Monday, April 20, 2009

My Research Budget is Tight, but My Clients Still Want to Hear the Voice of the Consumer -- Think Omnibus Surveys

There’s no doubt that research managers are under increasing pressure to provide quality information and do so with a fraction of the previous year’s budget. According to’s 2009 Industry Survey, 2009 is the first in 20 years where overall research spending is expected to decline, and four out of five market research professionals expect their jobs to be more difficult in 2009, with an increasing need to provide more research insight under tighter budget constraints.

One fast and inexpensive method that a recent Quirk’s article (“Five Low-Budget Market Research Approaches,” Feb-09) mentions as a way to get reliable quantitative research results is by submitting questions into omnibus surveys (i.e., sharing the fielding and data processing cost of an entire survey with other client organizations). Omnibuses are typically conducted online or via phone among a representative group of respondents (e.g., general market consumers, small business decision makers, etc.), and clients are allotted a block of custom questions (usually 10 or fewer) that are dedicated to their particular research objectives. One of the drawbacks of many omnibuses is their do-it-yourself nature, in that you – the client – are typically responsible for designing questions, and typical deliverables include a set of raw data tables or a data file, with which you are responsible for analysis and reporting. There are some omnibus providers that offer analysis and reporting at additional cost, and a rare few (Accelerant Research included) who include those services as standard deliverables.

As always, omnibuses are great for things like sizing a particular population or as a supplement to a larger research initiative, but if you apply some creativity to omnibus research, you might be able to meet some research objectives that you previously thought were out of the question under your current budgetary constraints. Here are some examples:

  • Marketing or product concept testing – Most omnibuses allow you to include text or graphical stimulus or to split your sample into multiple “cells,” which could give you the opportunity to create a mini-monadic concept test. Granted, you probably wouldn’t want to test 12 versions of a new brand positioning concept, but the robust sample sizes of omnibus surveys would allow you to test a few different versions monadically.

  • Brand/product awareness tracking – If you can’t afford a full-blown awareness tracking study, then you may consider using an omnibus to ask the same set of key awareness questions on a quarterly basis as an alternative to give you the trending data you require.

  • Qualitative insights – If you’re unable to conduct in-depth interviews or focus groups, then asking open-ended questions in an omnibus and selecting verbatim “sound bites” may be an alternative to give you the unfiltered voice of customer that your internal business partners desire.

  • Feedback from lower incidence groups – Again, the large sample sizes of omnibus surveys (typically 1,000 or more for general consumers) gives you the opportunity to poll relatively low incidence groups. If you’re looking for feedback from a certain target consumer, who you already know makes up about 20% of the general population, then you could include a question to identify those consumers and cut your survey results by that particular group (giving you a solid sample size of roughly 200).

Think of an omnibus as a mini-custom research study. If a full-blown study is either too slow or too costly, but the internal demand for that information is still high, then consider boiling your information needs down to a small set of critical questions and submitting them to an omnibus survey.

For more information on Accelerant Research’s Acceler-PULSE™ omnibus surveys (conducted online among either general population consumers, mass affluent consumers, or small business decision makers), which include full questionnaire design, analysis, and reporting at no additional cost, please click here: