Brands utilize a lot of information during their decision-making process. Some of the most important pieces of information come from tracking studies. These studies are often tied to million-dollar, if not billion-dollar, decisions as brands measure the performance of marketing activities. Because they are tied to such high-impact decisions, brands need to be sure they are getting the best, most accurate, and most consistent data. Due to the need to maintain consistency, tracking studies are also some of the most challenging to field from a sample perspective.
Maintaining consistent data, whether it be from sample changes, fielding variances, or other changes year-to-year can be challenging any year– then came 2020.
2020 presented the perfect storm of challenges for anyone running a tracking study. The global pandemic led to shifts in consumer behavior that would normally take years to occur. This not only included changes to buying behaviors and attitudes, but also included shifts in the ways consumers responded to surveys. If you couple this with the diversity in the sample industry, including new mergers, tiering access to panelists, changes to recruitment budgets, and a rise in the overall demand for research, you have a perfect recipe for tracker data inconsistency.
Now, many of you reading this are probably thinking, ‘Yeah, but 2020 was an anomaly. I’ll put an asterisk next to my 2020 data and continue on like I always have.’
The problem with that line of thinking is that while 2020 might have been an overall anomaly, many of the changes to consumers’ attitudes and behaviors experienced are probably now permanent.
Panels were already changing over time, so you were previously having to adjust to keep your data consistent. In 2020, that change intensified, leaving many organizations seeing major shifts in their data that they could not attribute to actual changes in the market. It has also let the genie out of the bottle (so to speak) on the speed at which consumers’ attitudes and behaviors can change.
That is why now is the perfect time to rethink your tracking study.
When rethinking a tracking study, consider the following:
While many postponed adjusting programming to a mobile-first design due to possible data changes, it’s now imperative to focus the design on mobile devices. In many categories, mobile survey usage is well over 50% and it’s obviously important to be as representative as possible in addition to having compassion for respondents who want to take the survey on their device of choice.
While this has been preached for, well, forever, it’s important to obtain the most actionable robust results. Spend time getting the questionnaire as close to 10 minutes as possible. This will set you up for long-term insights and improve the respondent experience.
We speak about this at length with our IntelliBlend® product, and it’s even more important right now to ensure full feasibility and no changes to data over time. Be prepared to make slight adjustments over time as well.
This will help manage quotas, manage the sample providers, and close your survey on time.
Tracking studies can deliver some of the most important data in market research. However, they can also be some of the most challenging to field. It can be hard to maintain consistency in even the most predictable of years, but 2020 was another thing entirely. That’s why now is the best time to rethink your tracking studies. As you do, keep these best practices in mind. To learn more, check out these other resources to help your tracking studies.