Track Opinion
Download the insights industry's #1 strategic planning tool
SurveyHealthcare: Quant & Qual Healthcare Data Collection
Kick in the pants + turbocharged networking + intensive education = IIeX NA 2019 | Austin, TX | REGISTER NOW

The Elusive Gold Standard In Market Research

Behavioral methods are objectively better than verbal methods because at the end of the day actions are decisive. Actions determine whether a product will succeed or not - not what people have to say about the product.

Gold bars in a stack

Market research aims to understand the wants and needs of people. Numerous methods exists that try to measure, one way or another, what people value. In contrast to other fields, such as physics, medicine and engineering, market research still relies mostly on methods developed many decades ago. Now it is often proclaimed that there is no such thing as a gold standard in market research. This stance wouldn’t be problematic if there was evidence to support this claim. Instead it is simply presented as a truism that all methods are equal. As a result there is a tendency to state at the get-go that there is no such thing as a gold standard in market research.
On the surface this seems a very appealing and egalitarian point of view. It reassures everyone. It tells you that whatever method you happen to be using, there is no other method that can be considered the gold standard to solve a particular problem. So accordingly, each method has its advantages and disadvantages because there is no such thing as the better method. But that’s not how science works. For example, in the medical sciences where the incentives to figure out the proper method are immense as it is literally a matter of life and death, there is a clear consensus that some methods are better than others.

As science increases its hold on the practice of medicine we become more aware of the limitations of the clinical method. Unfortunately, we also become more aware of the limitations of various diagnostic tests. Nevertheless, at any given time there may well be a consensus that a given test in a given situation is the best available test. It therefore serves as the gold standard against which newer tests can be compared.
Eboo Versie, MD

Similarly, in market research a method is supposed to get you closer to the truth. The reason is obvious: a better understanding of the world provides researchers and firms the insight to develop solutions and products that match with real wants and needs. However, it is a major methodological challenge to determine what consumers really want.

Broadly, two types of methods can be distinguished: verbal and behavioral. The most popular methods are verbal methods, such as the ubiquitous use of surveys. These methods consist of simply asking consumers about their wants and needs, without requiring consumers to act on their statements. Verbal methods assume that 1) people are able to formulate their preferences verbally and 2) that the stated preferences correspond to future actions.

Less popular but objectively more reliable are behavioral methods. These methods require consumers to act to figure out what they like. The reason why behavioral methods are objectively better than verbal methods is because at the end of the day actions are decisive. Actions determine whether a product will succeed or not, not what people have to say about the product. Thus, the method that gets closest to consumer behavior should be considered the gold standard in market research.

Please share...

Join the conversation