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What is Google Up To With Consumer Surveys?

If you were a company that possessed massive content, an awesome analytics machine and access to billions of people, wouldn’t you be looking at ways of monetizing all of that? If, in the process, you became a classic example of disruptive technology, wouldn’t that be cool?


Editor’s Note: There has been no shortage of excellent coverage of of Google’s launch of their Consumer Survey service, but in keeping with our credo here at GreenBook blog we prefer to focus on content that has some strategic focus, so who better to augment our own views on the issue than Simon Chadwick of Cambiar? It’s been awhile since Simon posted here so I’m thrilled to have a new thought piece from he and his team today on such an important issue.

One thing I forgot to mention in my own initial take on this development is what is truly disruptive about the Google launch is it’s scale, not method; Civic Science has been doing virtually the same thing for several years now and pioneered the model of “macro sample micro polls” in collaboration with content publishers. This idea isn’t new, it’s the scale of the execution and the overall strategic implications of  a company like Google doing it that is. Simon does an excellent job of painting that picture for us, and I certainly hope we all pay attention.

By Simon Chadwick, Managing Partner – Cambiar

Let’s face it – we all knew this was coming. If you were a company that possessed massive content, an awesome analytics machine and access to billions of people, wouldn’t you be looking at ways of monetizing all of that? If, in the process, you became a classic example of disruptive technology to entire industries, wouldn’t that be cool? So, why are we acting so surprised?

Google Consumer Surveys is just one little brick in the wall of Google’s march towards becoming the world’s go-to company for all things analytic and intelligence. At present, GCS looks pretty basic: two questions per “survey” (but you can string “surveys” together), $0.10 to $0.50 a response and a limited range of question types that you can utilize. Certainly not professional grade, so they must be targeting SurveyMonkey, right? Wrong. Just go through that pricing structure again. If you want to do a 4-question, general population survey with 1,000 people, it’s going to cost you $400. On SurveyMonkey, all you need is a $25 a month account to do the same thing. No, it’s the data collection companies they are after. Get a quote for the same thing from Toluna, uSamp or SSI (and we did) and the price will be four times as high.

So who is the target market? Quite clearly, it is the professional DIY research user – the brand manager, the marketer, the guy in IT or, quite possibly, the researcher who is attempting to achieve more with less. And the pitch to them is fairly compelling – sample that delivers more accurate results than that from any panel (so they say) at a price that cannot be matched and ‘now’.

The professional research community may well look upon this and conclude that it isn’t ‘real’ research; after all, it can’t handle complex innovation projects or brand trackers, can it? Yeah, well that was what DEC said about personal computers and what Polaroid said about digital photography. A disruptive technology will always enter a market with a supposedly inferior product at a ridiculously low price. The establishment writes it off and then it’s ‘boil the frog’ time. Established companies do not realize that the interloper is slowly boiling them until it overtakes them and they are out of business.

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7 responses to “What is Google Up To With Consumer Surveys?

  1. Good article, it’s exciting stuff and i work for a panel company. Accuracy of google? Better than all panels?.. You only have to check on your google profile to see how accurate they are in their assumptions of you, all based on your browsing. I like gardening, doesn’t make me a woman in my 40s.
    But, i like googles entry into the research space, they are a great company that try to do things well. There are without doubt too many panel research firms making ridiculous claims. IMHO more competition means more attrition in the sector, survival of the fittest and fastest.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I had not heard about this and find it very interesting. Has anyone used it yet? I was playing with the interface and going through the tutorials. I am curious if anyone did a test and asked gender/age to compare results against what is inferred.

  3. Not being funny but if you look at the home page for GCS –

    Look at the second image of a question construct – Are you looking forward to 2012 ….

    I would not have trust in any research company that did not QA it’s surveys as it would appear to be on this screen capture – Note to Google – Yes / No Questions are never Multiple Choice .. Just saying

    1. @Dave, they started beta testing this last year; I wouldn’t consider having an older image in their marketing materials a QA issue, just bad marketing execution and I don’t think anyone has ever accused Google of being good marketers! 🙂

  4. Dave – Thanks for the comment. A couple of days ago I tried to construct a survey and it was quite constraining. I would much rather use Zoomerang or another DIY tool for my DIY work. If you start looking at the math, I believe you get more for your money by buying a license.

  5. @Dave and Andy. Thanks for the comments – and to Lenny for posting! I think you help make my point for me – we will look at the initial product and find plenty to pick at. Yes, it is inferior – but so was digital photography when it first came out. Google are a very patient company – gmail was in beta for four years but now look at it. These guys are experts at boil the frog – and if we only look at the flaws in what they have now, we will be the frogs.

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