Marketing studies that are criticized by public opinion and neglected by companies have lost their strategic character in organizations. It is up to us, industry professionals, to reassert them as essential capital by harnessing the strike power of digital space that traditional institutes are not using.
Too biased, too expensive, too long: the thousand and one mistakes of opinion studies
The methodological biases of surveys are very well documented in the scientific literature, especially in sociological literature. The sampling, which is its essence, was certainly the most frequently questioned component. Because it is supposedly representative, it remains quantitatively and qualitatively arbitrarily defined. Even if it were to conform to INSEE’s statistics in every respect, it would not be able to incorporate the entire complexity of the individual, his personal background, his cultural or geographical roots and, in a broader sense, all of their own particularities. Everyone is tied to an ideal type who would determine all of their behavior. The perfect sample does not exist. In the best case scenario, all that remains is statistics.
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With consumer panels, the remuneration sometimes offered to the participant further weakens the credibility of the study results. Add to this the volatility of his opinion, his psychological tendency not to say what he is really thinking, or the temporality in which he reacts. Following the publication of the photo of little Aylan Kurdi, who died on a beach while trying to get to Europe, a majority of the French had spoken out in favor of accepting refugees. Conversely, after an attack or a message involving a refugee, hostility grows. Immediately after a special commissioner or additional investigation fee, consumer trust in a brand or company declines before it automatically increases again.
This accumulation of bias applies to both classic political surveys and marketing studies. And the managers are fully aware of this. A study we carried out in April last year shows that 65% of decision-makers consider them to be poorly distributed and under-consulted internally, 53% as under-used, 46% as too expensive and 16% as too long to be produced consider. In short, marketing studies have lost their strategic interest and have been relegated to the rank of simple support. Although they remain up to 68% legitimate in the eyes of decision-makers. Under certain circumstances…
Digital has not changed the game for institutes
Executives want studies that are quick, inexpensive, and easy to use. 60% need results in less than a month, 52% strive for more autonomy and can manage the results themselves, and 31% expect the study to have a big data component. A shift in expectations that led to a partial restructuring of the market, with the emergence of new players in order to crack the monopoly acquired by the institutes.
The traditional actors have only partially been able to use digital technology to remove the ineffectiveness of previous methods and try in vain to remove their limitations. They have integrated digital modules on various scales by integrating cross-departmental traffic analyzes, digital follow-up or recruiting campaigns via mailings. Without responding to the deepest aspirations of the decision makers. Because the digital vector has been incorporated into the production method, but not the principles of the study, which have the same shortcomings. Too expensive, too long, too biased.
Integrate efficiency into studies without compromising the methodological basis
Facilitating the conduct of studies at all levels of the organization means giving individuals the space they deserve and claim. It means integrating them back into the company’s decision-making process. A requirement that responds to the transformation of the consumer into a customer who is all about being individualized, understood and heard by brands. Given the long duration of classic studies, we need to be able to deliver reliable operative results immediately. Given the complexity of the studies, it requires a respectful and unbiased experience for respondents and actionable results that generate decisions for the entire company. In the face of tight budgets, the study must be affordable and provide a return on investment. Efficiency must replace the monolithic and vertical organization of the studies usually carried out.
This requirement for agility must go hand in hand with a consolidation of the reliability of the results. The very large-scale targeting of digital media makes it possible to react to the challenges of scalability and, thanks to an international, cross-generational and social trans-class approach, to provide very large samples. For example, by including people who are normally excluded from boards, especially youth and CSP +. The digital environment also presents a technical limitation which limits the number of questions asked. Which is actually an advantage: the study becomes faster, less intrusive, less restrictive for the individual and the answers are more honest.
After all, let us not be afraid of deleting a fantasized goal and a scientific framework from the survey in order to maintain the monopoly of the classical institutes. Public opinion polls are not there to predict the future. But to describe a reality that is often overlooked by companies, to draw key trends that transcend public opinion, and to largely identify the weak signals that could change tomorrow’s consumer behavior. And that on the scale of millions of people. What a brand that needs to speak closely and differently with its customers now.