Just as the market research industry began returning to normal, COVID-19 made a comeback as a new variant called “Delta.” As a result, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and several other states are struggling with high infection rates, delaying workers’ return to the office or requiring them to work remotely. Google, for example, is giving employees the option to work from home, although they could experience pay cuts. The pay cuts could be as high as 25%, depending on the location of the employee. Right now, this is an experiment being carried out by a few tech companies in Silicon Valley and others dotted throughout the U.S. But it makes me wonder if these scenarios are the first steps towards permanent remote work for most of us?
Everything indicates no turning back to a post-pandemic way of life. Industries across the board have been forever changed, including the market research industry. One of the most significant changes was the shift to digital, which created numerous opportunities for sample providers by way of increased demand. But the increase doesn't come without growing pains, like bandwidth and data quality.
The persistence of the pandemic is driving high demand for online sample recruitment, causing spikes in sample pricing. Many online sample companies are seeing record sales, but most exchange systems have sample constraints. Companies that do not have proprietary panels or sample resources are struggling to keep up with demand.
Another challenge for sample providers is that demand is also very niche, targeting U.S. Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, White/Caucasians in more rural areas with limited zip codes. So, sample companies invest in their own panel resources and create their own exchanges to reconcile supply and demand. Multicultural sample is essential to building a representative data set, so the inability to get that data compromises output to the client.
Data integrity continues to be a hot topic within the online sample industry. At SampleCon last year, data quality and responsible sample sourcing was a key concern and continues to be as sample providers are stretched to the brink. Instances of fraud and lack of transparency have led to lousy client experiences that have eroded trust At its lowest point, clients opted out of using online data collection as a methodology of choice and resorted to the traditional data collection model (phone, in-person) to get better results.
After the onset of COVID-19, discussion of sample fraud took a back seat to the lives been lost due to the pandemic. During this time, traditional research methodologies like in-person focus groups shut down, and clients turned to online sample again as the only form of data collection available.
This brings us to today, 18 months later. Demand for sample is high, but fraud issues persist, making it more imperative than ever that clients work with a reputable sample provider with the experience and security infrastructure to maintain data integrity.