Part 4: Realistic Expectations: Knowing the Market

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This is part four of a four-part series dedicated to specific screener writing strategies that will help to enhance screeners in order to maximize the quality respondents for a qualitative market research study. See Part 1: Maximize the Quality of Your Participants Part 2: Setting the Stage for Potential Flexibility, and Part 3: Things to Avoid or to Minimize the Use of...

After much deliberation between an end client and the moderator/research agency, a particular persona might be created to help capture the right description of the demographic they are looking to conduct focus groups with. In some cases, these personas don’t exist, and become what recruiters refer to as the “the needle in the hay-stack”. Either they are a niche market, small in population and extremely hard to reach, or they simply do not exist. We all want the findings to reflect the reality of the market, and the screener should too.

For example, Vancouver has the highest real estate prices in the country, combined with an extremely competitive job market. Therefore, it is very unlikely that someone between 18-25 years old will own their own home in the downtown Vancouver area and make over $100,000 per year. Knowing your audience is key so that the recruiting agency can actually find suitable respondents.

The example below is extracted from a screener. The respondents must purchase their health supplements at large grocery outlets.

Which of the following stores have you purchased, or would consider purchasing nutritional supplements and vitamins in any form? Choose up to 3.

  • Whole Foods (1)
  • Grocery Store (2)
  • Walmart/Target (3)
  • GNC or Health Food Store (4)
  • Online (5)
  • Health Club/Gym (6)
  • Convenience Store (7)
  • Drug Store (8)
  • Costco (9)
  • If ANY TWO of the following channels selected, then TERMINATE- (1),(4),(5)OR(6)

Given the demographic of Vancouver, where this study was conducted, most of the health supplements in the greater Vancouver area are sold at 1, 4, 5 and 6. 80% of respondents disqualified at this question because they chose 1, 4, 5 or 6. Therefore, the reality of the market must be taken into consideration, or else recruitment will be very difficult.

Knowing geographical areas when setting quotas is also imperative. There are many kilometers between Vancouver to Toronto, which means there will be a difference not only in the scenery, but also in the people and their lifestyle/habits. Marketing research agencies typically have studies that span the country, and hold focus groups in a few major cities for one study. Focus groups may fill quicker in one city compared to another, and the main reason for this is the diversity in respondents from those areas. For example, a research agency was looking to find people who drove trucks in the downtown areas of Calgary and Vancouver. Groups in Calgary filled quickly as many inhabitants drove trucks. Groups in Vancouver fell behind as many inhabitants of the downtown core either drove small cars, or didn’t drive at all. Small regional differences like these are important to note, because they can severely affect recruitment.

Even differences between city to city within the same province yield the same kind of predicaments. For example, a particular study required smart car users in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley. As it turned out, the majority of users were located in the downtown Vancouver area, and not outside the GVA. The habits of those living even across a bridge can differ significantly and knowing the market and geographical areas can help reduce issues like this.

Recruitment agencies want to fill studies with articulate respondents who qualify. Setting up the screener that maximizes the quality of participants, has potential for flexibility, avoid or minimizes the use of certain types of questions and is congruent with the market will result in a much more satisfactory outcome for all parties involved in the research study.