What has been buzzed about for quite some time became official last week when Google announced its new Consumer Surveys tool. Google will now enable companies to field quick and simple surveys at a very low cost, enable participating publishers a new means of monetizing their premium content, and enable online users to gain access to that premium content via their survey participation rather than by paying a fee.
Precisely how Google’s decision to move deeper into the market research space will influence our industry remains to be seen, but it is clear that certain facets of the research sector will be impacted faster and more deeply than others. The Google Consumer Surveys model offers only one question at a time, so clearly it will not serve companies seeking comprehensive, detailed research solutions. Yet for those companies utilizing DIY solutions such as SurveyMonkey®, Google’s $0.10-0.50 per complete price is going to be very appealing, and it may well cause a major shift among the self-serve segment of the industry – particularly for low-incidence or other well-defined populations.
Also greatly impacted may be the lower cost panel providers; for who is able to compete with Google in terms of sample size? And while many within market research have long argued that all panels bring some form of bias to their data sets, Google is able to rightfully claim the largest and most diverse group of potential respondents, period. What is not yet clear is how much visibility Google Consumer Surveys customers will have into the sample composition, so at least in the short term the panel companies can leverage that advantage.
Just as the core MR industry is subjected to scrutiny regarding whether survey respondents are unique and truthful, the accuracy of the Google Consumer Surveys data may be called into question as well; once users realize they can gain free access to premium content that they used to pay for, and with no customary cash or other incentive, they may not take the survey as seriously as one in which such incentives are present. Google will likely counter that the one-question-only model addresses this potential issue – it is only one quick question after all, and free access to desirable content is a great incentive to answer thoughtfully.
Google’s research methodology is not new, but rather a mirror of a growing trend among tech companies that are offering up (in this case, on behalf of others) a single, salient question or greatly streamlined survey. With mobile device use representing an increasingly large percentage of the respondent base, and the social media generation more attuned to giving their input in the form of chatter, the one-question survey is likely to become a staple of ongoing tracking for many types of surveys going forward. The complexity of the solution lies within the sampling framework, the marrying of data sets, and the backend analysis – all of which Google is in good stead to offer.
This model is not limited to Google, of course. Our industry has been offered similar presentations by Facebook, the now-diminished MySpace, and other major Internet players over the recent past. What is clear is that he who holds the data is no longer the market research industry, and that monetization models for search engine, advertising, social, and other types of data will increasingly impact our industry and business practices in the future.