Relics of the Phone Age
May 25, 2015
During the latter half of the 20th Century the residential landline telephone became the gold standard for conducting quantitative consumer market research. The home phone was very nearly ubiquitous in the US and many consumers were willing to cooperate with interviewers. But, as the millennium approached, caller ID and cell phones interrupted both the depth of the sample frame provided by residential landline phones and the efficiency observed in using it.
Cell phones have already replaced residential landline phones as the new ubiquitous device. The Pew Research Center puts cell phone penetration over 90% in the US – and over 97% among those under under 45. The cell phone is now the device that simply everyone has. Increasingly that device is a smartphone: the latest Pew data puts smartphone penetration at 64% overall and over 80% among adults 18-49 … and climbing every day.
Meanwhile, the CDC reports that a strong majority of adults 18-44 are cellphone only now … and this number also grows daily. Since the bulk of calls to landlines today are telemarketing calls (despite the best efforts of Do Not Call lists), the huge majority of those who still have a landline use caller ID to screen all of their calls, making it even harder to reach consumers via residential landline phones.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits call centers from using their autodialing systems to call cell phones. Even when call center agents are paid to manually dial cell phone numbers (dramatically increasing already high costs), many consumers object to the contact. Moreover, research calls to consumer cell phones often find consumers on the go and even less willing to participate. As cooperation on residential landline telephones has plummeted, vendors are asking station clients to accept smaller samples, often rolling together data from half samples collected weeks apart.
The answer, of course, is to “hang up the phone” as a tool in retrieving consumer opinions. With access to the Internet far more ubiquitous than residential landline telephones, we can now find more qualified, willing participants online than on the phone. And online methodology offers a number of significant advantages compared to telephone:
- Respondents can be compensated easily for their participation, making them more likely to fall within the psychographic that participates with Nielsen Audio ratings systems.
- The absence of an interviewer sitting between the questionnaire and the respondent reduces errors in recording opinions, makes interviews quicker and allows respondents to answer open-ended questions more thoroughly.
- With the interview in front of the respondent, artwork, video and other visual elements are easily tested.
- Instead of interrupting the lives of potential respondents when they’re most likely to be home, i.e., dinnertime, respondents participate in the study when it’s convenient for them.
- With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, respondents also can participate wherever it’s convenient for them.
- Rather than saddling consumers with the need to participate this moment on the phone while they wanted to do something else, online interviewing allows consumers to participate when and where they feel comfortable, meaning we’re more likely to get their full attention and honest opinions.
Sample selection remains a critical factor in conducting research online. Even a sample of tens of thousands of respondents improperly gathered from consumers opting in via station outreach or station database or crowdsourcing can result in a biased, potentially misleading study. These practices have unfairly tarnished the reputation of conducting studies online.
Naturally, NuVoodoo refrains from these shortcuts, using only passive, properly-sourced, properly-screened respondents, because we’re researchers who do real representative research. Our staff has been comparing online interviewing with telephone interviewing for years. We’ve had the opportunity to run parallel studies and simply have more experience in the space. It’s the only way we conduct research at NuVoodoo. We’ve conducted thousands of studies and hundreds of thousands of interviews online.
Or, would you prefer we try to call you at home tonight at dinnertime?