Marketers should be aware of a new service recently launched by Google that offers a different method for conducting useful online research. The new Google Consumer Surveys service presents research questions prior to Internet users gaining access to certain content found on affiliated websites. For example, a magazine website may initially block access to an article by presenting a research question. When exposed to this “surveywall” users can then choose whether to answer the question before they are given access to the content. (For websites erecting the surveywall, they benefit by receiving payment for each completed response.)
For marketers seeking respondent information, the cost for using the service is relatively low (as low as 10 cents per response). However, the real benefit with this tool is the access it offers to a large number of respondents in a relatively short period of time. The key to getting strong response rates appears to be with the incentive offered to the participants, namely access to online content. According to Google, the presentation of a survey question to gain access to wanted content results in significantly higher response rates than can be achieved with other methods.
While initial indications suggest Google Consumer Surveys offers significant advantages for conducting online research, calling this a survey tool may be stretch, at least from a marketing perspective. It is probably better described as a polling tool. The Google Consumer Surveys is not intended to serve as an extended questionnaire. Instead, this tool is designed to ask customers only one or two specific questions. The ramifications for this are important to understand. Marketers cannot use this tool for multi-item questions and have very limited ability to follow up a respondent’s comments. Consequently, it will not work if a marketer is seeking to gain deep insight into customers’ feelings or behavior. (It should be noted, Google does offer another option for this within its Google Docs, where multi-item questionnaires can be completed. However, unlike Google Consumer Surveys, the marketer will have to recruit their own respondents when using the Google Docs questionnaire.)
But, the fact it is not a full-blown survey instrument does not mean it is not useful. Marketers can find this to be a tool that will help prepare for a more in-depth survey. For instance, a marketer may not be totally sure who consumers believe are the marketer’s key competitors. The marketer can use the Google Consumer Surveys to help identify the competition and then included these within questions appearing in a more detailed survey.
In terms of its scientific value as a research tool, Google suggests the results obtained from this survey approach are on par, if not better, than what is obtained with more expensive and time consuming online survey methods. They also suggest this tool will “approximate” random sampling, which is an important requirement for conducting reliable and valid research.
Additionally, Google claims the service offers segmentation opportunity by using a method that can “infer” a respondent’s geographic location, gender and age. For more details on the research value of this tool, the Google folks offer a comparison of this tool to other research methods.
Despite its limitations in not being a full-fledged survey tool, Google Consumer Survey appears to be a nice addition for conducting marketing research and is something marketers of all types should investigate.