Applying the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) model to Market Research is possible – based on having access to the right platform

What is an automated research platform and what are the criteria that customers can use to identify the optimal solution for their objectives

During the past five years we have witnessed the advent of digitalization across companies and processes, as well as the emergence and development of Digital departments, Digital Marketing, and so on. Overall, we expect to benefit from more efficient and cheaper technology-driven processes, leaving robots or programs to replace human activity.

How do these principles and functionalities apply to Market Research?

Types of Market Research platforms | Benefits of an automated Market Research platform | Limits of using DIY automated platforms in Market Research| How to select the relevant Market Research partners/ platform?

A traditional online Market Research process involves up to 10-12 roles in delivering a project. In the case of large companies, we may have 12 different persons covering these roles, while among smaller companies one person can work across several functions. The required roles involve Client Service, Researcher, Quotation Executive, Project Manager, Scriptwriter, Quality Assurance, Data Processor, Coder, Planner, Field Coordinator, External Procurement, Data Analyst, Data Visualization etc.

Many of these roles can be streamlined with the help of automated Market Research platforms so that the work of some of the people involved is taken over by a software or app which successfully carries out the respective activities - in a shorter time and at a lower price. The coverage of human/ manual tasks via a tech-driven process can range from 1-2 roles and up to 80% of the activities performed.

Types of Market Research platforms

Depending on the type of survey and the objectives of the research, there is a wide range of available platforms:

  • Automated Sampling Platforms, which provide access to samples for Market Research purposes. The samples (i.e. respondents accessible through the platform) must be well selected and represent the client's target, so that results are relevant.
  • Automated Data Visualization Platforms, which display survey results in a structured and visually attractive way which facilitates understanding and usage.
  • Automated Scripting Platforms – most are usually associated with Sampling or Data Visualization platforms
  • Platforms and programs for Data Analysis
  • Complex/ integrated platforms, covering several or all the above-mentioned functionalities

Choosing the right platform or platforms should be based on the objectives of the survey, as well as client’s knowledge and experience regarding the usage of Market Research platforms or Market Research, overall:

  • 100% DIY (Do-It-Yourself) – when the application covers all the roles that can be automated, while the client knows the application, has a clear view on methodology and can design & implement the questionnaire on her/ his own.
  • Semi-DIY or Do-It-Together – if the client requires the Research agency to select the methodology and develop the questionnaire.
  • Non-DIY – when the survey is fully conducted by the Research agency – from establishing the methodology and sample up to report delivery. In this case, the agency may use the automated Market Research application to facilitate conducting the survey.

Benefits of an automated Market Research platform

Speed: data collection in a classic online Market Research survey usually takes 2-3 weeks (and that amount of time could be double if we also consider designing the questionnaire and preparing the research report). In the case of research conducted through an automated platform, the same activities can be performed in 2-4 days after questionnaire approval by the client, reducing timings by 80%.

Data accuracy: as platforms involve automation, errors are cut down to zero.

'One-stop shop': when incorporating more or all the functions of Market Research operations, automated platforms are a one-off destination covering all the steps in conducting a survey, which significantly reduces the time and coordination effort.

Global reach: Automated Market Research platforms can provide services and access to respondents in multiple countries, which means it would take just a few clicks to conduct a multi-country survey.

Better pricing: in online Market Research, every technological progress/ innovation positively impacts costs. Since the early 2000s, substantial price reductions have been implemented in online Market Research. In Romania, for example, a representative online survey including 1,000 respondents and based on a questionnaire with 25 items may reach EUR 10-15k, when conducted fully by a team of researchers. When carried out by the client in a DYI format through an automated platform, the same survey can cost less than half of that amount.

Accessibility: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

An online platform is not good enough if the users need detailed training.

-Andrei Poștoacă, CEO Ipsos.Digital

This should be the motto behind developing platforms, in general, and Market Research platforms, in particular. Many of today's platforms are intuitive enough, yet there are also many platforms for which the clients need very detailed training, which limits using the application only to very experienced users.

Productivity – platforms can run a large number of surveys at the same time, streamlining the waiting times for scripting the questionnaire or emailing it to respondents.

Flexibility - in some cases - either when lacking time or for other reasons - our customers require a specialist to take over the reins of the survey from the beginning up to delivery of the final report, without having to work with the platform themselves. However, customers also want to benefit from automation.
Ipsos.Digital platform provides integrated support for Project Management, Data Analysis, and design of the final report.

Limits of using DIY automated platforms in Market Research

Although using platforms & applications in Market Research has many advantages, some types of surveys cannot be carried out via automated processes, for various reasons: low incidence of the target group, difficulty of scripting the questionnaire for more complex studies etc. It is highly recommended to conduct these types of surveys as part of the classic process, outside the platform.

Even though Artificial Intelligence streamlines a great part of the Market Research process, the researcher retains her/ his privileged place in selecting the appropriate methodology, designing the questionnaire, and analyzing the data. An application or platform, no matter how evolved, will not be able to select the methodology or interpret the data because it takes the skills of an experienced researcher to make correlations with the information from the survey, other surveys, or external/ third-party sources, to achieve the best ROI in terms of business decision-making.

How to select the relevant Market Research partners/ platform?

First, to work with an automated platform you need to have clear research objectives and a questionnaire; conducting the survey requires scripting, data collection and designing the research report. The more integrated services offered by a platform, the larger the economies of scale.

The client will choose the automated Market Research platform based on their knowledge. Usually, the companies that provide DIY platforms also offer specialized resources (technical or research-related), as well as support by email or phone.
Unfortunately, certain platforms which are 100% automated cannot offer telephone support or the advice of a researcher/ specialist.

We recommend to our clients to work with DIY platforms developed by Market Research companies with rich experience, which are friendly and attentive enough to help with the agility of the project. Although we are talking about DIY tools, not always a customer can conduct a study without assistance on certain stages.

-Flaviu Bobb, Service Line Leader, Ipsos Observer Romania

As a customer, it is easier to choose a provider that offers both the sample (source of respondents) and the scripting and data visualization platform ('one-stop shop').
It is rather difficult to work with multiple platforms for one survey. Let's imagine that we need to run a survey to evaluate a pavement cleaning product and interview people which have pavement in their yard. If the sample provided by the agency is not validated thoroughly, respondents are not screened out based on certain categories or, moreover, the company does not have enough experience in countering attacks from fraudulent bots, we can easily imagine that the respective data cannot be accurate, which may lead to incorrect business decisions.

Therefore, pay close attention to how the database source is selected and what quality control methods are used. The customer should address the platform provider with questions on:

  • how the panel is recruited, what are its sources
  • what are the rules for screening out respondents
  • what is the proportion of those who answer the open-end questions
  • what quality assurance measures exist (e.g.: identifying reactions and behaviors that are not part of the usual patterns – speeders*, flatters/ straight-liners*, removing bots* or click farms* etc.)

In general, reputable Market Research companies cannot afford running into issues regarding the quality of respondents, and asking these questions to your supplier can only beneficial.

In conclusion - we live in a digitized world; digital Market Research applications are available and deliver benefits. Customers must, in turn, be prepared for this new stage of industry development, choose the right and experienced partner and start as quickly as possible to benefit from all the aspects listed above – while also getting ahead of the competition regarding the agility of decision-making, based on Market Research surveys conducted in almost real-time.

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  • Speeders – people who complete Market Research interviews in a much shorter time than most respondents, which raises the question of data accuracy. If a respondent is classified as speeder, we may consider that she/ he did not have time to read and understand the topics investigated in the questionnaire. The algorithm for identifying speeders may differ from one company to another. This could be based on the modal value or the average speed of completion across all respondents. The deviation should not exceed 30-40% of the modal/ average value.
  • Flatters/ straight-liners – those who provide the same answer option across several or even all items of a questionnaire.
  • Bots – software that create fake online identities - name, surname, email address, gender, region etc., become part of various consumer panels and, upon receiving an email, access the link and fill in the respective interviews by trying to mimic the behavior of a real person. However, these computer applications cannot capture specific nuances of the questions or fail to pass the so called ‘trap questions’, which enables detection and elimination.
  • Click farms – many companies deal with activities that violate law and ethics in online business. For certain amounts of money, these companies offer reviews for certain products/ companies, likes or negative (hate) comments. Market Research industry may also be affected by such companies - their employees may create false identities then enroll into various consumer panels to fill in surveys and earn some money. There are several methods of identifying these companies - many of these measures are related to the digital identity/ signature of the person/ device from which the Market Research survey is completed.