Best Practices

“Garbage In, Garbage Out”: Getting the Most from Your Research

Improving Respondent Engagement to Yield More Insightful Results

The saying “garbage in, garbage out” holds true in market research, just as much as it does in other aspects of life. As you strive to deliver greater value and action ability through your marketing research initiatives, it’s critical to start by looking at how successful the research experience is at truly engaging your audience to capture deeper, more meaningful insights.

While it’s tempting to focus on new analytic tools or new technologies, it’s very often in the fundamentals of how we design the questions we ask where success or failure resides. Keeping respondents engaged, thinking and intrigued is more critical than ever; especially with marketers under increasing pressure to find nuggets of insight that will differentiate brands and generate growth. Ask yourself, what would make someone really captivated by a survey and motivated to provide worthwhile feedback?

Of course, keeping respondents actively involved and excited cannot be prioritized ahead of getting meaningful results that help make critical business decisions. Our core focus should always be to deliver insights that can drive business forward. The fact is, however, that achieving a successful outcome is very often directly related to how well we’ve done at designing an engaging set of questions.

Here are a few ideas that we employ to keep audiences captivated, responsive and thoughtful:

Make the Experience Natural

Choice-based approaches tend be the best way to put respondents in a more natural frame of mind, one where they are asked to consider options and make a decision. Incorporating visuals into this experience further enhances the level of engagement and reality. The result is that we replicate the types of decisions we all make dozens of times per day – based on the available choices do we want this one, that one, or none? For this reason, respondents become highly engaged in the process and can evaluate numerous options efficiently.

The Bottom Line: Choice-based designs are extremely flexible and can be applied to a broad range of situations from product development and pricing strategy to positioning and segmentation. It can lead you to very clear decisions and provide a level of insight that scale-based approaches simply don’t offer. It’s worth considering these types of questions, even when the situation doesn’t seem to obviously call for them.

Allow People to Show Us How they See the World

Sorting exercises allow respondents to be more interactive in communicating how they perceive a particular category, set of competitors, array of product offerings, etc. Much like with choice-based approaches we’re asking people to think about a particular situation in a more natural way. We’ll have respondents group (or sort) things based on how they feel they best fit together. This can mean creating groups of brands, purchase occasions, attributes, product, or a combination of these. Critically, this is a quantitative exercise, so the result is that there is hard data behind all of the information we collect.

The Bottom Line: Sorting exercises yield direct access into how consumers’ view a particular space (brands, products, occasions, etc…). The learning can be put into action in a variety of ways: isolating areas for driving brand differentiation, identifying open space opportunity, highlighting brand extension and product development opportunities, evaluating the competitive landscape, or guiding promotions and merchandising.

Use Head-to-Head Comparisons to Understand Brand Perceptions

Brand association question can greatly enhance evaluations of brand strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. These are simple tasks whereby respondents are asked to indicate which brand, or brands, they believe is/are connected with a particular attribute, descriptor, or personality trait (using visuals in these exercises can further enhance their value). This is a much more logical approach to brand assessments (versus ratings scales) as it relies on people simply telling us which brands do, and do not, deliver on different attributes. Ultimately, it yields a level of insight not achieved by brand ratings.

The Bottom Line: This technique clarifies differentiation between brands by allowing us to determine which brand(s) “own” a particular space and, critically, the degree to which they “own” that space. As a result we quickly see where the marketplace is well differentiated, where differentiation is non-existent (i.e. a “me too” attribute), and where there is “white space” in the category.

These represent just some of the ways that using more engaging questions can lead to greater insight and better results. There are multiple other interactive approaches that you can consider. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more.