You don’t need another researcher to tell you that shorter surveys yield better quality data. What you probably do need is a researcher offering you solutions to the problem of how to get all the data you need while trimming back survey length. Let’s consider a fresh approach to this problem specifically in segmentation research.
Inspired by a set of ingoing hypotheses, we seek to artfully design the segmentation survey and analytical approach to address the specific goals and business processes you need to influence. To be truly actionable, we must first craft the segments, and then further profile the segments in gloriously rich detail to help you size, prioritize and target them. Of course, we’ll bring the segments “to life” so that you and your agencies can get to know these targets as well as friends and family members.
Given such a tall order, it’s no surprise that segmentation surveys tend to be long…really long. Given the low-cost of web-based data collection, it’s been pretty easy to afford them. And, since field report summary tables have insulated us all from the psychological pain of the respondents, it’s been easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re getting thoughtful answers from engaged respondents. With attention spans getting shorter and screen sizes getting smaller, it’s harder than ever to get a normal human being to answer our long batteries of questions.
It’s time for us to reframe the problem and the opportunity. While we do need a vast data profile for segmenting, we don’t need all that data from the same respondent; we’re trying to understand groups, not individuals…we can sample those groups in separate surveys. Sure, there is some advantage to a single-source profile that has all information self-reported from the same person, but this advantage is dwarfed by the disadvantages of non-response bias and survey fatigue from overly long surveys. Of course, you would like to have a central repository with all of the knowledge about your key market segments, but there is no reason you can’t consolidate the information from multiple phases/sources into one place.
I think it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to the good old days of highly targeted, bite-size research phases, that each is optimized to the information objectives and together build a robust and actionable profile of your target segments. And the good news is that modern digital technology (appending of third party digital behavioral data… that belongs to them as individuals or ascribed to their digital devices) has expanded the array and actionability of the quantitative profiling without even asking the questions! It has also expanded the power of more qualitative sources such as deep listening of curated social media and online blogging.
Let’s embrace the idea of profiling your custom market segments the same way you would demographic or brand buyer groups…by collecting information from various sources in bite-size pieces, captured in rapid, coordinated succession…a multi-course meal from a gourmet chef is far more satisfying (and better suited to driving your company’s strategy for the next 3-10 years) than an all-u-can-eat buffet.