It may seem paradoxical but the do-it-yourself (DIY) online survey applications are not all bad for the market research industry.
Even if small boutique firms like mine often do not use the tools themselves, preferring to out-source to someone who can manage the whole online field process (from programming to invitation to data delivery), there is a real benefit to having them available.
One of the real overarching benefits of the DIY survey process is that it effectively democratizes survey research. For any organization that has its own list of emails of employees, customers, or stakeholders (anything that won’t get you in SPAM trouble), the cost of conducting a survey is very low (or even free). Substitution of the more expensive telephone with online research had already done that and the DIY tools do so even more. This means that more and more organizations have access to evidence-based decision-making.
This effect has two main consequences of value to the market research industry.
First, there is considerable value in promoting evidence-based decision-making since this is the real strength of research professionals. Those users who could afford to invest in an outside firm may be more likely to appreciate the value that research firms to an assignment.
Second, research companies must now better define and market what they bring to the table. While it is easy to say that low cost is driving the move of some companies to the DIY model, this is an oversimplification. It is always a question of value not cost. Clearly in those cases, the company does not see the value-added.
While some clients will be happy with and satisfied with in-house research, and it may even replace their out-sourcing of research in some cases, there is good reason to be optimistic about the future of research. An external supplier offers considerable benefit over DIY models:
Independence: autonomous from internal power struggles and interests, a good market research professional is a neutral, trusted advisor. This is critical for both ensuring honest and anonymous responses from respondents and ensuring that the ensuing advice is respected and valued.
Experience: with hundreds of projects under one’s belt, the market research professional has a wider context in which to situate research findings. Is an average employee satisfaction score of 7.5/ 10 good or bad?
Each time I hear that an organization is conducting its own survey using Survey Monkey or another online tool, I smile. It means that research is valued and it is only a small step from valuing research, to engaging a professional partner to provide the help only they can provide.