Five common market research pitfalls (and how to avoid them)
December 5th, 2022, YouGov

Five common market research pitfalls (and how to avoid them)

It has never been easier to run research amongst consumers. While research companies once relied on telephone surveys and face-to-face data capture, online research is now common. What’s more, recent years have also seen a number of self-service tools launch – such as YouGov Surveys: Self-serve – allowing brands to ask questions directly and get their hands on quality data when and where they need it.

Sounds good, right? However, we often see companies falling into a number of common traps and failing to get the most out of their self-service research projects. The good news is that many issues are easily avoidable with good planning and a clear strategy.

So, let’s take a look at five common research pitfalls and how those working in the gambling industry can avoid them.

Pitfall 1: Not knowing what you want to find out

With so much data at our fingertips, it’s maybe no surprise that many people fall into the trap of failing to focus in on exactly what they want to know. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet, there’s simply too much choice.

This lack of focus often leads to vague questions – think: ‘what do consumers think of gambling?’. And the problem with vague questions is that you’re likely to get vague answers which lack usable insights.

Instead, it’s better to focus in on something a bit more specific – like focusing on the views of those who regularly gamble or the general public’s views towards online adverts for casinos. This way, you will start your research off with a clear sense of direction and purpose, making the other stages much easier – and making your results more useful.

Pitfall 2: Asking bad questions

It may sound simple, but good research rests on good questions as they get good (and accurate) answers. Bad questions get bad results – or might even put off respondents from engaging with, or taking part in, your survey.

Getting the right question can be tricky, but luckily there are some top tips that can really help:

  • Only ask one question at a time. A lot of the time people will try and cram two or three questions into one, making it complicated and often impossible to answer
  • If you’re asking multiple choice questions, make sure that the answer options are balanced and representative of a range of opinions. For example, don’t provide fifteen negative possibilities and one positive answer option (even if you really believe what you’re asking about is a bad thing)
  • Make sure your questions are not leading. If you read a question and can tell what side of the argument the person who wrote it is on, it’s probably a biased question
  • Only ask questions respondents can actually answer. Don’t assume knowledge of topics and don’t use jargon. Unless people can understand the question, they can’t answer them accurately, and you’re wasting their time and your budget
  • Keep introductory text to a minimum and if it is needed make sure it is balanced and uses neutral language. ‘Factual’ does not necessarily mean the text is relevant
  • Avoid emotional language. Positive or negative adjectives should have no place in survey questions

Pitfall 3: Speaking to the wrong people

Once you have your questions, the next step is to choose who you want to ask them to (this is called the “sample”). You need to make sure you are directing your questions at the appropriate audience.

A lot of research asks questions of the general public as a whole (this is called a “nationally representative” sample). However, it is now possible – through YouGov Surveys: Self-serve – for users to focus on particular audiences. This can be very useful when you’re trying to find out more about niche groups such as your own customers or target audiences. So, in the gambling sector you may want to focus in on the attitudes and behaviours of occasional gamblers. This would allow you to get the views directly from the group that matters most to your business.

Pitfall 4: Using a poor-quality sample

The secret sauce of the research industry is the quality of the data. Some online vendors provide bad data because their panels – the groups of people signed up to take surveys – are of poor quality. Other providers – such as YouGov – make sure the people they are asking questions to are who they say they are.

We do extensive and regular quality testing of the people taking our surveys, so we know the data is robust and of the highest quality.

Think of it this way – you could easily get 500 people to answer a question about your business if you paid every one of your Facebook friends to do so. But are they from a diverse section of society? Probably not. Are they really the people you most need to question? Again, probably not. This is where it counts to have a reputable research partner.

Pitfall 5: Not presenting the results clearly

The final part of the jigsaw is making the most of your data. Unless you can showcase your findings well in a way that the people looking at them can understand, all your efforts up to this point may be in vain. It might be a presentation to your board on a new target market or data to add weight to a pitch. Whatever you want to use your data for, presentation matters.

However, if you have a clear idea of what you are asking, ask good questions, have focused the questions on the right audience and have good quality data, it should make being able to showcase the data easy. Once again, planning makes perfect.

As with all stages of undertaking research, integrity is key – if the results don't show what you thought they would, don't pretend they do.

Put your plan into action

So, hopefully now you’ll be able to avoid the most common mistakes when it comes to running market research. And if you’re able to circumvent the pitfalls, the good news is that you’ll benefit from high quality, actionable data, about the people who matter most to your organisation. Knowing your customers is crucial to growing your business in a hyper-competitive market so being able to do easy research among them is critical.

Lauren Nasiroglu is Research Quality Manager at YouGov. YouGov’s self-service tool – YouGov Surveys: Self-serve – allows users to build rapid research surveys with granular targeting.