Surveying the Consumer Survey Landscape

Following the launch of Google Consumer Surveys, Simi Dhawan offers her thoughts on this new way of gauging consumer opinion

Every month, here at B2B International, we hold a working Lunch & Learn meeting for all executives. This serves as a sort of groupthink discussion into ways of advancing the business, whilst raising collective awareness of hot topics (think ‘Big Data’ or ‘Mobile Research’).

Last month, having just launched our B2C arm ‘Deep See’, it was not surprising that the recent commence of Google’s Consumer Surveys tool cropped up. Similar to ads, a business pays Google in order to construct a self-designed short survey that reaches consumer audiences by being embedded within publisher sites (e.g. Adweek) with access to select consumers/readers, who can be targeted accordingly. Whilst readers browse articles, a short survey question will pop up and readers are then introduced with the trade-off between answering the question (taking a few seconds of their time) in return for gaining access to the premium content they are seeking. Publishers then receive a percentage of what Google charges the business who is commissioning the research – a ‘win-win’ money-making model.

Figure 1: Google Consumer Surveys Homepage –

Whilst one reader, in response to James Verrinder’s article about the tool within Research Live magazine, exclaimed:

‘I think everyone in the industry just peed their pants,’

this is not entirely true. Whilst any new (and mass) means of data collection does of course stir up a gossip frenzy, it does not mean that we are cashing in our chips or drawing up a panic-ridden contingency career plan just yet.

In truth, I admire Google for recognising this opportunity, which looks as though it could potentially provide a more cost-efficient alternative for smaller businesses with limited resources from which to commission what might otherwise be a full-scale and detailed research programme. However, whilst it is well suited to short, quantitative surveys (more comparable to a ‘dip your toe in the water’ polling survey), this type of research is not without limitations…..and more specifically, it is of little current value for the B2B researcher (as its name implies).

Whilst Consumer Surveys is able to target respondents based on basic demographics i.e. age, gender and census region, it can go no further than this. Moreover, if the total survey length is 3 short questions, then another limitation of the tool is that each question is actually answered by a different person, rather than allowing a single individual to complete all of the questions (which places the validity of any cross-analysis into question). More than this, there are time restrictions. Should you need the survey completing within a certain timeframe then this option may need careful consideration as it is directly related to many factors and, as such, difficult to predict (e.g. from the sensitivity of questions and the screening criteria to publisher site content and competing surveys in existence at the time).

However, whilst understanding these limitations might push our noses back into joint and release us from any emotional whiplash incurred from the initial revelation of Google’s move into the market research industry, one point worth noting is that this will not be the only application Google launches in this space – and the likelihood is that this will cause a ripple in terms of sparking others to think of new, innovative measures to harness insight from ‘Big Data’.

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