Have we overfished the research market?

Elaine Hunt argues that the growing demands for information on consumers, combined with modern market research techniques, are causing 'respondent fatigue' and the overuse of the same limited pool of respondents

Elaine Hunt

ON THE FACE OF IT, the apparently inexhaustible desire for more and more information about consumers can only be good news for the market research industry. More than 13 million interviews were conducted in 1994 by AMSO organisations, not including the weekly contacts with the 20,000-plus members of the household and television research panels. To this must be added the substantial turnover of the non-AMSO companies, and the 100 million questionnaires sent out by the database companies.

This volume of commissioned data also reflects well on the information users, eager to monitor the buying preferences, shopping behaviour, brand choice and advertising sensitivity of their customers. But does everything in the garden really smell so sweet, or is there, as in all good fairy stories, a snake coiled beneath the leaf, a worm in the bud? Before using research information to make important decisions on the future of advertising campaigns and brand strategies, users need to understand some of the limitations of the data they rely on.