients, why are we even in business?” Suppliers must focus on the insight gained from data collection to stay relevant in the DIY consumer research era.

 

Adriana Rocha, CEO of eCGlobal confirms that although DIY surveys risk harming market research firms’ efforts, there is still ample opportunity for market research to flex their muscles. She explains:

It is cheap, easy to use, and seems to very accurate, but still needs to be integrated with more data, information and knowledge to effectively help brands and organizations take better decision making; this is where the big opportunity for market researchers resides!

Does my Feedback look good in this?

Facebook also makes it possible for businesses to ask questions to a broadchurch of people at the touch of a button. Individual users can poll friends in 3 clicks, and by using their function ‘Simple Surveys,‘ Facebook offers businesses a market research tool that pops up in users’ news feeds. Gone are the days of the ‘dreaded clipboard people,’ or market researchers with iPads in the street; these images fade into obsolescence. Facebook-owned Instagram offers a polling function, which, although primitive, marks another means of striding into tech users’ private spaces.

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From massive tech companies to simple applications, gargantuan amounts of user data are readily available in business, from which decisions can be made, and trends can be understood. Nonetheless, firms value the market research worth of directly interrogating consumers through surveys. As Fromen, a research consultant explains, the big surveying companies continue to “harvest the type of longitudinal research that many skeptics have already claimed is dead.” The Big Tech companies have disrupted market research methods, making it a layman’s game whereby intercepting the consumer is easier than ever.

 

No end in-sight

The rise of Survey Monkey, Google Surveys, constant polls and instant feedback from consumers has transformed the market research industry.

 

While traditional survey providers are facing headwinds, there has never been a greater need for their expertise. The ability to survey is a given nowadays, but providing in-depth analysis, scrupulous insight and explanations cultivated thanks to years of experience is exceptional; a unique selling point that market researchers must project to compete with DIY surveys.

Frederic-Charles Petit, CEO of Toluna makes clear,

The market research industry faces challenges adapting to this new world order. It’s not just about adopting technology; the need is deeper.

Delving deeper and employing a consultative approach as opposed to merely presenting answers will become a key strategy for market researchers. Whether or not traditional market research firms are falling by the wayside as a direct result of the rise in ubiquitous DIY market research methods remains to be seen.

 

By Joseph Hall