Did Technovate deliver?

Conference review: Can the heir to NetEffects set research on the right track? Tim Macer reports from Cannes.

ESOMAR’s Technovate conference in Cannes attempted to broaden out the Web-based focus of the now defunct NetEffects conference series by presenting a triple-billing of CRM, technology and innovation in methodology.
It turned out to be an uneasy alliance, with a highly theoretical emphasis from both CRM and methodology, leaving an audience struggling to find those useful take-homes to justify three rather pleasant days on the French Riviera.
In the majority of the CRM presentations, including the event’s sole keynote, ‘Beyond CRM: will you survive’, from Claudia Imhoff of Intelligent Solutions, MR technology seemed once again relegated to the level of the plumbing. Indeed, this impressive keynote (not least because it was beamed live on a video link from the USA) pleaded eloquently for what the industry needs to do. But, like the majority of the other CRM papers, never truly ventured through the U-bend to share practical insight on how to merge research data and systems with corporate datamarts and knowledge-bases.
For the observant - and patient listener - there were some technological gems on the second day, and a well-supported exhibition room bursting with technology suppliers. But how many would return to a second Technovate was a frequent topic of conversation in the aisles.

Net Affects
Two Technovate papers provided a coda to that protracted NetEffects debate on the viability of Web-based research.
Pieter M Williams of CMA E-velop and Paul Oosterveld of Centrum for Marketing Analyses, both in the Netherlands, in ‘Two modalities, one answer’, presented findings from an experimental Web/CATI survey to evaluate modal differences in a controlled environment. The results sketched out several useful dos and don’ts when mixing modes either in cross-section or longitudinally.
The experimenters concluded that mixing CATI and web is viable and yields highly comparable results. There are slight observable differences between modes. Non-response tended to be higher in CATI. There were both longer and more complex verbatim responses on the web. With scaling tasks, there was greater variance on the web, but applying factor analysis to them, both web and CATI came up with identical results. In other words, there would be no difference to the inferences you would draw or the decisions you would take from either method, or from surveys combining both methods. They cautioned that the area where greatest variability enters is in the sampling method used, which tends to be very different between the two modes.

RAWI power
Coming up with a better, more random sampling method on the web has led Pete Comley,Virtual Surveys, and Ray Poynter, Europinion, to coin the term RAWI, for random web interviewing.
“2003 will be the year online research takes off in the EU,” claimed Poynter. “In the US, 20 per cent of research is online now and it is growing at a rate of 50 per cent a year. In the EU, it still only accounts for 1-2%.” He placed the blame on our innately conservative researchers who cling to the “misguided belief that what they are doing [in telephone and face to face interviews] is accurate”.

RAWI relies on using commercially sponsored pop-ups as an alternative to panels, which the presenters discredited for all but highly specialised topics. RAWI, they demonstrated, yielded the same answers to CATI, and on occasion, bettered it. Comley highlighted one potentially self-incriminating question about mobile phone usage at the wheel of a car, where, without the moderating effect of the interviewer, many more drivers admitted to this practice on RAWI than CATI. It may be 2003, but there is still some life in the debate about whether web interviewing works in Europe.

RU willing 2 particip8?
Short text messaging over mobile phone is the latest interviewing mode to be generating excitement, not least because of its natural bias towards the elusive under 25s. No less than three papers set out to explore this new frontier for research.
A joint paper from the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, and technology firm Wireless Opinion offered a text book example of new research technology solving an age-old riddle: does newspaper readership drop sufficiently during the summer holiday period for advertisers to claim a rate reduction.
To the newspaper’s immense satisfaction, a daily diary, delivered to 175 respondents in the Stockholm area using SMS text messaging, revealed that its readership figures fell only marginally from 46 per cent to 44 per cent even though readers were in many cases far away from home.
There was satisfaction with the methodology too among the panel recruited, with a 93% response rate at the start of the fieldwork, tailing off to between 76% and 80% after a month. “The process is very quick and the response is typically within two hours of sending the questions”, said Lena Vogelius from Wireless Opinion. “People also found it very easy to remember their daily readership.”
Mike Cooke, NOP Research Group, and Colin Strong, NOP Business, also noted the very rapid response for SMS survey in paper examining the issues of intrusiveness and acceptability of SMS as a research channel. Over a series of trial surveys to a specially recruited SMS-user panel, the average response was 36 per cent in less than one minute and 63 per cent within the first five minutes. However, recruiting the panel proved surprisingly difficult: some further research revealed that the intrusive nature of receiving text message, fear of spam, of the cost, and the very personal relationship people have with their mobile phones as the concerns.
Whereas Vogelius’s survey ran to six or more questions, Cooke and Strong initially restricted theirs to a rather limiting three questions. After achieving a 99% response rate for these, they increased to four and five, and consider more may be sustainable.

Six questions
Darren Noyce and Olaf Hoffman from SKOPOS presented findings from another SMS experimental research project, carried out in association with SPSS MR.
In this, they allowed recruited respondents a free choice between CATI, Web or SMS, in order to measure the difference between the modes. Reflecting the others’ findings, respondent willingness to use SMS was lower than the other modes, at 63%, opposed to 82% across all modes. Neither did they observe that response, taken overall, was faster, because the response ‘tail’ tended to be longer with SMS.
They also concluded that around six was the optimum number of questions for an SMS survey, and drew some interesting though largely predictable observations on the demographics of respondents more likely to participate in the three modes. Darren Noyce stated “We consider SMS good for instant short polls, and when respondents are away from home, but we don’t believe SMS will replace the other channels. For detail, CATI is better and for cost and speed, online surveys are better.”

Tim Macer's website is at www.meaning.uk.com

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, March 2003 , Issue 442.
© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.
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