Navigating data quality challenges: selecting the right data collection partners

Chris Atkins

In the research industry, there is often a clamour to try the latest technology – a fascination with the shiny and the new. We often want to be seen using the newest technology, even when it may not necessarily solve the problem at hand. This trend is evident now more than ever with the surge in AI development. While we should remain ambitious in our drive for innovation, we must also recognise the value that robust market research delivers for clients: research carried out rigorously, using robust and representative samples. As we have seen with the adoption of big data, new technologies should complement rather than replace traditional research methods. 

Technology is an enabler, not the be-all-end-all. 

Technology is often seen as a tool to solve all problems. So, if there’s an issue with data quality, technology can magically fix this. As an industry, we need to be careful not to overly emphasize what technology alone can achieve. Andrew Tenzer of Burst Your Bubble, discussed in Marketingweek the need to scale back our “techno optimism” in the marketing sector, and I think this sentiment equally applies to the research industry. Instead, we need to focus on the fundamental principles of the research industry, including:

  • Developing a well-constructed and considered questionnaire that doesn’t introduce bias and allows respondents to truly give their views.
  • Prioritising the value of the respondent by rewarding them fairly for their time and opinions.
  • Ensuring robust research samples are nationally representative so that often unheard voices are included in research samples.
  • An experienced and trusted team, from research experts designing the questionnaire, through to data collection specialists skilled in sampling, quota management, and data cleaning and processing.

The latest technology innovations can then be used to support and enhance well-grounded research, for example we utilise AI to unlock deeper insights.

Finding the right research partner 

If you have experienced poor-quality research data in the last 12 months – be that data you can’t quite trust, signs of respondents not paying attention, or concerns that bots or fraudulent respondents have formed part of your data set – ask yourself, what was the decision-making process for selecting the data collection partner or panel partner? Did you opt for the most cost-effective supplier? Or did you base your decision on a partner that prioritises data quality?

With 17 years of experience in the online research industry, I’ve witnessed the evolution from justifying why online research was robust and reliable in the early days of online surveys, to a race to the bottom on cost over the last 10 years. What I believe our industry needs now is the exact opposite – a race upwards, focussed on data quality and representation in research samples. Yes, this may mean a potential rise in prices, but with it should also mean an increase in data quality, trust in data and trust in research.

The crucial role of market research in decision-making 

Market research should be designed to de-risk decisions. That means, when businesses and organisations are looking to make key business decisions, they should be able to use research to reduce the risk of getting these decisions wrong by basing them on sound insights delivered through robust and reliable market research. Does that sometimes take time? Yes. But is it something worth paying for? Absolutely. 

Clearly, there are instances where quick research is required, where a “good enough” guide is more important than a “perfect” guide. However, this shouldn’t also mean that the research is full of poor-quality data or bots that make the “good enough” guide meaningless.

I am incredibly proud to work in the market research industry and to lead Yonder Data Solutions, a data collection and panel company that is reassuringly committed to data quality, places respondents at the heart of what we do and who values their time and opinions. We blend the best of automated and manual checks to provide the best quality data for our clients. Our team of experts understands the importance of getting things right, focussing on the process, and is trusted to carry out fieldwork and data collection by the likes of The Premier League, NATO, Amazon, and the BBC. 

If you have experienced data quality concerns over the last 12 months, we would love to talk to you about how we can protect you from those challenges and restore your faith in the quality of good quality market research data.

If you’d like to discover more, get in touch with Chris Atkins, our Managing Director: