Rarely do U.S. government rulings impact the market research industry, but one recent change defines the future of our industry. Since 2014, several industry associations appealed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow marketing researchers the freedom to use auto-dialers to call mobile phones; however, the FCC recently implemented new regulations to expand the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prevents the use of robocallers on mobile phones even in the use of market research. By eliminating this outdated and increasingly costly method of data collection, the government got it right.
The Marketing Research Association (MRA) and CASRO were fighting to preserve the old guard, using auto-dialers to collect survey and opinion research through mobile phones. For me, the real issue here is an industry – our marketing research industry - that is fighting to protect an outdated way of doing business. With some coming out so strongly in defense of robocallers for mobile phones, we risk perpetuating the antiquated view many have of market research.
Moving in the Right Direction
Many in the research industry are still fighting to keep Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) alive; however, the FCC decision pushes marketing research in the right direction. This ruling puts the nail in the coffin of CATI; it makes it impossible to do cost effective research without the use of auto-dialers. And let’s face it, consumers do not like robocallers – not on their home phone and certainly not on their mobile phones. As of 2007, 72% of US consumers registered their phones for the Do Not Call list*.
Let’s look at the state of our industry: You can’t walk two feet at a conference without signage, discussion, seminars or sell sheets underscoring the importance of mobile first. And a mobile first strategy certainly doesn’t include the robocalls of market research yesteryear, when CATI was the latest ‘innovation.’ Smart phones afford us a nice way to collect market research information without the disturbance of calling on that device. Let’s take advantage of technology to move research into the 21st century.
Go Beyond the Device
The brand and advertising world continues to evolve at the speed of now, and as an industry we’re in grave danger if we don’t keep step. Lightspeed GMI does not believe as an industry that we should support CATI collection via mobile. How can we enhance the image of the industry? By creating mobile first surveys, we are meeting respondents on their devices, at their convenience.
The answer for researchers is right in front of us. Write surveys that are 15 minutes or less that consumers can complete on their mobile device screen. The average U.S. consumer uses their smartphone more than three hours per day. We live on these devices. If we want to speak to consumers, let’s speak to them where they live. We, at Lightspeed GMI, have been promoting mobile first for years now – it is critical in survey design. With a short, simple and convenient approach to data collection, mobile first offers panelists the opportunity to take surveys on the device of their choice whenever they want.
The world is changing, and the way consumers provide insights is evolving faster than any of us could have imagined. CATI had a nice run but is dying a slow death and this ruling is the final blow. The responsibility is on us to do everything we can to keep our industry alive and relevant by letting go of the past and embracing the future.
*According to the 2009 Economic Report of the President, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisors, the program has proved quite popular: as of 2007, according to one survey, 72 percent of Americans had registered on the list, and 77 percent of those say that it made a large difference in the number of telemarketing calls that they receive (another 14 percent report a small reduction in calls). Another survey, conducted less than a year after the Do Not Call list was implemented, found that people who registered for the list saw a reduction in telemarketing calls from an average of 30 calls per month to an average of six per month.