The Role of Surveys in the Age of Behavioural Science

A challenge that market research is increasingly facing is why, in a world where behavioural science apparently suggests that are limits to what consumers tell us, do we continue to ask questions?

Well, here are five good reasons:

  1. Most academic research indicates that we are reasonably reliable witnesses of much of our lives. Market research has always known and been respectful of the limits of this.
  2. Sometimes we do need to know how consumers feel and what they believe. There is no sensible alternative in these instances to asking questions.
  3. All approaches have their limitations. Alternatives to asking questions are no exception. Observation, for example, whilst highly useful, also suffers from known pitfalls.
  4. Asking people questions reflects a belief that how we think and feel shapes how we decide to act. We therefore need to ask questions to understand how consumers are likely to behave.
  5. Any instances of poor questionnaire design do not automatically mean that asking questions is wrong. The market research industry needs to ensure that standards are maintained but we also continue to innovate on ways to ask questions in smarter ways.

Above all it is clear that integrative approaches are the future: we need to continue to ask questions but also use techniques such as ethnography, data analytics and experimental designs to ensure a total consumer understanding.