Since 2015, GRBN has been presenting data on the general public’s lack of trust in the market research industry and encouraging the industry to collectively do something about it so we can maintain our ability to collect the data we need to meet clients’ needs.
“Only 1-in-10 people have a high level of trust in market research companies” Source: GRBN Trust Survey 2016
Early on our message largely fell on deaf ears and I vividly recall presenting to an almost empty room at IIeX Amsterdam. The lack of interest in the issue was demoralizing, to say the least. Rather than giving up, we pushed forward and are “fighting the good fight” as Roddy Knowles at Research Now would say. In the spring of 2016, we conducted research to explore three drivers of trust:
  1. Trust with the protection of data
    1. Fundamental to the willingness to share data with market researchers
  2. The perceived value of market research
    1. Fundamental to a willingness to say “yes” to an interview request
  3. The user experience
    1. Fundamental to participating again
With respect to the user experience, our research showed that participants found most surveys were too long, unenjoyable, and lacked mobile-friendliness. One key conclusion from the research was that:
There is absolutely no point promoting the value of research and encouraging people to participate if we give them a bad experience when they do
Not only are people likely never to participate again, but they also tell others about the bad experience. This makes it even harder for the industry to recruit people to participate. Therefore, we set out with our partners to conduct research that specifically looked at the research participant user experience. What we found was both disconcerting and encouraging. What was encouraging was that the research gave us a very clear understanding of what motivates people to participate in surveys and what causes a very good or very poor experience. When we discussed these findings with industry leaders, more than one nodded and said with a sigh:
We know, but these “bad” surveys are the one clients demand from us.”
Fortunately, the research came up with one unexpected nugget of insight, which was pivotal in getting the industry to act. In the US, the research told us that thinking badly about the companies or brands mentioned in the survey was the number one thing survey-takers did when getting a bad survey experience.       So the lightbulb went on: Survey-takers are savvy. They know there is an end-client behind most projects. They are participating in research to try and help those clients. They feel betrayed when in return they are given a bad experience. One could argue that this doesn’t matter, especially since the general practice today tends to hide the end-client if possible, but we would argue otherwise. Firstly, even if you hide the actual client, this does not prevent the survey-takers from feeling negatively about the brands in the survey and therefore the category. This does not help anyone trying to market products in that category, so in this case, research is creating negative brand equity and making marketers’ jobs harder than they need to be. Secondly, what if we are transparent about who the survey is for and give participants a great experience? Will survey-takers, in that case, think positively about the brand and therefore will research become a positive contributor to long-term brand equity? If that is the case:
Why would client-side researchers want to create experiences which damaged their category or why would they not want to create experiences which create positive brand equity?
Marketers across the globe are very much focused on delivering great customer experiences across all touchpoints. From a customer’s perspective, a survey, or any other type of research, is just another touch-point with the brand. From the brand’s perspective, it is either an opportunity gained or lost to create value for customers and build brand equity. Armed with our data and these thoughts, we invited a group of industry leaders attending the CASRO Annual Conference in Park City, Utah, in October 2016, to a breakfast meeting. The intention was to get these industry leaders to take collective action. They immediately understood that if clients can be convinced that creating great surveys is good for brand equity, then the demand for “bad” surveys will decrease, enabling the industry to deliver better insights back to their clients more efficiently…a virtuous circle. Fortunately, enough of the leaders we talked to had the courage and the foresight to buy into this vision and the GRBN Participant Engagement Initiative was born. They also had the generosity to put money behind the initiative, which enabled us to spend the time necessary to drive the project forward. Since that day in Utah, more and more companies have come on-board the initiative, either contributing money, their time, or other resources to the project. By the time the Handbook was launched, one year later, more than 35 companies are involved. You can see the latest list of partners here. Over the last 12 months, the partners have participated in workgroups, conducted research-on-research, collected metrics data, and contributed to the Handbook. This Handbook is the fruit of all those efforts and we are extremely grateful for the support and active contributions of all our partners. Two years on from the start of the journey, I led a panel session on Participant Engagement at Insight Association’s Next Conference to a standing-room only audience. I could sense a clear shift in attitudes towards the issue and believe the sector is now ready to seize the moment and take the collective and individual actions needed to improve the user experience and participant engagement. It has been a great journey and one I personally am extremely proud to have been a part of. But the journey doesn’t stop here, it has just begun. For now, the hard work is getting this handbook into the hands of as many client- and agency-side researchers as possible. More importantly, getting them to think about and act on the great tips we are offering. You will no doubt hear a lot from us and from our partners over the months and years to come. You can actively follow our progress on or sign-up to our newsletter (Global Insights) to get updates direct to your inbox. We would also like more companies to become partners on the initiative. We want companies to deploy metrics to measure the user experience. This is a great way to drive change both within your organization as well as in cooperation with clients and data collectors. Welcome, on-board! Read more about the initiative here. Andrew_CannonAndrew Cannon GRBN