Blog

Bots in Market Research Panels, A Growing Concern

November 27, 2023 Author: Zamir Lima

In today’s digital landscape, most of us have interacted with bots – computer programs that mimic human conversation and automate tasks. Chatbots can, for example, handle website inquiries, monitor social media channels, and collect survey data. Bots are ubiquitous and used in a variety of applications, including market research. This blog addresses frequently asked questions about bots in market research panels.

How do bots work in market research?

In some ways, bots are revolutionizing the market research industry. Instead of relying on traditional survey methodologies, bots can help to conduct surveys quickly and more efficiently, potentially saving clients time and money. By embedding bots on popular destinations for consumers, like social media platforms, it makes it easier for them to participate in surveys. Bots can also be used to analyze large amounts of data quickly and efficiently,  providing much-needed insights in a fraction of the time. But, with the benefits come the risks.

What are the bots that threaten online market research panels?

Bots can pose several threats to the integrity and reliability of market research panels, potentially compromising data quality and the validity of insights. There are malicious bots that can pose as panelists and quickly respond to surveys, resulting in deceptive responses that do not represent the opinions of the target population.

Secondly, bots can jeopardize consumer privacy, which could lead to fraud and identity theft. Bots may collect personal data from respondents without their knowledge or consent. Concerns about data privacy and ethical research practices can damage a company’s reputation and undermine clients’ confidence in the panel's integrity.

What methods are used to identify bots?

Several methods can be used to identify bots in market research panels, including:

  • Behavioral analysis - market researchers can analyze the behavior of respondents to detect signs of bots. For instance, bots often complete surveys quickly and error-free, whereas humans typically exhibit some level of hesitation or error.
  • Detection tools – advanced algorithms, CAPTCHA codes and other verification challenges and data audits are just a few of the robust tools available to detect and remove bots from market research panels.

What is ThinkNow doing to combat bots?

To combat growing concerns over bots in our market research panels, ThinkNow is doubling down on existing and new quality and security measures. Listed below are a few protocols for pre and post-registration:

  • Two-factor authentication: Bots are designed to operate in a fully automated and predictable manner. Two-factor authentication introduces a dynamic variable, in this case, a randomly generated code that a bot cannot replicate.
  • Geolocation: Geolocation ensures that survey responses originate from individuals physically located within the specified geographical areas, guaranteeing that the sample accurately reflects the diversity of opinions, behaviors, and preferences of different regions and cultures.
  • Welcome Call: Phone verification ensures panelist identity, cultural fit, and linguistic accuracy, preventing fraudulent registrations and ensuring a representative sample.
  • Social media groups: Social media groups provide an additional layer of verification of the identity of panelists. By being part of a verified group, the probability of participation by fake profiles or bots is reduced, improving the authenticity of participants and, therefore, their responses.
  • Geo verification through newsletter: Newsletter distribution validates panelist email addresses, maintaining an up-to-date contact list. Tracking pixels embedded in newsletters provide approximate user locations via IP addresses.

Additional panel controls are used pre and post-survey to detect and deter bots, such as S2S security redirects, SHA-1 encryption redirects, device fingerprint and data reconciliation.

Conclusion

Bots will continue to be a growing concern in market research as artificial intelligence continues to advance. By taking steps to mitigate the risks associated with bot usage, companies can ensure that their market research data is accurate, reliable, and ethical.