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The Death of Surveys?

death of surveys

Innovation leaders are under immense pressure to generate new revenue and profit. Because risk is high for new-to-company and new-to-world products, robust business cases with hard facts and data are the expectation.

One of the most common tools used to validate ideas is a survey. It is what we know and what many of us were trained to do. Increasingly, however, surveys are the wrong tool. Here’s why:

  • Surveys only quantify four things: perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes. They do not measure behavior.
  • Opinion used to be closely correlated to behavior. Not anymore. A common metric to evaluate the demand for product concepts is “purchase intent.” In some product categories, the correlation between purchase intent and actual behavior is only 0.1.
  • Recent developments in brain science show that most people are terrible at evaluating 2D written concepts. In fact, 75% of the U.S. adult population are sensory processors—that is, to fully grasp an idea they must touch it, taste it, smell it, hear it, and see it. That’s hard to do in a survey!

So, what do we do about it? The future is doing VOC in context. Observe your target audience: virtual is better than nothing at all. Co-create with them and involve them in the design of your ideas. Talk to them face-to-face and have them “play around” with prototypes. Do more field tests. The quality of the encounter is more important than the quantity.

Use realistic tools to gauge demand. In lieu of surveys, put concepts on your own e-commerce platform, or use an e-commerce simulator. We are finding that these tools are much better at predicting what people will buy.

Surveys will have a place in the toolkit but consider new tools that allow for the capture of voice and video inside surveys. Populate your business case with charts and graphs, but also include videos of customers expressing enthusiasm (or not!) for your ideas. In my experience, that testimonial will be the most memorable part of your pitch.

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