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The ATU Dilemma: Can Your Quant Survey Questions Remain Clean?
By Caleb Costa

On occasion I get asked: what could I expect to get from a microsurvey?

The answer is simple, a lot more than you think. How about insuring the rest of your primary research remains focused and well designed to start. Let me illustrate with a very common example of how introducing real-time microsurveys can enable research to move further away from the most common problem of scope creep—the ATU.

Consider the ATU (Awareness, Trial, Use) workflow—a herculean endeavor, not only from a time perspective but an operational and budgetary perspective as well. After the RFP process and selection of a vendor, a well-designed ATU is put forth for the brand. Now inevitably—despite the best-laid plans—marketing or some other vested stakeholder comes up with a question that may not have been envisioned or included in the ATU that is now in progress. The market researcher, insight, and analytics teams are there to help try and answer the question.

To address this unforeseen questions the researchers have a few options. They can:

  1. Explore if the question can be answered using secondary data.
  2. Check if the question was asked in a prior wave of the ATU—which means contacting the vendor, waiting, often, weeks for analysis and response. Then weighing potential approaches to the answer:
    • Assessing if they asked it the right way in the previous ATU.
    • Evaluating if it’s possible to use multiple questions to triangulate a reasonable answer.
    • Considering the timeliness of the data—is it still relevant?
  3. Determining if the timing of the next round of the ATU will work and if the question could be added to the next wave.

In addition to the unforeseen questions, the basic design process of an ATU invariably ensures it will be longer than intended, thus compromising survey quality. Here is where things tend to spiral. Researchers often try to predict the kinds of questions that will be asked by other internal stakeholders and so the clean, 25-minute ATU grows to 30 then 40 even 50 minutes in length, resulting in what some call the database survey. Try keeping someone’s attention—even with something they like to do—for 50 minutes.

There are a host of reasons that market researchers should begin to question the quality of the data collected in a 50-minute survey, especially when it was originally designed to take half that length of time. With mounting research demonstrating the decline in respondent attention spans over long periods of time, as well as technology capabilities evolving our ability to procure necessary, in-the-moment feedback, the solution is ready made. Leave the well-designed, 25-minute ATU alone and when marketing or any other stakeholder has a question or two, use a real-time market research option that gets you the answer from, often, the very same (target-list driven) respondents that complete the ATU. Only now you can choose to receive the exact information you want and how you want it in hours rather than weeks or months.

Offsetting ATUs is just one example of a microsurvey answering the insight call. But there are many more ways to deliver insights using micro research capabilities and get critical answers in the moment.

For more information on real time microsurveys, visit InCrowd online or call us at 617-934-1600.

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