Opening Up Multiple Channels For Your Research

laptop smartphone tablet

Last week Gina Yeagley and her colleagues at Survey Analytics presented a compelling argument for moving beyond the realm of single channel research into one of multiple channels. By definition, multi-channel research involves leveraging two or more deployment strategies to reach your target audience.

What is driving the multi-channel approach? In a word it is all about technology, or – more specifically – the adoption of new technologies. Social media, for example, can be a powerful tool for reaching certain segments and inviting them to participate in your research. Other drivers to multi-channel adoption include a deeper working relationship between IT and marketing research; improvements in data collection platforms, the need for rapid reporting (and the subsequent development of dashboard reports for MR results), and the increased analysis options brought forth by ‘Big Data’.

A few simple questions, however, must be answered before it becomes advisable to pursue a multi-channel approach. Market researchers must ask themselves:

  1. Who are their target audiences?
  2. What are their technology adoption habits (including smartphone usage)?
  3. Are response rates changing over time?

We have to know who our audiences are. For example, if your primary target is senior citizens, then it may not be advisable to push mobile delivery. Paper-based surveys or phone interviewing may be better options. However, you cannot simply assume this – as tech adoption, including tablets and mobile, is not consistent across all demographic groups, including seniors. It pays to ask how people wish to be communicated with.

If your market is teens and early adults, then mobile and social media make sense. Should we limit ourselves? No, you might consider a mix of mobile, social and an online panel if your audience is multi-tasking young adults. One of the key points to arise in the webinar is the need to assess differences not only in response rates across channels, but also in response quality and patterns of data distribution.

The question of changing response rates for a deployment channel is a key point to watch. If rates are going down for traditional online surveys, then it could be time to explore the addition of mobile, or the creation of your own panels, each with a focus on a specific target group.

If you are considering a multi-channel approach then you need to make sure your data collection platforms are savvy. Can your tools handle sample from mobile online panels as well as traditional e-mail invitations? Can your platform provide you with reporting that is robust enough to assess response differences by channel?

Multiple response channels for surveys are becoming increasingly common. If you are involved in researching diverse audiences, then it is a good time to explore the options available.

Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.

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