person Guy Potter access_time December 12, 2017

In 1863 London had the World’s first underground system, creating a miracle in mass transport for commuters and tourists and putting the London Underground system at the forefront of mass transportation worldwide.

In the 21st century there are numerous contenders for the World’s best underground system; Seoul, Singapore, New York, but probably not London.  Why? Because London was the first, has a Legacy stretching back over 150 years and though constantly being upgraded was designed well before the advent of many modern construction methods.

The analogy runs true for research.  There are many research agencies that adopted the internet almost two decades ago for conducting research.  They built great interviewing systems, developed an approach to sampling respondents and constructed routers and profiling techniques that enabled respondents to be reused and resampled.

The issue for many of these firms is the same as is facing London Underground.  They were first, built a great approach, but did it two decades ago.  Anyone with half an eye on the internet knows that two decades is a long time in technology.  Agile Software Development was barely a babe when most research firms started developing their systems.  These legacy systems are still in use today, resulting in approaches that are out of kilter with modern technology and both the demand of clients and desires of the people filling out surveys.

First things first.  Large panels full of respondents who double opt in and then are forever being asked to confirm their age or gender.  Many market researchers are members of panels (professional interest), yet few openly discuss the need for reform.  If I had a pound for each time I get asked my gender…. never ask me to repeat my details and it makes for an experience which I go back to.  I would argue it is the legacy approach to market research that is doing the industry such a disservice.

This legacy approach is directly responsible for the falling response rates, the lengthy questionnaires, the high cost of interviewing and the perilous state of engagement.

At MaruUsurv we have developed an online interviewing approach outside one of the established research houses.  We have written our own rules as we have developed our approach and have had as the cornerstone of our development ethos one main thought “treat the respondent right”, strike that “treat the people right”, respondents are not respondents they are people, people like me, like you, like your sister and the person entering Greggs at this exact moment.  They are not respondents (who want to take part in market research) they are people and as such do not have time for lengthy surveys and (if they do), they certainly do not want to be asked if they are male again.

Legacy systems have bought us to this place, but is it not better to oust them now.  Oust them for the sake of the people filling out questionnaires, oust them for the sake of our data and for our client’s sake oust them now.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.