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Has your offline tracker gone 'off-track' during this lockdown?

01 June 2020

Location: South Africa

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Since the inception of market research, agencies, marketers and brand managers have relied on brand trackers to measure brand and competitor performance.
The recent global pandemic has thrown many trackers into disarray, as offline data collection methodologies have ground to abrupt halts. Naturally, this has caused many users to consider online methodologies - some for the first time.

We, at Borderless Access, strongly believe that digital research solutions and data collection is not just the future of market research but true for today as well, and is the key to business sustainability. However, we caution that it is important to use online research for the right reasons and not simply turn to it as a knee jerk reaction to a crisis.

In deciding whether your tracker is a candidate for moving to online research, we suggest you consider the following questions:

Why did you choose offline in the first place?

When you initially set up your tracker, offline was presumably chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, online research was (and is still) fairly under-utilised in many markets across the globe, especially markets in the MEA region, such as South Africa, Nigeria, UAE, KSA, with many users preferring the tradition and familiarity of offline.

Offline research, although cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive, has traditionally offered a high engagement rate with respondents, and a depth of insights that online capabilities have not been ‘perceived’ to match - a common myth.

Could online meet the needs of your tracker?

Africa as a continent lags dramatically behind the rest of the world in its embrace of digital online research. In reality, the incidence of smartphone access, coupled with the (pre-Covid-19) logistical challenges of travel around the continent, makes it fertile ground for online and mobile data collection methodology.

Online data collection has been misconstrued to be a data-poor version of offline, particularly in Africa. However, when conducted carefully and with the right partners, it can match and even surpass offline methodologies in terms of depth, accuracy and speed of results.

How can online surpass traditional tracking methodologies?

While we believe strongly in online methodologies, the question of whether to transition each tracker needs to be considered individually. We have years of experience in transitioning research from offline to online and will always uphold what is best for each piece of research rather than blindly recommending online.

However, there are some generic benefits to online methodologies that are worth noting when considering moving your tracker in that direction:
  • In almost every case, accuracy is enhanced through almost real-time tracking, as is evident in the case study we conducted with Unilever, where respondents recorded their out-of-home snacking consumption to a much more accurate degree than could ever be achieved via ‘after the fact’ surveys.
  • Results are iterative and adaptive, allowing users to learn from respondents and constantly ensure that trackers remain relevant and future-proof.
  • Data collection is more flexible, giving the ability to include additional studies or questions into ongoing trackers, as required.
  • Using pre-profiled panels allows us to reach the right respondents the first time, eradicating wasted time, and enhancing the quality and turnaround time of responses.
  • Within appropriate categories, online methodologies offer the ability to overlay geolocation data, product scanning ability, and photographic images, thereby hugely enhancing research possibilities and depth of data.

How will the data change?

It is not possible to change research methodologies without seeing some step change in data. Borderless Access will do everything possible to ensure that the results remain as reflective and comparable as possible. However, moving to a different sample with different respondents might encompass an unavoidable change in data, which, in our experience has usually turned out to be positive than negative, resulting in much more accurate data and actionable insights.

Given that the world is currently undergoing an almost irreversible change and that everyone (consumers and brands alike) are embracing the digital way more than ever now, it is arguably one of the best times for trackers to embark on a single necessary step change. Making the switch to online will safety-guard users against having to deal with further step changes as people adapt to this new normal by continuing to work from home; or in a worst-case scenario, readiness for such unprecedented eventualities.

How will it affect questionnaires and sample designs?

A major change in order to transition to online methodologies is that questionnaires and sample designs will be rationalised and simplified. While this may initially sound concerning, we have learned through years of experience that it is almost always in the best interest of the research to do this.

Due to how face-to-face research has traditionally been conducted, both questionnaires and sample designs have typically been more stratified than necessary, resulting in cumbersome results.

We will work closely with you to ensure that no key metrics or relevant data is lost. Most users who transition end up delighted to have streamlined and consolidated their trackers, as part of this process.

Why not simply switch to CATI methodologies in the short term?

While some users of trackers are considering switching to CATI methodologies as a short-term solution, we don’t recommend this as an optimal strategy.

It is certainly more cost-effective and, like online research, can be conducted during this current crisis. However CATI respondents typically show a much lower engagement rate and are prone to provide a less attentive response than online do, and using this methodology only, has the potential to lose depth of data resulting in the poor quality of data and insights.

Further, as already noted, we strongly recommend making a single change to a methodology that can last into the future, as opposed to looking for short-term solutions to the current situation.

Is it time to reinvent your tracker?

Leveraging online digital methodologies is certainly the future of research and most trackers will be significantly enhanced by moving them to online data collection methodology. This move will provide users with increased cost-efficiency, reach, and accuracy, resulting in a higher quality of data and insights that are more actionable than ever before.

Contact us to discuss how your tracker can successfully be transitioned online