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The Engagement Crisis: There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

Poor user experiences with market research are starting to contrast against the unique and engaging experiences created by innovators who’ve been unafraid to embrace change and drive innovation in the industry.


By Adriana Rocha

In the last 10 years or so, we have witnessed the growth of automation on data collection, analysis and reporting in the market research industry. We have also seen new technologies (VR, facial reading, mobile, etc.) and numerous technology start-ups entering the market research space. However, it seems little or no advance at all has been made in terms of using new technologies to improve respondent engagement with market research.

As we well know, the lack of engagement from consumers/respondents in market research has generated a growing crisis in the industry. It is not a secret that online panel companies have faced many challenges to attract and retain new participants.  The decrease on response rates and the lack of mobile optimized surveys are also common problems well known in the industry. As per the latest GRIT (Greenbook’s Research Industry Trends), “The real existential threat to our industry is neither automation nor competing methodologies: it’s the future of research participation.“.

Also, as per GRIT, half of corporate researchers and market research firms think the quality of online sample will get worse in the coming years.  Data collection or sample providers are more optimistic, and majority of them think quality will get better, improved by technology. Surprisingly, technology or lack thereof, is also the prime culprit for sample getting worse: from bots, to survey design, to mobile enabled surveys, all these are driving sample quality down.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for this engagement crisis in Market Research? Well, here at eCGlobal, technology is helping us to increase data quality and response rates, but not just because of automation or fraud detection. Social and mobile technologies are helping us to get closer to the consumers, providing engaging user experiences, giving them a greater purpose to participate in market research, and, at the same time, having access to new data sources available on their mobile devices, social networks, websites and apps.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about technology, but changing the traditional market research mindset where consumers (“respondents”) are treated just as resources that are used and discarded when project goals are achieved. We knew, since our inception, that we had to give people enjoyable and engaging user experiences. This led us to build a social media platform that replicates how people naturally give feedback on a website, share experiences with followers in platforms such as Twitter, or have fun playing with apps and games on their mobile devices.

As on Facebook, we’ve created tools to empower users and let them generate more spontaneous content, as well as connect with others with similar interests and profiles through online communities that we create or they can create by themselves. Instead of traditional online forums, we have given them a news feed that is personalized, based on their preferences and data they input into the platform. We’ve also turned into the games, and have integrated gamification elements and dynamics into the platform, bringing the fun element as part of the general user experience. This combination of social, fun and greater purpose of helping others to make better decisions has hugely increased the amount of user-generated content, conversations between community members and superior data quality.

Despite the engagement crisis and current market issues, I have to agree with GRIT analysts and see a reason to be hopeful. I also believe the poor user experiences with market research are starting to contrast against the unique and engaging experiences created by innovators who’ve been unafraid to embrace change and drive innovation in the industry.

How about you? Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel for the engagement crisis in Market Research?


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7 responses to “The Engagement Crisis: There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

    1. I disagree Chris; Adriana and her team are on the forefront of experimenting with many different technologies and models to drive innovation, and as such they (and a few other similar companies) can be a very useful example of how MR firms are innovating. Do posts like these blur the lines a bit? Yes, but I think overall the benefit to our readers to get some real world examples of how others are trying new things outweighs the promotional aspect.

  1. Thanks @Lenny! @Chris, thanks for your feedback. I always try to be very careful when sharing thoughts, stories or things about our work here, so it doesn’t seem too promotional. In this case, I couldn’t find a better way to share how we are solving what I believe is one of the biggest problems the industry is facing nowadays (and is a pain for us that started as a traditional online panel company) with lack of respondents engagement and all the known challenges with online research in general. The ultimate goal is to inspire others finding better solutions too.

    1. Yep, I see how that can spin it from “thought leadership” to “promotional” Chris. I still stand by what I said earlier, but I will also try to help contributors tweak their language to stay more firmly on the “light side”.

  2. Hi Adriana, Chris and Lenny:

    In reading this, it seems to highlight exactly why execs have issues with market research. We all have our own perceptions of what works and how tools impact the process of response. It strikes me that the larger finding here is that there is a focus on tools, not results, because we struggle with the legitimacy of our own findings. We tend to frame in what we know and that tends to be what we do. It’s hard to separate the two.

    Added to that conundrum is the fact that analytics have no such issues, although they reflect the past, not illuminate on the future. That is in part driven by a financial culture that is not strategic and therefore not concerned with the down the road results which, when you think about it, is in direct conflict with the current direction of research.

    The industry struggles with technique conversion that incorporates new measurements that have no ability to reach concurrency. That’s the real issue. The light at the end of the tunnel is probably the realization that consumers are much better at evaluating than they are at anticipating. In short, we need companies and investors to focus on innovation that is not simply an add-on but rather a direction. Then we can provide a basis for concept building and direction. Things like AI and neuro measurements can take those concepts to a new level of interpretation but it all begins with the consumer. We have this ability to be interactive so why not use it? Grad schools are already teaching this and human capital design is becoming a must have in a big way. It doesn’t negate all research but it does give it a place as a second confirmation and it takes the pressure off the findings because they can be hard line, not conceptual and subject to interpretation. Why keep pushing a rope?

  3. @Ellen, thank you very much for your comments. I just returned from ESOMAR LATAM Conference in Mexico and I can say that finally, I’m seeing a “light at the end of the tunnel”. I got so inspired by a presentation from Unilever and DelaRiva group called “The Joy of Research”, where they exactly explore the importance of “enjoyment” as a key to participant engagement and therefore the quality of responses and great research (BTW, they proved that through an F2F study). I’d definitely recommend all market researchers to read their paper which can be found at ESOMAR Publications library. One of my favorite statements: “Audiences in the 21st century do not demand time, they demand meaningful time.”

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