Lightspeed Blog

An Appetite for Bite-Sized Chunks

Posted by Frank Kelly on Mar 13, 2013

With mobile-cellular penetration approaching 90 percent of the world’s population, market researchers must adapt to reach the mobile respondent – quickly. This is both an opportunity and a threat. The door is open for the industry to leverage a broad based, quick and affordable data collection platform with many additional advantages of computer-based data collection, but we must adapt our interviewing methods to the medium. Many in Marketing Research want to embrace the opportunities afforded by mobile but few are willing to challenge the need for a long interview. Many have noted that in the transition from the telephone to online, practices were maintained that did not fit the new collection methodology and slowed the adoption. “This time we will do it right,” we all say, but change this time requires a revolution in survey design.

Our belief is that surveys will need to be broken into bite-sized chunks and that those chunks will likely be completed by different respondents. We have been called heretics; an angry mob has gathered, yet a better solution has yet to be put forward. We are striving to refine our data fusion techniques to enable us to piece together the independent samples into a common sample.

We presented a paper last week at CASRO that discusses our research into this topic. We conducted a study in the US that tested how modular survey designs work with online, mobile web and mobile app-based surveys. We found that chunking surveys showed significant benefits, such as enabling us to be agnostic to the data collection platform and therefore device inclusive. We were also able to make more efficient use of our sample by making use of partial data from incomplete surveys and helping to increase respondent satisfaction. Some of our findings include:

  • Respondents complete all chunks. There was a tendency for respondents to complete all the survey chunks in one sitting, even though they understood they had the option to stop and start later. This was true even with the longer survey for both CAWI and mobile app respondents.
  • Respondents like the idea of chunking. Nearly half the respondents said chunking made the survey easier to answer, 43 percent said it made it easier to manage their time.
  • Our respondents are mobile ready. 80 percent of those who have a mobile device indicated willingness to use those devices to complete a market research study. This was underscored by verbatim responses that thanked us for providing the mobile web options.
  • Generally, no difficulties were noticed in answering any of the question types. However, we used tight quotas and a mobile-friendly survey design. Without those controls, we likely would have gotten very different data. Mobile respondents – both mobile web and mobile app – did note, however, that they found typing difficult and time consuming, particularly on certain mobile devices.
  • Making bite-sized chunks requires a seasoned researcher with the expertise to think through the survey logic to ensure that all questions that are dependent on other questions are grouped within the same survey chunk.
  • Randomizing survey chunks, i.e., positioning chunks in different, random order in surveys delivered to different respondents, can eliminate the Fatigue Effect that is often seen with certain question types late in a survey. However, it makes the design process even more complex because you do not know the order in which chunks are asked, and therefore cannot pipe in answers.

Tapping Chunking’s Potential

Chunking surveys has a great deal of potential, and we are just beginning to delve into its many facets. One topic of focus is identifying nodal questions and using them to indicate which questions are important to have answered by all respondents, and which can be asked to a subset of respondents. Data fusion techniques help us identify these nodal questions and they, in turn, act as connective tissue to enable us to fuse together data from different respondents to make a whole.

Also, we are looking into fusing data together to make use of partial data in an across-respondent design. Data fusion and imputation techniques allow us to either fabricate a whole data set from a partially complete survey or to match two partially completed surveys together to make a whole. Here, we focus on the need for hooks that can link data to the results. These hooks provide direction as to how to connect modules of questions together. Fusion may not be appropriate for all situations, however. In our view, at least 100 respondents are needed to get a reasonable data fusion for a brand. Therefore, for high awareness or high incidence groups, the exercise could reduce the overall sample requirements, but for lower incidence groups it may do the opposite.

We also believe that survey modularization and module randomization has application even without data fusion. Respondents expressed a significant preference for the modularized survey approach because it gave them more control over their time and more options for how they complete surveys. In many surveys, not all questions need to be asked of all respondents. This process provides an elegant way to set target sample sizes for each piece of the study, thereby lowering data collection costs and reducing average interview length.

Based on the research we have done so far, we are intrigued by the promise that both survey chunking and data fusion hold, and we believe these, both individually and together, are topics worthy of further research and innovation.

For more information, click here to download the paper, “Modular Survey Design: A Proposal for Bite-Sized Chunks,” by Frank Kelly, Global Director, Lightspeed Research, Alex Johnson, Director Innovations Group, Kantar Operations, and Sherri Stevens, VP Global Innovations, Millward Brown .

- See more at: http://www.ls-gmi.com/future-of-online-research/an-appetite-for-bite-sized-chunks/#sthash.OZZc1ee6.dpuf

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