Views from overseas. Privacy protection and perceived value – key participation drivers?

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People’s willingness to share data with researchers is the fundamental raw material that fuels the market research industry. However, some indicators, like decreasing response rates to surveys, seem to indicate that this willingness is progressively decreasing. Several problems are often mentioned to explain this phenomenon: for instance, multiplication of the requests of sharing information to the individuals; privacy issues, lack of trust in the institutions doing the research; lack of time or lack of interest.

In a survey implemented in September 2016 in Spain, around 1,400 panelists of the Netquest online access panel were asked to what extent they think that market research benefits or not to a) themselves, b) consumers, c) business, and d) citizens/society. Figure 1 shows the distributions for each of the four questions.

53.8% of the panelists think that market research benefits completely to business, versus only 14.9% that think that it benefits completely to consumers, 10.2% to citizens, and 9.1% to themselves. On the other hand, if we consider the category “does not benefit at all”, the higher percentage is found for “yourself” and the lower for “business”. This clearly suggests that people do not see much benefits from market research for themselves, but more for business, which can be one of the reasons why they are then less willing to share their data. It is also interesting to notice that the higher proportion of “don’t know” is found for the question asking about “yourself”, whereas respondents normally have more information about themselves than about other entities.

These same panelists were also asked about their hypothetical willingness to share different types of data, besides the traditional survey data (e.g. sharing measures of physical activity from an accelerometer through a smartphone or sharing pictures of products bought). In particular, they were asked the following: “If you received 30 points in exchange, would you accept to install an application on your PC/smartphone that registers the URLs of the websites you visit and reports this (passively) with Netquest”. Figure 2 gives the proportions of participants who selected each response category.

The level of acceptance is overall quite low: only around 10% said they will accept it for sure, whereas around 60% said they won’t for sure. The acceptance is very similar for both PCs and smartphones. In order to understand the reasons for acceptance or non-acceptance, the panelists were asked as follow up an open question about why they chose these answers to the questions. Most answers showed that privacy/security and trust are the main issues, both for people that would accept and for those who wouldn’t.

These findings should set a priority for the market research industry: if people do not perceive a direct benefit from participating in market research studies and they are increasingly concerned about privacy, why should they share their data? A big effort should be made to differentiate market research companies from those that gather information for pure commercial purposes, providing participants with strong evidence regarding how their data is going to be protected. In addition, we need to find ways to demonstrate to the participants that their participation has benefits not only for business, or we will probably have to increase direct rewards in exchange of consumers’ data.

Carlos Ochoa,Marketing and Innovation Director, Netquest Melanie RevillaPhD, RECSM – Researcher, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Carlos_Ochoa Melanie_Revilla
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The Australian Market & Social Research Society Limited (AMSRS) is a not-for-profit professional membership body of over 2,000 market and social research professionals who are dedicated to increasing the standard and understanding of market and social research in Australia. The Society assists members to develop their careers by heightening professional standards and ethics in the fields of market and social research.

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