And the Google Consumer Survey Says…

Communispace Researcher examines the benefits and trade-offs of Google Consumer Surveys

People love surveys.

Ironically, I don’t have any hard data to back up this claim, but you need look no further than our presidential elections, when, for a few months every four years, the nation goes poll-watching-crazy and terms like “margin of error” and “respondent bias” get tossed around in casual conversation.  Or witness Family Feud, one of the most successful American game shows in history, spanning five decades, six hosts, and counting. As a research professional, it’s my job to ask questions, but it’s clear that this basic curiosity — to seek out and quantify the opinions of others — lives in all of us.

However, until recently, many small and medium-sized businesses were as helpless as contestants on the Feud, throwing out a guess and hoping that their instincts were confirmed by what the survey (or, in this case, the consumer’s wallet) said. Enter Google Consumer Surveys. At 10¢ per response for a nationally representative sample, GCS simply opens up consumer research to a world of businesses that, until now, have been flying by the seat of their pants.

As Paul McDonald, Product Manager at GCS, explained to Research Access last year, Google didn’t necessarily have this market in mind for their tool. “What we’ve seen is that the small and medium-sized businesses are really using this in a way that we didn’t expect. They’re running different types of questions, and trying to solve real business needs … And they’re … able to have real data-driven business decisions instead of going off of their gut…”

Though news of a survey offering from Google may cause panic among some in the research world, at Communispace, we prefer to view GCS as a tool for democracy, not tyranny. As evangelists of consumer collaboration, we think any solution that allows more brands to listen to and involve their customers in the decision-making process qualifies as a positive step forward.

And what makes GCS such a game changer is not just that it’s cheap or that it’s fast (which it is); it’s also self-service. You don’t need a team of marketers and analysts in order to run a couple of concept tests. Google guides you through the survey creation process step-by-step, and then provides all of the data, along with some nice charting, cross-tab and significance testing features, on the back end.

So, before rushing to judgment, we thought we’d take a closer look and see what all the fuss is about. We used GCS to conduct some research of our own, fielding a range of questions to diverse audiences and imagining ways in which we might use Google surveys to complement our own, more in-depth offering, as well as to provide additional value for our clients.

In a recent GreenBook Blog post, I shared some of our overall impressions of the tool, including:

  • The Good: speed, simplicity, reporting
  • The Not-As-Good: question types, character and answer limits
  • The Good Enough: inferred demographics

Check it out, and be sure to share your own thoughts, experiences and ideas for unique and innovative uses of GCS. For our part, we will continue to use GCS, both for proprietary research and in conjunction with our online communities.

Love it or hate it, thanks to GCS, more businesses can now stop the guessing games and go to market armed with real consumer feedback. Now, that’s what I call a “Good answer!”

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