As a professional working in the market research space for over a decade, I’ve been witness to some incredible change. In fact, our industry has probably changed more in the last ten years than the thirty years prior to that! It’s no secret that change can be a blessing and a curse for the average market researcher. Discovering new techniques or gaining efficiencies can help you and your company reach new heights. You didn’t think it would be all good news though, did you?
The truth is that change can be your worst nightmare if not managed correctly.
New methods, sources and techniques can save you money and time which makes you a hero and helps your business grow. Conversely, new methods can get you fired and leave your remaining colleagues and clients in your wake of disaster. There is no better example of this sentiment than the infamous tracking study. I’ve conducted countless longitudinal studies over my tenure and I’ve literally seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. Running longitudinal research is like going to your favorite restaurant each month to buy the same burger on the same menu and expecting the same waiter. Nothing should change, right? Think again. If only life were that simple and predictable.
If you run longitudinal work at your firm, your primary goal should be to mitigate change among the variables you can control so that any natural changes in the data are indeed natural and not artificially generated by changes in methodology or sample design.
Sounds easy, right? Innovate's entire team has been in the industry since the inception of online research and we’ve worked with countless clients on managing as well as transitioning longitudinal studies. Our team has assembled some key tips when conducting this type of research. Take it with you and avoid the carnage.
- Know your source: ask your sample provider how their sample is tested, recruited and managed. The key is to understand the level of variability that is introduced from the methods they employ. Understanding the level of rigor and visibility they have regarding their panel procurement methods will literally make or break your study.
- Know your sample composition: ask your sample provider what means they employ to create balance among various demographics. Research has shown that recruitment channels can look different and impact your data. What is your sample provider doing to control for the attitudinal and behavioral differences observed in various source types?
- Know your sample frame: ask your sample provider how the sample frame is generated and balanced. Ask about the specific variables that are used for managing the sample outgo including demographics and panel metrics such as activity level and tenure.
- Know your sampling methods and procedures: ask your sample provider what methods are employed for each wave of the tracking study to generate stability e.g., frequency/timing of outbound sample sends, reminders, exclusions, etc.
- Parallel testing is your friend. In the event that you are transitioning your tracking study to a new provider, ask the sample firm to conduct side-by-side testing to ensure the sample is replicable to previous waves.
- Use proactive methods to create stability and replicability: due diligence is key. Never assume anything. You can mitigate unnatural shifts in the data by selecting a partner that recruits from a diverse, yet stable pool of recruitment channels.