After 18 months of virtual interactions due to COVID-19, market researchers and industry insiders reconnected in-person this month in sunny Pasadena, California, for SampleCon 2021. Held at the luxurious resort, “The Langham,” it was the best way to bring the conference back and regain a sense of normalcy. Key Takeaways from SampleCon From day one, you could hear and feel the excitement of new trends in the online sample industry. The consensus – business is good.
If passenger volume at airports across America is any indication, domestic travel in the U.S. is rebounding from the pandemic, a hopeful sign that COVID-19 is in our rearview. But it’s not just air travel that winks at a return to normalcy. Millions of Americans are vaccinated, and the majority of states have lifted restrictions. Madison Square Garden, for example, experienced its first sold out concert since the onset of the pandemic when the Foo Fighters took to the stage on June 20th to play for vaccinated fans, an impressive feat considering New York’s struggle to contain the virus in 2020. Other industries are powering back as well, like the online sample industry.
After months of uncertainty, many Americans are cautiously optimistic about saying farewell to COVID-19. Mask mandates have either expired or are set to expire soon, and vaccines are available to anyone ages 12 and older who wants one. Slowly, the country is starting to awaken, and with it, sample companies are assessing where we go from here. For 15 months, the online sample industry adapted its business strategy to the pandemic reality. Traditional in-person focus groups shifted online, and online surveys were the gold standard.
The concept of “do-it-yourself” may bring to mind images of re-tiling the bathroom floor or reseeding the lawn. But DIY goes far beyond home improvement projects. About five years ago, online do-it-yourself sample tools began trending. Sample companies would create these tools for clients at little to no charge to facilitate sample buying. However, it wasn’t long before clients realized, like many of us who’ve tried to tile a floor, it may look easy, but looks can be deceiving.
A few years ago, the concept of autonomous vehicles captivated consumers. While the technology has progressed tremendously, most self-driving experiences are still limited to driver assistance, partial automation, or conditional automation. Innovation develops over time. Compare that to the emergence of mobile sample. Ten years ago, it was the most significant innovation in the online sample industry. Mobile sample was discussed in every conference from 2010 to 2016. Despite the buzz, however, mobile sample didn’t immediately catch on. The technology existed, but brands resisted the change in survey methodology. But that started to change in 2017.
Last year around this time, I published “The State of the Union – Privacy Law’s Impact on the Sample Industry” sharing my views on how privacy legislation impacted the sample industry in 2019. Since then, the world has radically changed. A worldwide pandemic sparked a global health crisis. Social and political unrest upended the status-quo, and Joe Biden was elected the 46th President of the United States. The election was so bitterly contested that it resulted in a violent attack by extremists on the U.S. Capitol. Many are wondering how we can collectively move forward.
Spotify, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon are some of the world's most successful tech companies. They all share a common denominator – a subscription-based business model that requires users to input personal information to opt-in. Once connected, users can stream their favorite music and movies, buy and sell in the online marketplace, and engage on social media. Each interaction creates data points that feed algorithms and appeal to advertisers. Similarly, today’s online sampling platforms are constructed from the data provided by subscriptions. Due to the high quantity of customer impressions available online, the insights gathered far surpass older, manual sourcing methods like cold calls and government-sourced lists. As technology continues to evolve, online sample providers will need to incorporate these platforms and other innovative web-based methods into their toolkits to stay competitive amid the uncertainty of a rapidly changing market. However, in my experience, there are a few essentials needed when building an online sampling platform that will not change no matter how much technology advances (at least for the next few decades). In Subscription-Based Models, Email is King. Email has endured the test of time and is almost always required when subscribing to any platform. While some marketers blast the masses via email, savvy marketers leverage email’s personalization capabilities to facilitate more individualized experiences. We see this play out as more companies shift away from transactional customer relationships to value-based ones that come with a monthly commitment and customized content. This is excellent news for the sample industry, which has come to rely on data from the tech giants (Google and Facebook) for panel recruitment. When creating an online panel, always give the person the option to subscribe with an email address. People are more
As a strategist, your clients look to you to develop a solid strategy that leads to their next successful product launch or branding campaign. Essential to making a business case for your ideas is data. Identifying the insights you need requires sifting through an enormous amount of secondary data via search engines and subscription research services like eMarketer and Statista. This desk research involves a lot of time because it’s difficult to find the EXACT data point(s) you need to validate your strategy. You are often relying on multiple data points from various sources that may indirectly support your hypothesis but fails to provide the exact data point needed to build a compelling case.
Many of us have heard or perhaps even live by the familiar adage, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” But ignorance is not bliss. A lack of knowledge can be devastating. That’s true in life and advertising. Just like a moth drawn to a flame, brands are attracted to things they don’t fully understand. This “fatal attraction” often results in poor outcomes. A classic example of this is a botched approach to multicultural marketing. Culturally tone-deaf advertisements. Misplaced investments in well-meaning social impact campaigns.
Nothing helps bolster an argument more than citing a research study that proves your point with statistics. A quick Google search can pull up numerous results of supporting data to prove just about anything. Even flat earthers can “prove” their theories with “research” they find online. The explosion of DIY survey tools has made it possible for anyone with a keyboard to create a “poll” and disseminate the results. The challenge is data integrity, which is often sorely lacking here. To help cut through the clutter of bad research and avoid destroying your credibility by citing it, here are some guidelines to follow when making your assessments.