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Survey fatigue epidemic

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday October 3, 2006 )

According to research that’s making many marketers uncomfortable, it seems that less than a quarter of a percent of the population provides nearly a third of responses to online surveys these days.

This is especially unsettling for those companies who spend millions each year on polling and make crucial decisions based on the data that’s returned.

In fact, some companies are having problems rolling out projects as survey data is returning very different results from the time that consumers are polled at concept, to just prior to project launch.

Advertising Age reports that the problem has become so troublesome that dozens of top market research executives convened late last month to discuss the issue. Among the participants were representatives from IBM and McDonald’s.

Part of the problem appears to be that many respondents to surveys these days are “professional” respondents; i.e, those who make it a point to sign up to take surveys in exchange for cash and rewards. This can lead to cookie-cutter type responses rather than real opinions.

The average consumer has been bombarded for requests to take surveys so often in recent years – via email, web sites, phone, mail and in shopping centers that many are simply tuning out; it’s become somewhat of a survey fatigue epidemic. These are the people that the market research boffins *really* need the opinions of.

With a massive 50% of all survey responses being garnered from under 5% of the population and participation rates in surveys increasingly being under 10%, some in the industry are very concerned that much survey data available now is really unreliable.

It’s not just the big companies that this effects – even small online business suffers too. We may not have the cash of the big guys to conduct surveys, but we certainly benefit to a degree when they release snippets here and there. Many of us arrive at business decisions based on that data these companies provide.

Maybe they should run a survey on recalcitrant consumers on how to get them involved in survey participation :).

Read more of the Advertising Age article on the survey fatigue epimedic.


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