Successfully reaching and engaging survey participants today presents unique challenges and opportunities. The origins of market research are rooted in convenience – sampling based on street interviews. The first market researchers stood on the streets and asked people passing by what they thought about the topic at hand. While this was effective at starting to get inside the mind of the average consumer, the sample was not representative of the total population.
Focus groups and in-depth interviews were better aimed at speaking to the desired target group of consumers. Being able to call the appropriate people on the phone was more efficient and easier on respondents and moderators… until people stopped answering their phones to unknown numbers.
The market research field had to evolve once again and began to take advantage of the internet, a tool that allowed for access to anyone anywhere. Webcam interviews were scheduled at a time that would work for the respondent and the moderator and could be taken anywhere that a computer could go. This methodology is still being used frequently, but people are increasingly busy and can’t often commit the time or effort to participate.
Reaching participants is now done where consumers already are. Surveys can be completed on mobile phones and through texts. Participants join panels where their demographic and psychographic information can be stored and matched with surveys that best fit them.
Why does it matter that participants don’t want to commit time and effort to surveys and studies anymore? Why do market research firms have to tailor their actions to fit into their respondents’ lives when this wasn’t the case five years ago?
How people live their lives has changed drastically, especially once the Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone to do more online. Let’s take Tinder, as an example. A dating app aimed at young adults shows profiles of eligible people near you. You can swipe the profile left or right, indicating a like or dislike of the person. Hours are spent endlessly swiping and scrolling on Tinder, Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, and more.
With the never-ending flow of information available, choices become low commitment and seemingly eternal. If you don’t like what’s on your screen, moving your finger a couple more times will yield more favorable content. With this becoming habit, market research surveys that are long and laborious will be left incomplete because something more entertaining will take its place shortly.
A panel dashboard is a platform that respondents can log into to access the surveys made available to them based on their demographic makeup and qualifications. Respondents have created an account, filled out details about themselves, and periodically log on to fill out relevant surveys in exchange for gift cards or other payments. Mimicking the look of a Facebook or Twitter homepage, respondents are familiar with how to navigate a panel site.
If a survey posted on a panel site isn’t keeping people’s attention, respondents will simply close out of it and swipe to find another one that they like more because they have an entire dashboard of surveys waiting for them that could be more entertaining or fulfilling to complete.
The human element is becoming more removed from market research. Currently, most communications and studies happen online. In a recent Insights Association webinar, InnovateMR’s sampling expert, Sandy Casey, said, “Panels used to have a 1-1 communication relationship. Now, 80% of research participants are coming from a dashboard that has 10-30 options for them.” Few participants will complete all the survey options presented to them.
The attention dilemma
The competition to hold a person’s attention is the most challenging it has ever been. People face interruptions all day, every day. Interruptions happen while working, at the office, at home, running errands, and notifications from Outlook, TikTok, text messages, and more present major distractions.
But just how distracted are we? According to information presented in the webinar, the average person today:
- Has an average of 8.4 social media apps on their phone
- Spends 2.2 hours per day on social media apps
- Has an average of 40 apps on their phone
- Spends 4.2 hours a day on their phone
- Spends 8 hours working + 4.2 hours in apps, equaling 12.2 hours a day of unreachable time
- Has an attention span of 8.5 seconds, down from 12 seconds
In point of fact, emails are no longer an effective communication format. Most professionals average an influx of 100 emails per day. However, many would say the number is even higher than that. Additionally, by 2027, the landline network in the U.S. is expected to no longer exist.
Engaging survey participants
So how do market researchers capture and retain participants’ attention?
- Improve survey design. Make the questions easy to understand.
- Shorten the length of the survey. Shorter surveys get more interaction because they pose less of a time commitment.
- Improve the reward. The cost of surveys are the lowest they’ve ever been, so this may leave room in the budget to increase respondent compensation. Also, improved rewards can help build the relationship with your respondent base.
- Personalize the experience. Don’t show a Tinder profile that no one would want to date – i.e., if the survey topic isn’t near and dear to people’s hearts, then at the very least design the survey so that the user experience (UX) is engaging.
Martec has nearly 40 years of experience reaching and engaging survey participants, especially in B2B industries. We also have built relationships with diverse and skillful panel partners to help you reach your market research goals. Contact us today to discuss your next research project.