Statistics and Market Research in Online Surveys

At Survey Design and Analysis I am the resident survey expert and statistician. Okay I admit it, “I am a statistician..” Statistics is a big part of Market Research but I’m not sure that is well understood.

What exactly is a statistician and why is it important in Market Research? Quality Improvement guru, Bill Sherkenbach (a statistician) used to say:

A statistician is someone that likes to work with numbers, but didn’t have the personality to be an accountant.

I’m not sure about that, but statistics is the discipline that deals with turning data (numbers) into information. That’s why it is important for Market Research. Two major areas of statistics apply: theories and methods for data collection (design) and theories and methods for analysis. [It is worth noting that the design part is just as important as or more so than the analysis. This is a recurring theme with me, focus on the design, because no amount of analysis can make up for poor design.

When you embark on a survey project, it is worth thinking about the “statistics” part. Too often I find that people forget that there is a science to collecting and analyzing data. In fact many of the so-called “statisticians” in Market Research are not statisticians at all but just someone who learned the use of a few statistical tools on their way to an economics or psychology degree. My colleagues in statistics are probably the ones to blame. It seems trained statisticians always shy away from jobs in Market Research perhaps because the “statistics” isn’t sophisticated enough or for whatever reason.

It is easy to collect a bunch of numbers, anyone can do that, but it takes knowledge and experience (practice) to collect a bunch of numbers that ends up telling you something.

Do yourself a favor and your customers a favor and get some expert advice for your next survey (data collection project). And don’t forget to let me know if run into any trained statisticians out there doing Market Research!

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