It’s common for many of us to feel as if we have no biases. To make that assumption, however, would be woefully incorrect and naive. The hard truth is that we are human, and our cultural biases make their way into every aspect of our lives, including our work. If you’re doing market research, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. We like to think of ourselves as some of the least biased people in business. We are more aware of consumer behaviors and the psychological implications of marketing messages. Nonetheless, unconscious bias often creeps into our research design. It’s not all doom and gloom, though.
So far, 2020 has been one for the record books. A worldwide pandemic and subsequent shelter in place orders are causing sharp spikes in online streaming and mobile search activity as consumers seek ways to stay healthy, entertained, and informed. And in recent weeks, the public outcry against social injustice resounds on the tips of the tongues of protesters, as they hit the streets and take to social media to express their outrage and find community. Taken collectively, these rapid shifts in consumer behavior are fast-tracking digital trends and accelerating the push for digital research methodologies to understand the dynamics driving these behaviors.
COVID-19 has completely disrupted our sense of normalcy. Collectively, we’ve hung our hopes on our ability to create a “new normal” post-COVID with some semblance of life before the outbreak. But, life during this pandemic is not normal, nor will it be in the months ahead. From industries to schools and everything in between, routines have been fractured, lives altered, and jobs lost. As a market researcher working in an industry that thrives on consumer interaction, I can speak best to what I’ve seen while navigating this space and how I think the market research industry will respond to the looming uncertainties ahead.
In downtown Atlanta last week, a conference convened in which the companies represented affect all aspects of survey data, a fact that is significant as most marketers now rely on some sort of first-party data, the majority of which is gathered through surveys. SampleCon represents the entire ecosystem of the sample industry from panel research companies to incentive companies and is the only conference focused entirely on respondent sampling.
Sample industry thought leaders, researchers, and technologists convened in Atlanta last week for SampleCon 2020, the premier market research event solely focused on respondent sampling. From breakout sessions to panel discussions, networking to product demonstrations, collectively, we all strived toward a better understanding of factors impacting the future of the sample industry and the best way to respond to them. From my seat, as both attendee and speaker, two overarching themes stood out to me: data quality and technology.
The beginning of a new year not only brings celebratory toasts and resolutions but, in politics, preparation for the State of the Union address. Dating back to 1790, the SOTU serves as a “report card” of sorts, as the president gives his or her take on the state of the nation and outlines the president’s legislative goals for the year. In the spirit of this time-honored tradition, I thought it timely to present an overview of the major changes impacting the online sample industry. I’ll focus on two key pieces of legislation – GDPR and CCPA – that have disrupted the current state of the sample industry and changed the way data aggregators handle consumer data. Europe – Updates to GDPR Facebook has become the poster child for poor mishandling of consumer data. Under intense scrutiny, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has had to defend his company and its data collection practices in front of both U.S. congressional committees and the European Parliament. But Facebook isn’t alone. Many well-known companies collecting data on consumers, from cookies to search histories, emails to social posts, and everything in between, have been criticized by regulators and are subject to enhanced privacy protection laws enacted to protect consumers. The General Data Protection Regulation, or more commonly known as GDPR, is the EU’s response to European consumers’ growing concerns on how their data is being collected and used by companies. The law, created in 2016 and implemented in 2018, replaced privacy legislation enacted in 1995. While it took some time for regulators to figure out how to effectively enforce GDPR and for users and companies to understand their rights and compliance requirements, the regulations are in practice today. Sample companies are
Nearly four years later, the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election are still shocking. Polls showed Hillary Clinton with a significant lead over Donald Trump, almost guaranteeing the win and appointment of America’s first female president. Victory parties were planned. Fist bumps and high fives were going around. But the polls were wrong. Across the pond, polls got it wrong again in the UK with the Brexit referendum. It seemed that those tasked with gauging public sentiment couldn’t seem to find it’s pulse. However, the “USC/L.A. Times Daybreak Tracking Poll” got it right. This was one of a few Polls that predicted Trump had a lead over Hillary.
Cyber security continues to be one of the biggest threats impacting modern society, as most of our day to day experiences are played out virtually. We are hyperconnected through smart devices that have reshaped culture and transformed how we live and work. From online wallets to social media, smart speakers to drones, as consumers, we have served up a virtual smorgasbord of data points for hackers to prey on. Companies amassing these data points are especially at risk as they are the keepers of purchase behavior, transaction history, financial information, and more.
In a perfect world, we would have the best information available at our fingertips when making decisions. But, that’s often not the case. While information is more accessible now than at any other time in history, it’s not always the right information. Missing or bad information could mean big mistakes when developing or measuring marketing campaigns. So, to mitigate the risk of missing the mark, many companies explore custom market research. But, accurate, actionable custom research requires knowledge, experience, and dedicated personnel to complete.
Technology is driving growth across industries, creating space for unconventional ideas and technological innovations that infiltrate traditional models and disrupt the status quo. Companies unable to pivot find themselves in the fight of their lives. Peer to peer ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, for example, have wounded the taxi industry, and entertainment streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu are slowly sending linear TV to an early grave.