Five Mid-Year Resolutions to Inspire Better Research in 2021
With all the strange business disruptions of the last 16 months, and the ways in which the coronavirus shifted the foundations of market research, July 1 feels a lot more like the beginning of a new year than January 1 did. Life is back to normal, we hope!
This “new year” inspires us to take stock of what we learned in our work, because, for sure, we see industry trends that the stresses of the pandemic brought to the fore. More research is being done that is demonstrably false, and we have some solid ideas about why and how this is happening.
Here we translate that knowledge into five mid-year resolutions we recommend for better research in 2021, and into the next new year beyond:
- Doubt Your Data. The pandemic created a perfect storm of instability in panelist supply and demand, which has generated more fraud among survey respondents than ever before. Assume your data is bad until you have combed it ruthlessly to eliminate all possible sources of error and fraud.
- Slow It Down. A tell-tale sign of research that is likely to be false is quick field time. For most projects, anything less than one week is probably not possible. We always insist on having at least two weeks or more, and even then we are cutting it close.
- Think About the Story. Always begin with the end in mind, which means stop thinking about the survey questions you want to ask. Think instead about what you want to report, and the evidence that will allow you to report it. Then think about the survey questions that can deliver the appropriate data.
- Invest Where It Matters. No matter how much we automate with technology, we quickly hit the limits of what it can do, and realize that we really need smart people to oversee the technology, adding brainpower and know-how. For great research, invest in people first, technology second.
- Protect Your PII. We still have clients who send us lists of customer names with addresses and contact information by e-mail. Right away we lock it down and set up protocols to delete everything received. Protecting data, and especially PII, is becoming extremely important—please make it your priority too!
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.