Saturday, May 24, 2008

Consumer Research: A Positive Method of Reporting On Consumer Surveys and Other Types of Industry Primary and Secondary Research

On Tuesday, May 20, we published this piece, "Take One Dose of Internal Research, Add An 'Independent Survey' From an Unnamed Source, and You Get A Consumer Preference For Self-Service Checkout."

You can read our May 20 piece yourself here, but essentially we reported on the fact a story in a British food industry trade publication reported that internal research given to it by Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA, along with what the publication called an "independent survey," shows a growing consumer preference for Self-Service checkout in grocery stores in the U.S.

The problem with the "independent survey" reference is the publication didn't say who did the survey--the person, business or organization--and reported nothing about said "independent survey," such as not only who conducted it, but what it said in percentages, it's methodology or other minor details.

Yesterday, the U.S. grocery industry trade publication Progressive Grocer published this brief report about a survey by the respected research firm Packaged facts on self service technology, such as vending kiosks, self-service checkout stands and other related consumer do-it-yourself technology in America's retail stores and foodservice outlets.

Even though the Progressive Grocer report was brief, the publication managed not only to site the source of the survey--Packaged Facts--but also to report in brief on its findings using the quantitative data from the research study summary.

Additionally, Progressive Grocer included a link at the end of its report to the Packaged Facts' website, where good consumers of research can then go and read an abstract of the research on retail self-service technology conducted by the firm.

The study summary or abstract on the Packaged Facts site explains what the study looked at: self -service kiosks, vending machines, self-checkout applications and other technology in the retail and foodservice spaces. That's important since if one doesn't know the research looked at far more than just self-service checkout the results could be interpreted much differently, for example.

The abstract/summary on the website also offers the methodology of the study, which it says was a combination of primary and secondary research, and elaborates on it a bit, along with other aspects of how the research was conducted.

Packaged Facts is in the business of selling its research, and we have no problem with that. The research firm makes copies of its full studies available to the media if a given publication wants to write about a given study. The firm also makes researchers available to answer any questions a writer or analysts might have in the process of writing his or her piece on the study.

The way Progressive Grocer included data in its brief piece on the survey, along with not drawing any conclusions either pro or con about self-service technology, is the proper way to report research data.

If Progressive Grocer chose to write a longer, more detailed piece on the study, including making conclusions, that would be fine because the publication is fully-disclosing who conducted the study and what the study says--data, percentages, methodology and the like--which the publication would elaborate on in a longer piece.

It's a separate question as to if one agrees or not with those potential conclusions based on the mix of primary and secondary research done in such a study, but that's the case with every study conducted by every person or firm who has conducted one.

The important point is Progressive Grocer offered a link to a place (the Packaged Facts website) where a good consumer of research can go to read more about the study, not to mention the publication actually sited who conducted the research, which is the norm in reporting research of any kind.

[As consumers of research, if you read a piece in which an "independent survey" is quoted either to support or not support a particular technology or practice (or just in general), and the name of who conducted the "independent survey" isn't listed, let the red flags fly at full mast as you continue reading on in the story.]

Further, as a reputable research firm, Packaged Facts posts a summary of its research, including a description of the methodology, on its website so good consumers of research can be informed.

Of course, doing so also is an advertisement for people to purchase the study, as you can see on the link, but we have no problem with that. That's the business the company is in, after all. Additionally, Packaged Facts makes such studies available to the media to write about as we mentioned earlier.

We wanted to publish this piece as a follow-up to our May 20 story, as its an example of the proper way to report on research, along with showing how reputable research firms make available summaries of their study's online for good consumers of research to view.

Related Reading From Fresh & Easy Buzz:

Tuesday, May 13: "'America's Next Cult Retailer': Three Big Questions For Execution Research Limited About its Interview Study of Tesco's Fresh & Easy Store Customers." Click here to read the story

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