At the heart of market research is a consumer’s willingness to help your company. Consumers are the facet driving market research forward and determining whether your company fails or excels.

Whoever understands the customer best, wins.
– Mike Gospe

While consumer assistance is still a necessity for business success, the way in which consumers are willing to engage with questions and other information has changed. The average attention span is now eight seconds (less than a goldfish) and those with full-time jobs have less leisure time than ever. Patience, attention spans, and time have become a commodity.

And yet, many organizations are still sending lengthy surveys expecting audiences to devote forty-five minutes of their days to surveys.

This, among other things, is affecting not only the efficacy of market research in terms of the reports it’s creating, but also the success of the industry as a whole. Though the market research industry grew 2.1 percent during the last year, the top ten companies have experienced some decline in line with broader market pressures.

This article will address how to create better relationships with your consumers, more effective creative, and a better market research function by making some small changes to your survey.

First, let’s address how current market research efforts are negatively impacting consumers.

Why your market research isn’t working

You might be finding that A) your research is taking too long, B) you’re not yielding the results you hoped for, C) your projects are too expensive, or D) your research isn’t being used by other teams your organization: there are a number of possible culprits to these problems.

Survey length

If you’re working for free or have very little time it’s likely you’re not going to want to devote a large amount of it to something that doesn’t benefit you (unless you find it enjoyable – but more on that later). With this in mind, why torture your audience with an hour of questions?

Yes, you’ll probably get more answers out of the survey, but it’ll take a special kind of person to sit through an hour of questions and give genuine, accurate answers. And that type of person probably isn’t representative of your target consumer.

Survey monkey found that the more questions on your survey, the less time they’ll spend responding to each of the questions. In addition, they saw that the longer the survey was, the higher the abandon rate.


We know targeting all vegan millennials who like hip hop and wear tutus to work sounds like the perfect audience for your company, but the tutus, hip hop, and millennials are unnecessary categorizations. Don’t confuse the perfect customer with your target audience. This will often get you less expensive sample as well as data that’s more applicable to the people you want to convince to buy your product.

Changing these mistakes is easier said than done. There’s a lack of incentive from both insights departments and market research firms to change their behavior. The insights department at most organizations doesn’t want to pay for more surveys, so they lump as much extraneous data into one survey to get the greatest bang for their buck. Meanwhile, traditional market research companies are more interested in getting the business than the integrity of their work.

Here are some clear symptoms to help you determine if you need to make a change.

How is it impacting you?

Increasing cost

The cost to recruit new people to answer surveys for your market research is increasing or breaking your budget.  

Decreasing response rate

People are less likely to respond to a survey that will take them an hour. Your response rates will suffer, leaving outliers with more power.


Are your respondents filling out random answers or checking the multiple choice box for every question? While the problem is being solved by technology, this is so far only a band aide.


If your reports aren’t being used by your marketing team or whatever function they were designed for at your company, it’s likely you have an issue with your report’s quality or speed.

How can you fix it?

Unfortunately, in a lot of ways, these issues can’t be fixed unless there’s a change within the industry. Many research conferences are discussing how to solve this problem, yet there should also be a solution from an in-house insights perspective. Exacting change when most conceptions around your brand are based on a set of preexisting data that may no longer be applicable is no easy feat.

Here are a few things to consider when trying to change survey processes at your organization…

Shorter surveys

No one wants to fill out a survey for 45 minutes when they are getting paid peanuts. Instead we recommend the survey length be between 10 and 15 minutes. Try to be agnostic with questions and fit the question on one screen so the respondent doesn’t need to scroll and spend more time on that question.

This is easier than most people might think. There’s no longer a need to include extensive demographic information in your survey. As it is probably digital, that demographic information is often answerable without survey questions.

To test the accuracy, you can conduct a validation test on a sample of your survey before rolling it out fully.

Less costly tools

It’s tempting to pack all your survey questions and more into one super-long survey when a single survey is so costly. Rather than reaching your budget’s max and getting poor survey results, try a less expensive tool. Splitting the survey up will get you the same level of detail without the risk of high-abandon rates and inaccurate answers.

Gamified surveys

Another solution to help make your market research better is to make your surveys more entertaining.

How does a 10-mile hike in the rain carrying a 15kg rucksack sound? But what about a game of golf? 
Deborah Sleep, The Guardian

There is a theory that gamification helps improve response rates, and it’s supported through testing:

A question such as “describe yourself” yielded on average 2.4 descriptors and effectively 85% of respondents answered. When that question was adjusted to deliver the challenge of, “describe yourself in exactly seven words” the descriptors increased to 4.5 and the response rate rose to 98 percent.

Here are some other changes you can make that are ideal for optimizing your market research results and usage:

  • Use an automated or templated approach to increase the speed of your results.
  • Take an iterative approach to making creative and product decisions. With fast, cheap testing and shorter surveys you can test from ideation all the way through to your final creative piece.

Learn more

Implementing these strategies can help companies learn a lot more more about their consumer and adapt the way they interact with them.

For more on these approaches, and how they relate directly to company success, check out our enlightening case study with Hershey via the link here.

Robyn Patnode

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Robyn Patnode

Robyn Patnode brings her background and knowledge of online sampling to Zappistore as the Director of Sampling for the Americas. Robyn comes from 10 years at a leading global panel company. Her background includes research methodologies, sampling best practices and vendor management.

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