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[11 comments]

Google Looks to Revitalize Market Research

April 12, 2012

Believing quick, micro-surveys are less annoying than online ads, Google has quietly launched a new Google Consumer Surveys tool that it believes both monetizes online content and creates a "fast, accurate, and affordable" tool for gaining market research.

Under the four-step formula:

Brands come up with questions for consumers: Examples that Google offers: "Which version of my new logo will people like better? How much are dog owners willing to pay for an organic cotton leash?"

Google states, "We all have nagging questions about our own products, companies, and industries. Now it's easy get answers and make major decisions with your consumers' behavior and preferences in mind."

Brands can write their own survey questions or customize existing templates.

Consumers answer questions: People complete questions in order to access premium content (text, video, or apps). Google writes, "Opinions are valuable, so answering the question gives them near instant access to the page they want for free. They don't have to pull out a wallet or sign in and you gain insight into what people think."

Google said using one-question surveys results in higher response rates and more accurate answers. Multi-question surveys can be completed by asking people one question at a time.

Publishers (and Google) get paid as visitors answer: Brands can target survey questions toward the general U.S. population for $0.10 per response or opt for demographic targeting at $0.50 per response.

Brands attain data: For the paying brands, the payback is aggregated and analyzed data from a quality, random sample of the U.S. internet population with results coming back "as they come in, not days or weeks later within." Charts summarize responses and insights highlight differences in detail. Said Google, "Using the DoubleClick cookie and the respondent's IP address, Google Consumer Surveys infers demographic and geographic information for each response so you can easily segment by age, gender, location and more."

[Image: Google Consumer Surveys]

At launch, publisher partners include Pandora, The Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Daily News. Initial brand testers include Lucky Brand Jeans, Tumbk2, and King Arthur (baking products).

Some reviewers cited potential privacy concerns although Google insisted that the responses are anonymous and wouldn't be tied a person's Google account. A few seemed worried about the possible explosion of surveys hitting the market and their value coming from outside the more-expensive professional survey takers. But the majority of reviews were highly positive.

"Few consumers have a problem filling out short, anonymous surveys," wrote Adario Strange on PC Magazine. "And large companies absolutely live and die on the vital data that market research provides regarding emerging trends and current consumers tastes."

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:GOOG]

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: What do you see as the merits and potential drawbacks to Google Consumers Surveys? How open are consumers to filling out online surveys? What questions should brands and retailers have about the service?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What do you think of the potential of Google Consumers Surveys as a marketing research tool?

Comments:

Let's do more simplistic and poorly constructed surveys to help marketers make major decisions. Who, aside from Google, could possibly think this is a good idea?

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Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

I wouldn't worry about privacy. I would worry about reliability, validity and good direction. Remember the classic question developed by the non-researcher ... Is it true you stopped beating your wife?

No Virginia, not everybody can construct a question, much less a questionnaire, that will extract the information you need for the decision you are about to make. Google's new service could increase product failures at an even more staggering rate. And the proliferation of short surveys can further reduce respondent cooperation for well crafted initiatives.

I don't really see an upside, except for Google's new-found revenue stream.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

A variety of new mechanisms for market research have emerged as a result of consumer online browsing and social media. They will likely fill an important role as casual surveys with the benefits of low cost and convenience.

However, they are subject to the numerous sources of error inherent in such casually designed surveys. One only has to look at American Idol or other reality shows to see both the potential and risk of such "research."

For serious decisions, we need to do serious research that passes the standards of validity and reliability. It remains to be seen if Google can prove itself to meet those needs.

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Raymond D. Jones, Managing Director, Dechert-Hampe & Co.

The merit is that will be the revenue stream for Google.

I can see directional values gained from Google consumer surveys when compared to a complete lack of research, but the concept itself is flawed.

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Carlos Arámbula, Managing Partner, MarcasUSA LLC

First of all, this is a clever offering by Google to help content publishers monetize their content without pay walls. Let's not forget that is the core business that Google is in. "Give your content away, and let us put ads around it to monetize it for you."

Secondly, I don't buy into the comments that market research should be left in the hands of the chosen few, and not made available to the unwashed masses (as some of the early commenters seem to imply). That's the tired argument that comes out every time technology democratizes a business practice. Cheap printing presses, video production, and access to the internet haven't ruined society, and nor will extra voice of the customer tools.

Does anyone think the sole-proprietor of a retail store shouldn't ask his customers opinions without hiring a "market research specialist" to interpret the answers for him? Should he not extend those conversations to his potential customers?

This new offering from Google simple adds one more tool to the growing universe of self-service voice-of-the-customer tools. It won't replace every other form of market research to be sure, but it's surely welcome for some use-cases.

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Jason Goldberg, VP Commerce Strategy, Razorfish

Fulfillment companies have the best handle on consumer databases. If one is willing to pay the money a list of individuals willing to complete a survey can easily be squired. Depending on what you want to know or what you would like the findings to be these prices will vary. A better plan is live test marketing. This adds the work requirement but eliminates vast amounts of error.

'gjarnoldjr'

I think that as long as you keep the survey short, Google surveys can be a great tool to capture consumer sentiment.

Google has access to a very large consumer panel and could can provide more accurate results.

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Joe Nassour, Chief Technology Officer, RetailTactics

Great idea for Google; good for some research applications; mixed bag for consumers.

No, you wouldn't do a conjoint study here, but this could work well for some quick opinion gathering, (e.g., which logo/look do you like better?) or to validate results of your 'serious research' such as a conjoint study (e.g., intent to purchase Version A, or Version B). Brands/retailers should be able to understand the sampling frame and cell size limitations. Any research, including 'serious' research, can be misinterpreted or misused. One has only to recall New Coke, which passed taste tests with flying colors only to be roundly rejected in-market as a product devoid of the emotional cues that people fondly associated with Coca-Cola, to understand that 'serious' research can easily be misdirected and measure the wrong things.

For consumers, pop-up surveys could be mildly to seriously annoying depending on mood and search situation. If I'm doing a search under a severe time constraint and a pop-up survey won't let me see the page I'm seeking unless I first answer the short survey, I'm likely to give a not-very-thoughtful answer, or bounce from the page altogether. Also, I'd like the option of rewards OTHER than "we'll let you see the contents if you first answer our question" ... might encourage more thoughtful responses from people with a little more time on their hands.

Pamela Tournier, Co-founder, Focus: Productivity, Inc.

Surveys, online or offline, need to be simple, quick, and useful -- to both consumers and the marketer. As a market research firm that pioneered many of the leading innovations in online surveys, we believe a more in-depth analysis is appropriate and beneficial.

However, the Google model of capturing insights with one or two simple questions offers significant value to marketers. Their pricing model is very inexpensive at this point.

Phrased properly and then trended over time, one well-phrased question can prove to be enormously valuable. For example: "Do you plan to buy a car/truck in the next 6 months?" If you had the answer to that simple question, how would it impact your marketing, merchandising, operations, financial, floor planning, lending plans, etc?

Don't overlook this model. It is disruptive in nature. But, marketers are going to learn from it. Online surveys take out the enormous "interviewer bias," eliminate time-consuming telephone and diary survey versions that frustrate consumers, and deliver results in a more cost-efficient manner.

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Roger Saunders, Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

What a fundamentally...um...I'm searching for a more diplomatic word...but..."stupid idea" is the only thing that captures it. Another example of how far removed Google is from the real world.

So, if we pester consumers with tiny questions and only hear back from those who choose to respond, we're able to find the deep learning necessary to drive billions of dollars of business?

Google is full of dumb ideas. Glad their search revenue is doing well, because they don't seem to be able to make money any other way.

Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct

It's a clever idea. While surveys have been internet-ized in many ways (delivery by e-mail, collection on a web site, viewing and tabulating in web consoles, and distribution and promotion of results by the web and its online kin), the one area where surveying is still difficult and archaic is in recruiting subjects. Google touches a whole lot of people and in principle can address that problem very neatly.

I don't expect it to be a massive business for Google, but at the company seeks to continue its growth and diversify from its extreme revenue dependence on paid search, the company should focus on finding new ideas that are viable, defensible, and appropriate to Google's strengths. Here is one.

Tim Callan, CMO, SLI Systems

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