Survey Respondent Demand Is Outpacing Supply: That’s Why Your Research Might Be Failing
The COVID-19 pandemic decimated the research industry’s respondent panels, and here’s the impact it is having on our (and your) research today.
All of a sudden, research came to a halt in early 2020. Clients wanted their fieldwork put on hold for six months or more. Panel companies stopped investing in and nurturing their panels. There were too few surveys and research activities to keep respondents engaged. As they started losing more panelists than ever before, they stopped building and replacing their panels, because, of course, there was not enough demand.
Then just as suddenly, research came back. But it was definitely not “business as usual.” Everybody’s research came back, and all at the same time. Demand surged, supply was scant, and researchers started seeing feasibility drop and field times increase. It took arm-twisting (well, more like charm offensives) to convince our suppliers to please prioritize our work so that we could deliver as promised.
Perhaps the worst consequence was that data fraud surged as well. Panels starting pulling in anybody and everybody, recruiting from low quality channels and not vetting respondents for authenticity. Prior to 2020, we were removing up to 30% of survey respondents as fraudulent. (That is already a high number that makes me squirm!) In the fall of 2020, our removal rate climbed to 70% for some segments, such as Gen Z panelists.
If you have been struggling with research fieldwork taking forever, this is probably why. If you have not been struggling, please be worried. Ask your research team what they have experienced and what new problems they are seeing as they ferret out fraud. Right now there is a good deal of survey research being circulated and published that is based on phony data.
At Versta Research we have been lucky. One of our studies wrapped up a week later than promised, but otherwise we managed to get everything else delivered on budget and on time, and with solid data to boot. Our charm offensives worked, and our ever-evolving data cleaning methods and fraud forensics worked, as well.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.