Yankelovich: Adapt to New Research Trends

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In a statistic that should alarm direct marketers and retailers, only 37 percent of respondents surveyed by Yankelovich Partners said they enjoy participating in research most or all of the time.

The challenge facing research today is more about emotions than intellect, Yankelovich president J. Walker Smith said. His observations were based on an OmniPlus telephone callback survey of 600 Yankelovich Monitor consumer respondents polled Feb. 28-March 9.

"In fact, respondents are consumers of research, and the single-biggest demand that they place on research nowadays is that it be entertaining," said Smith, who is based in Atlanta.

The issue, he said, is enjoyment and not acceptance. The task is one of engagement, not simply cooperation.

"Research is continuing to struggle with a lot of issues -- declining response rates is one," Smith said. "There's a big push toward Internet research, which raises a lot of questions about the kind of information you're collecting, the sort of people you're interviewing. So there are a lot of questions nowadays about research itself."

Yet respondents still respect surveys. Ninety-five percent take a survey seriously, according to this latest Yankelovich one.

Seventy-six percent feel pressured to give a certain answer. Eighty-one percent do not give answers to questions they know nothing about.

Moreover, 84 percent said feedback in research makes a difference in decisions made. Ninety-one percent agreed there was nothing wrong in research, regarding it as part of doing business.

Most important, research was not viewed simply as a tool for squabbling. Only 7 percent of respondents said they participate in research to complain, and 9 percent participate when pressured.

But the picture changes when it comes to emotional resonance.

"We're in a consumer environment where experience and intangibles are a lot more important than material things per se," Smith said, "and research is affected by that just as much as every other sort of marketing or marketing activity."

So Yankelovich suggests that marketers not interrogate, but entertain. This affects the marketer's brand as much as the survey's results.

"It's a changing environment for research," Smith said. "Lifestyle changes and marketplace changes are creating new demands for people's time and for expectations people have for things they do in the marketplace."

Just like advertising, research affects the way people buy. Yankelovich found that 68 percent of its respondents agreed they were more likely to do business with a company that had sought their opinion in research.

In addition, of those more likely to do business with a company that asked their opinion in research, 42 percent agreed and 28 percent disagreed that they like to try new products before others. Also, 25 percent agreed and 10 percent disagreed that they were the first in their circle to discover the new trends.

"From the perspective of consumers, research is just another touch point," Smith said. "Research doesn't just measure brand impressions, it creates brand impressions."

Still, the industry is dogged by new questions for research: What worsens the research experience for respondents? What improves the research experience without compromising the integrity of the data? And how does research fit into branding and image building?

"The new respondent lives in a new marketplace with new values and priorities," Smith said. "The new respondent wants more than a chance to be heard. The new respondent wants something in return. The reciprocity [is] not just from the eventual product, but from the research itself. [It is] not just money, but an enrichment of time."

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