4
Jan

The Problem with “Pretty” Design

The Problem with Pretty Design

By Jaeger Senn,
Research Analyst

As someone who dabbles in graphic design, I’m often asked to “make things pretty”, causing me to cringe a little inside as there is so much more to design than simply being pretty. How could there be a problem with making a design pretty, you ask? Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with aesthetically beautiful designs. They capture our attention and draw us in; they keep us interested in what we’re looking at; they can even inspire us. Visual elements in design play an essential role in the readability of information, conveyed importance, and the emotions that viewers feel while looking at content.

Pretty is defined as “an attractive thing, typically a pleasing but unnecessary accessory.” The issue is that when we think about pretty designs, the visual elements often become an afterthought (or an unnecessary accessory) to the content. It’s an easy misconception to think that content and visual elements reside in two different buckets when developing materials, and that the visual components can wait to be added until after you have all of your content in place. In reality, both content and visual elements are design features as a whole. In essence, design is all about finding the best way to communicate with an audience; to make truly great designs, the ideation of content and visual elements should be a concurrent thought process to develop the most effective balance.

While there are many forms of visualization and ways to present information, let’s use an example of one we’re all intimately familiar with: PowerPoint. Tell me if this rings a bell – we have our content loaded on a slide that’s packed to the brim with information, and then we think, “How can I make this look nice?” This leaves us dressing up a slide that doesn’t lend itself to much creative freedom. Any potential layout, formatting, or other visual/aesthetic changes are limited by what little space we have left around our text, often forcing a best-case scenario of cookie-cutter templates and dull slides.

At this point, you may be thinking, “But I’m not a designer – how does this really apply to me?” We may not all be designers in a traditional sense (i.e. graphic designers, web designers, UX designers, videographers, illustrators, etc.), but we are all designers in our own right. Each of us is given the chance to influence how viewers will interact with the information and content we present them with, and that’s what design is all about!

How can we make this happen? The key to achieving the balance between aesthetics and content is planning. It may seem that planning and creativity don’t play nice together, but it’s quite the opposite; planning doesn’t restrict creativity, but actually helps give us a path or direction through which we can channel it. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to help plan for the best balance before we put anything on the slides, page, website, or whatever medium we’re communicating through:

Where are we going?

Whatever content we are sharing, remember that it is a story, which should flow throughout the entirety of the deck. It’s our job to make sure that the story we share makes sense and follows a logical order. We likely have a plan of how we anticipate things will go and how the story will play out; in market research, this can often be the case with discussion guides or surveys. It’s essential, however, to remain open-minded to how the story develops as we collect and fill in information, because many times the actual story doesn’t follow the path we initially thought. By following where the story leads, we can ensure that viewers don’t get lost, and therefore remain engaged with our content.

A great tool for planning and staying true to the story being revealed is storyboarding. Storyboarding gives us the ability to make sure our story follows a logical order by laying out what we learned in an easily moveable format, such as on sticky notes. This allows us to quickly move things around to find the best order to tell the most engaging story.

The flow of content applies on a more granular level as well. Using the example of presentation slides again, all of the content on the slides needs to be read in a particular order for it to make logical sense. It’s our job to make sure that viewers are able to easily read our content in that order. We do this by the way content is laid out and purposefully using imagery or visual divides (lines, shapes, etc.), as it affects the flow of reading for viewers.

Slide 1

slide 1

Slide 2

slide-2

Looking at the example above, we can see just how much of an impact these factors make on the readability of the slide. Due to the unclear layout and flow of slide 1, we’re left with many questions:

  1. Is the “Mandatory First Step” only “Customer Strategy” or does it also include “CRM Data/Customer Logs”?
  2. Are “Customer Strategy” and “CRM Data/Customer Logs” completely unrelated, and that’s why they’re divided by that line?
  3. Is the text in the gray box on the right a note regarding “Customer Strategy” and/or “CRM Data/Customer Logs”, or is it meant to comment on the entire slide about “Existing Data”?

The design of slide 2 give more clear answers to questions previously being asked about the first slide.

What’s the point?

You know what’s the most important piece of information on your slide, but is it apparent to an outsider that this is the main point? When we’re so intimately familiar with our content, it can be so easy for us to think, “This is clearly the main point.” However, we need to take the time to put ourselves in the viewers’ shoes to see if that needs to be clearer.

In an ideal world, we could do this by only having one point per slide. This is certainly manageable for slides meant to be presented to an audience, but in reports where clients and others want as much information as possible, it may not always be realistic. We should, however, try to stick to this concept as much as possible by aiming for only a few points per slide. The next step is to make sure we differentiate those main points, so they don’t become lost in the rest of the content. By doing this, we help the viewer to understand the points we’re trying to make much more quickly – without having to search through all of the other content.

Slide 3

slide-3

Slide 4

slide-2

Using the same slides as before, we can see the clear difference between them. In slide 3, it will take us an extended period of time to determine what the important points of the slide are. However, in slide 4, we can gather that “Customer Strategy” and “CRM Data/Customer Logs” are important points by their distinction with the green bars and their separation from the rest of the content, as well as that “Customer Strategy” is the “Mandatory First Step” – even at a quick glance of the slide.

Can this be some sort of imagery?

Pictures, icons, and diagrams are some of many ways to better communicate what you’re currently saying with words. Often times, it can be as simple as showing an image of what you’re talking about. Seeing what you’re reading about makes your content more interesting and helps the viewer to know what’s being talked about before they even read any of the words. Pictures (such as the one in slide 6 below) are also a valuable tool to convey emotion and abstract concepts, which will not only enhance the viewers’ connection with your content on a deeper emotional level, but also gets the point across more effectively.

Slide 5

slide-5

Slide 6

slide-6

Slide 7

slide-7

Perhaps we could also consider using diagrams and visual elements other than pictures; while not always as emotive as images, they can aid in a viewer’s understanding tremendously. A well-executed and organized diagram (such as slide 7) is going to be far better at combating viewers’ eye-glazing than a paragraph of text. So, before you type it all out, ask yourself “Do you really need that paragraph of text?”

All in all, there isn’t really a problem with pretty design. Actually, good design is pretty, because it helps make viewers want to look at your information without feeling bored. The real problem is that visual elements need to be included in the discussion from the beginning. Content and visual elements lean on one another to communicate information in a way that gets your point across in a clear, understandable, and interesting manner. Go forth, think, plan, and create!

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8
Dec

5 Holiday Wishes for the MR Industry

5 Holiday Wishes for the MR IndustryBy Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

It’s the time of year for giving and receiving gifts. While I do believe in the old adage that it is better to give than to receive, who doesn’t like to receive a gift? I particularly enjoy the ones that are able to bring greater joy or more convenience into my life. So, this wish list may skip the items I sent to my family for our annual gift exchange, but it does include my wishes for the market research industry this holiday season and into the New Year.


Wish 1: To be regifted past research.

I know some people look down on regifting, but what could be better in the market research industry? Receiving research that has already been conducted and is relevant to a new study being fielded offers the opportunity to understand what was already asked and what insights were already gleaned. This allows for the new study to confirm what was learned previously, but also to go above and beyond those learnings to find something new.

There is nothing worse than conducting a study and hearing the client say “we already knew that.” Therefore, please regift previous research, so new research can focus on discovering and reporting what is in fact an insight, instead of only confirmation of past learnings. That is something both parties can be thankful for.


Wish 2: To be able to mingle with everyone.

Many times in research studies, we only speak with or survey those consumers who have purchased our client’s product or used their service. If we really want to get fancy, we may also include consumers who purchase or use a competitor’s product and service. But are we missing out on not speaking with those outside of a category entirely?

This is particularly relevant for finding out how a brand is perceived in the market place. These consumers can offer a unique perspective on how they view others that buy a particular brand and why they consider them, to be or not to be, a member of the island of misfit toys.  However, understanding how these consumers perceive others associated with this brand will help companies understand the barriers they need to overcome to entice potential new customers.


Wish 3: To immerse oneself in someone else’s reality.

Just like the different variations of Santa Claus, consumers have different realities from what the client may expect. I have been in debrief meetings where a client wants to entirely reject a participant’s comments because what they said was “not true,”  or “used a product in a way other than originally intended,” or “are understanding the message wrong.”  What some clients fail to realize is that the consumer’s feedback is their truth as it is how they perceive the topic at hand.

Instead of questioning their perception, it is better to devote time on how to overcome the consumer’s perceptions and bring them closer to reality that the company intended.  Ask oneself, if the consumer is using a product in a different way than suggested, how can the instructions be clearer? If the message is being taken in the wrong light, what language can be changed to make it more relevant? Asking these questions will provide an avenue to more actionable and relevant tasks for the research team.


Wish 4: To have more time to tell stories.

The must-have item on everyone’s list, in and outside of the market research industry, is story telling. Story telling has been touted as the way to establish a connection between the audience and whatever is being presented. But in market research, we are held to producing a report with details about all of the findings from a particular study.

While some of these findings go into making a story, not all are necessary in telling the story. However, one will quickly be put on the naughty list if they don’t provide an answer to all of the questions asked or all the observations witnessed in a report of some kind.

With this evolution, two deliverables are becoming necessary — the story presentation and a detailed appendix report. One client researcher describes this growing desire in the 2016 Quirks Corporate Research Report:

I wish I would receive two reports – one for me, the client researcher, with all the detail including crosstabs, and one for presenting that REALLY boils down the learning to an easily digestible story that we can take action on.

But the lump of coal in this wish is the fact that reporting time lines are regularly being reduced. Two reports will take more time, energy, and a greater budget to complete. If presentation stories and a detailed appendix report is truly the wave of the future, it must come with the expectation of either increased reporting time lines or increased budget for more people to report simultaneously. Bah humbug.


Wish 5: To get invited to the party.

If the end of many of my projects could be summarized in a sentence, it would be “all dressed up and nowhere to go”. There are plenty of projects where we have fielded the study, created our story, and are asked to hand over the findings with no invite to present to the larger client team. While we strive to create presentations and reports that can stand on their own, having the voice of the one who fielded the research participate in presenting the findings can add so much more richness and depth to the results. But rarely are we asked to the big dance.


Perhaps it is time for market research professionals to throw their own party? What can be done to make our voice indispensable at meetings? Perhaps we need to be better at presenting our findings to our internal contacts. Let them see that our voice – our passion – cannot be duplicated and it’s best to bring us as a date to the big meeting. So, scratch this wish, maybe I’ll wish for stellar hostess abilities instead.

That concludes my holiday wish list for the marketing research industry for 2017 and beyond. Let’s see if I made the nice list and St. Nicolas brings me these gifts. If not, I could always follow up with the Easter Bunny – I hear he can be bribed with chocolate.

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5
Oct

The Question Remains, Have You Lost Sight of Your Target Customer?

The questions remains, have you lost sight of your target customer?

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

Last week we talked about how population subsets identified with the help of segmentation algorithm screeners can help reach out to a target market and target customer in a more personal way.

So what’s the solution to using segmentation algorithm screeners in Qual recruiting?

Segmentations and their series of algorithm questions will not cease to exist. They are a valuable tool to marketers and market researchers alike. But how might one integrate these algorithm questions into qualitative recruitments? I would argue that if you are looking for the perfect target, then the algorithm questions should be the entire screener. If it has already been proclaimed that those who answered the questions a certain way, these are your “Savvy Savers,” and so why ask anything else?

There are instances where the addition of certain types of questions to an algorithm screener cannot be avoided.  For example:

  • Gender:
    • Know the product and the objectives and you will know if you need to recruit only one gender.
  • Household income:
    • Asking household income may be wise, such as in luxury goods research, as the participating consumers need to be able to afford the product or service being discussed.
  • Lifestage:
    • The introduction and/or removal of a spouse or children into or out of the home changes priorities, which changes a consumer’s needs and wants. This ultimately changes how they consume.
  • Age, but sparingly:
    • Age is just a number and shouldn’t be used if it is not relevant to the product or service. This is the same for generational cohorts. Boomers and Millennial Savvy Savers should “look” the same, at least on paper.

But overall, I encourage the addition of outside questions to a segmentation algorithm screener be used judiciously. If it is found that more and more questions are being added to a screener to get to the “perfect target,” it may just be that the screener is not being used to reach the desired customer identified in the segmentation study. The screener has instead become a tool to find consumers who may want the product/service the company has produced.

The greatest advantage of limiting the number of additional questions to an algorithm screener is that it will provide a purer recruit to the original algorithm. A purer recruit will lead to the right target group. And the right target group will provide better and more actionable insights to be gleaned from the qualitative study. That’s a win for the entire company.

Secondary advantages may include:

  • Qualitative projects are easier to recruit as there is a larger number of people that may qualify for the research
  • There may be more recruiters that are willing to take on the challenge of finding the people for the study
  • It may just keep that nagging voice in the back of your head that says “can we even recruit this?” at bay

Whichever of these advantages may speak to you the most, remember, the goal is to get back to recruiting the desired target market to find out the collective opinions about your company’s current line-up of products and services. By doing so, you may just rediscover your true target customer.

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22
Sep

Have You Lost Sight of Your Target Customer?

Have you lost sight of your target customer?

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

Imagine if your boss told you that she had found the perfect target group based on attitudes and needs segmentation, called Savvy Savers, and wants to conduct research with them.

But once you head off to find this target group, your boss tells you these Savvy Savers also have to drive a certain type of car, be aware of a certain brand, have 2.5 kids, see themselves as innovative, like to try new things, and must be located in Dallas. Welcome to the world of recruiting qualitative research with a segmentation algorithm screener.

What is a segmentation algorithm screener?

Traditional screeners use a set of questions to identify qualified consumers to participate in qualitative research. These questions usually revolve around criteria such as demographics (i.e. age and income) and can include category preference questions.

A segmentation algorithm screener is more complicated. Companies usually segment their market into subsets based on criteria such as attitudes, usage, or needs. These segmentations are usually done through a national quantitative survey. The results provide population subsets that companies usually name in order to speak about these segments of their target market in a more personal way.

Once the segmentation is complete, companies have a list of questions that they feel every named segment, such as the Savvy Savers, will answer the same way regardless of where they live. These series of questions is called an algorithm.

Why are segmentation algorithm screeners problematic?

Not all segmentation screeners are a bad thing. When applied effectively, they can bring companies closer to their target market. Issues arise when expectations are different from reality.

Issue #1: The algorithm target may not be the real target audience

Let’s use our Savvy Savers target as an example of being “the perfect target.” If the potential consumer answers the algorithm questions in a certain way, they fit the desired target market and qualify for the study. However, “this perfect target” is never perfect on an algorithm screener. Clients want potential participants to qualify for the study by answering the algorithm questions a specific way and, in addition, meet a host of other criteria. This means that the “perfect target” is indeed perfect on paper in the segmentation report, but not when it comes to who they want to actually attract in the marketplace.

Issue #2: A national incidence does not always equate to a specific market’s incidence.

Segmentation surveys are typically fielded with a broad geographic scope. This produces a national incidence or incidence rate. For example, if a company determines that the incidence to find a Savvy Saver is 20% nationally, that means that if 100 people across the country were called and screened, one should find 20 people who can be classified as Savvy Savers.

This seems reasonable enough. But qualitative research is not based on national representation. For the most part, qualitative research is conducted in 1-3 markets. This makes it harder to find and recruit the desired target group.

Issue #3: Qualitative research may be completed at a fixed location.

In some Qualitative research methodologies, it is necessary for participants to come to a specific location to participate, which further limits the number of potential recruits because respondents must be within a certain radius of the facility. Couple the limited location with the need for consumers to attend the research on a specific date and at a specific time and the pool of potential Savvy Savers to recruit may have dropped from 20 to 3.

Issue #4: The algorithm may be outdated.

Segmentation studies can be expensive and time consuming. So it is understandable that companies may only conduct a segmentation study once every few years. This may be acceptable for items that take more time to change such as attitudes and beliefs, but things such as needs and usage can change dramatically in a short amount of time. Circumstances can create lower incidence, which means less potential respondents for the qualitative study being recruited.

Issue #5: Algorithms can increase costs and may reduce the number of willing recruiters.

Recruiters dislike algorithm recruits. Seriously, dislike them. This disdain can result in higher per recruit costs or recruiters flat out refusing a project.

One of the reasons recruiters dislike segmentation algorithm screeners is because the algorithm “key” is a huge secret known only to the client and the supplier who conducted the segmentation study. This minimizes the ability for recruiters to “pre-screen” their databases.

Without the pre-screen option, Maya Middlemiss, the Managing Director of research recruitment consultant Saros Research Ltd in the UK and Casslar Consulting in Spain, warns recruiting costs could resemble that of cold calling. In Middlemiss’ article, Recruiting qualitative participants research using quantitative algorithms, she  explains,

If we are provided a locked tool, the only thing we can do is apply it after the event during the telephone interview stage – this is more cumbersome and expensive, because it does not enable us to rule out people who are not a fit before the calling stage.  Depending on the expected incidence of the desired segment(s), the strike rate – and therefore costs involved in recruitment – may even approach that of cold-calling. That is often a surprise to clients, but it is a consequence of trying to use quantitative tools in qualitative research (April, 2016).

We’ll continue this discussion in part 2 of our post on the use of a segmentation algorithm screener next week, where we will discuss solutions and the value that this type of methodology can provide.

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24
Aug

5 Myths About Being a Moderator

5 myths about moderators

By: Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

1: Travel for work = vacation

Being a moderator and traveling for work, people often comment on how “lucky” I am to travel for my job.  It is true that I am lucky to have a career that I enjoy, but being “lucky” because of my work travels is an overstatement.

When I travel for a project, I usually work 9-12 hours per day inside of a temperature controlled, windowless facility. After my interviews are complete, I stagger out into the night air in search of food and beverages and then hurry back to my hotel room to write-up my notes for the day…then repeat. I know what you’re thinking “wait, that sounds like…work.” Well it is work.  And this cycle could last for 1 day or up to 10 days if I am participating in a clinic. So travel yes; vacation it is not.

2: Traveling gets you away from the office

When I relate my tale of what it is truly like for me to travel for work, I often hear “well at least you are away from the office.” With the advent of smart phones, and other mobile devices, is anyone ever truly away from the office? Not really. And this holds true for moderators too. Just because I am not physically positioned at my desk in our office building, does not mean that I am “away” from the office.

Once back at my hotel in the evenings, I am answering all of the emails that I received while I was conducting interviews. The work back home doesn’t stop while I’m out on the road and neither do the email/text notifications.

3: Moderating is easy

This is my favorite moderator myth.  There are some who look from the outside and see me “talk” for a living. But moderating is much more than simply talking to someone. It is engaging in conversation about topics that consumers may not even know they could converse about at length. When I conduct interviews about a topic or product that consumers take for granted, such as a cleaning product, my interviewees wonder, “What is there to talk about for an hour?” Once we are engaged in the conversation and our time together has expired, respondents are shocked to realize that we did, indeed, talk for an hour.

I will say it is easier to speak to someone about a concept vehicle, but it takes skill to keep a somewhat natural conversation going about toilet cleaner.

Besides maintaining a conversation, my job also entails observing what is happening around me and determining my next move.  In all things, body language is important. And as a good moderator, this should always be taken into account. Body language tells me when I need to follow-up on a response, when I need to ask another respondent what their position is on a subject, or when I should let a line of questioning lapse until the respondent feels more comfortable speaking on a certain topic.

So yes, I talk about everything from consumer concept vehicles to toilet cleaners, but if I didn’t also observe what is happening around me, I would only be getting part of the conversation.

4: Report writing is a breeze

I once had a colleague tell me that every time he tries to write a qualitative report, it goes something like this, “I write some people said this, some people said that…and then I die a little inside.”  I don’t know if I would equate qualitative report writing to the withering of your entire existence, but for those accustomed to reading tabs and writing reports from the data, qualitative reports can be daunting.

The hardest part about writing a qualitative report as a moderator is trying to make sense of a ton of unstructured data. Not only are you looking for the answers to your questions and behavioral themes, but you are also searching for any context that may be important for a client to understand.

And while a quantitative report is sometimes rated on how many charts and different data cuts can be obtained, a qualitative report is judged by its ability to tell a story in the briefest possible manner.  Think more twitter post, than blog. And while not as soul crushing as my colleague indicates, you may just be a little more bruised after your report is finished.

5: We don’t like numbers

I call foul on this. I like numbers.  Numbers are necessary as they help to get a story across to a large number of people.  This will never change. But what I will say is that in today’s world, you need both numbers and the human context behind the numbers to truly make a difference. Think about all the times you hear people say “I don’t want to be just another number.” It’s not that they don’t want to be counted. What they don’t want is for companies to treat them as only a widget to be tallied and tossed into a heap of others to be tabulated and charted. They want to be regarded as a person.

Qualitative helps to define the humanity behind the numbers. And once you can define the humanity, that’s where change can truly occur in how a company produces and markets their products and services. Once this change occurs, consumers flock to these companies as one that “gets” them.  And that will add numbers to a company’s consumer base, its likes, its shares, and its sales – all numbers. Who doesn’t like that?

While there are certain myths about my job as a moderator that I have to contend with, I still love what I do. And I’ll admit sometimes the stars do align and I can tack on a few extra days to schedule a vacation after a project is complete. Not as glamorous as all the myths, but the truth never is.

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5
Feb

The ‘Off Recipe’ Advantage

pasta-pot-photo

By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

I love to cook but I hate to bake.

I can break out in a cold sweat at the thought of baking a batch of cookies, but my BFF Chili with its 25+ ingredients is one of my “go-to” winter meals. Seems weird, right?

Cooking and baking both need bowls and tools, pots and pans. Both have recipes. But cooking allows for personal expression–a little more of this and a little less of that is OK. Most of the time it is more art and less science. Take the garlic out of chili because it gives you indigestion and no one is any the wiser unless you tell them – it’s still chili.

Adding some heat to “kick it up a notch” (thank you Emeril) takes a knowledge of ingredients and makes the experience of cooking and eating more individualized.

Baking, on the other hand, isn’t just science – it’s chemistry. Alter the ingredients or recipe by even a little and all your hard work could end up in the garbage can when the cookie drops come out of the oven like flat, over-done pancakes (trust me on that one).

As I was cooking dinner on Sunday, I was thinking about this blog post and decided maybe that’s why I’m drawn to qualitative research. While I rarely cook with a recipe, I would never bake without one. The flexibility and creativity I find in meal preparation is much like the flexibility I find when conducting qualitative market research.

Just as I like adding a little more of this and a little less of that in my meals, during an in-home I can go “off recipe” and let the consumer guide the discussion. Of course, I am well aware of all the ingredients needed to get to the end result. But does it matter how we get there? Will a little more of this and a little less of that hurt the outcome? For the most part it doesn’t, as long as you don’t forget any of the key steps.

With qualitative, just like in cooking, it’s often the occasions you go “off recipe” that make the difference between the same old thing, and something that turns a “standard” into the dish that everyone really enjoys.

So next time a qualitative project comes up and you want to stick with the same ingredients and follow the tried and true recipe, try to find a way to add your unique flavor to the method or topic.

You never know, you just may like it!

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16
Sep

Recent Client Event a Reminder of the Value Research Provides

Mark Fields-Duncan Lawrence

By Duncan Lawrence, President and CEO

As a Company who develops strong partnerships with our clients, sometimes we are brought “behind the curtain” on their strategic direction.  This was the case in early September as Ford invited Morpace to its Top Diverse Supplier meeting.

I heard directly from some of the key leaders at Ford, what they are doing and, more importantly, why they are doing it. This included several highly strategic discussions:

  • Overall, the organization is targeting success through: accelerating One Ford, delivering product excellence and driving innovation
  • Minority buyers are being targeted, as we heard how the African American purchase process differs from the overall market
  • Lincoln has optimism in achieving very aggressive growth plans and is taking major steps forward to embrace the Luxury experience; this includes some impressive new dealerships in China who focus on personalized luxury sales experience.
  • The marketplace is changing rapidly, with many highly disruptive innovations that are just beginning to be understood. This includes considerable discussion on how the autonomous vehicle may change many aspects of the vehicle ownership experience in a relatively short time.
  • The purchasing process is undergoing review to not only bring costs down, but in a more collaborative approach. Ford realizes it can play a more supportive role by giving more information up front to its suppliers, as well as bundled sourcing.

One of the things that struck me was how much marketing research was driving decisions. We ARE a valuable member of the decision process and Ford’s leaders are using the information in both tactical and strategic ways that are impressive.

As I reflected on the day, it wasn’t necessarily the information that was shared that made me feel special, as much of it is available in the press, it was more about feeling like a partner -being treated in actions, not just words, like a valued member of the team.  I came away more energized and have some new ideas on how Morpace can better support Ford’s vision and will be a stronger partner in the years ahead.

And while Mark Fields and I aren’t any better friends than before the meeting, it was nice that he took time to shake my hand!

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4
Jun

Is the Length of Your Survey Impacting the Quality of Your Data?

questionnaire length img

By Jessica Garon, Research Analyst

Peter Cape, the Global Knowledge Director at SSI, recently presented findings on what 10 years have taught them about questionnaire length and fatigue effects.  The key takeaway was simple:  if you want better data you need to make the questionnaire shorter and more engaging.

It is the cognitive or sustained attention of a person, not the physical length of surveys that truly matters.  Cape presented findings from several studies designed to test the data quality of both long and short surveys and the effects of cognitive fatigue. The somewhat alarming conclusion of these studies was that respondents do not drop out when the survey becomes too long, in fact respondents typically like filling in surveys and will just keep going.  The biggest problem is that respondents will begin participating in “satisficing behaviors” due to fatigue.

Satisficing poses a serious threat to data quality. As fatigue sets in, respondents have a tendency to do the bare minimum to complete the tasks at hand which hinders thoughtful responses and may lead to straight-lining responses. These types of satisficing behaviors can also result in less feedback in open-end questions or respondents answering “no” to certain questions in hopes of skipping future questions.  In order to avoid these behaviors and prevent fatigue from compromising your data, surveys should be kept below the 20 minute mark and, more importantly, the cognitive (or perceived) length of surveys should be even shorter.

The simple answer to keeping surveys under 20 minutes is streamlining the survey, but how do we shorten the cognitive length of surveys?  One way is by breaking a survey into modules and giving respondents the choice to continue. Providing this choice to continue creates a dialogue with the respondent, in addition to giving them a quick mental break from the survey. Breaks in the survey help respondents feel like their feedback is important and encourages them to continue to provide meaningful responses throughout the survey.  The study presented by Cape suggested that a majority of respondents will opt-in to complete most of the modules, and rotating the modules will help maintain representative responses throughout.

Another suggestion to reduce the cognitive length of surveys is gamification – a hot topic in today’s research industry. The goal of gamification is to motivate and engage the respondent by adding variety. In order for gamification to be successful it must be both compelling and predictable to the respondent. Examples of gamification include creating scenarios around questions or framing questions as guessing challenges or competitions. Incorporating those intrinsic elements that make traditional games interesting will help sustain a respondent’s cognitive attention for a longer duration.

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24
Mar

Paying our Respects to Laurence Gold

By Morpace Staff

Larry GoldWe were very sad to hear about the passing of Laurence Gold, who everyone in the market research world knew and respected. He was a leading scribe in the industry because of his work with Inside Research, Marketing News and other outlets. Larry was always direct and professional, and a pleasure to work with.

This note from our friends at ESOMAR captures his impact on our industry perfectly. The Morpace family passes along our condolences to Larry’s friends, family members and colleagues.

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18
Mar

What March Madness can Teach us About Research

By Steve Welling, Project Director

 

March in the U.S. is the time of the year where excitement and optimism grows; and no, I’m not talking about spring officially starting. I’m talking about the NCAA’s college basketball tournament or “March Madness.”

Just like market researchers, college basketball experts look at data and trends, make their predictions, and explain why each outcome happened the way it did. As a good researcher will tell you, sound data, knowledge, and analysis improve your performance with such predictions.

Getting every game correct in the NCAA tournament is practically impossible. Since we like numbers, here are a few statistics for those filling out an NCAA bracket:

0 – Number of people who have completed a perfect bracket on ESPN’s tournament challenge and won $1 million.

9.2 quintillion (18 zeros) – Number of various bracket combinations that exist if you flipped a coin on each game.

1 in 128 billion – Odds of having a perfect bracket if you know sports (i.e. you know the history of the tournament and the trends)

To make a long story short, you have better odds of winning the lottery multiple times than picking a perfect NCAA tournament bracket.

When you make a prediction or recommendation, it is always with a certain percentage of uncertainty. Analysis is not about guarantees – it’s about the confidence or probability that it will occur again. When analyzing data, understand how you came to that conclusion and what it really means. If the results do not go as you expected, ask yourself why.

In market research, we do the same thing. When a finding is different than what is expected, we understand why this occurs and use this information in the future.

Regardless if something does or does not go as expected, it does not mean you should immediately base your new marketing campaign on it. Understand what data is telling you and what the overarching story is, not just if something is noticeably different. The next time you are looking at data, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What does it mean?
  2. Does it make sense?
  3. Does it represent your target population?
  4. Are the findings meaningful?

Whether you are predicting your favorite team in the NCAA tournament to win or not, you can expect the occasional unexpected outcome. In market research, it is both an art and science. Understanding and being prepared when results do not go the way you expected will allow you to provide the best conclusions and recommendations for your clients.

This is where a big part of our value lies. We understand why results play out the way that they do. And we continually use new knowledge to improve our recommendations.

We’re here to help you not only gather but analyze your data so feel free to use Morpace as a resource for any research needs. In the meantime, enjoy the “madness”!

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