Technology in Research March 31, 2021

Technology in Research

Here at Edentify, we’re always looking for new and better ways to conduct research. Emerging technologies being used in studies is something we’ve seen steadily grow in the market research industry of late. 

To better understand perceptions and attitudes toward these technologies, we went to the source and asked our dedicated research community what they thought about a select number of new techniques. These were:

  • Visual tracking (tracks the activity of the eye on the screen).
  • Facial recognition (can verify or identify a person via face mapping or scanning).
  • Sensory research (analyses the brain using brain waves, heart rates, and skin responses to products).
  • Scanning technology (customers carry their mobiles in the supermarket, through these they can scan the item they want to buy and see the available offers/track their purchases and location).

We asked respondents, how comfortable they felt with these technologies being used in paid studies, and if they were hesitant, what would convince them to use it? Whether it be better financial compensation or more transparency around how their data would be used.

An uneasy feeling

The majority of respondents did feel some level of uneasiness, whilst some were completely uncomfortable. Many said private companies don’t have their best interests at heart with the risk of your data being sold or misused as well as the awareness that cyber-attacks or privacy breaches are prevalent. For these people, the perceived benefits for researchers or businesses don’t outweigh the risks for the individuals involved.

"I feel very uncomfortable with this and I think there are privacy issues. Not in favour of it at all."

"If it was disclosed that such technologies would be used in a survey at the beginning of it, I would choose not to participate. No extra incentive would convince me, because I value a degree of privacy and anonymity. All surveys will ever gain from me are insights based on my answers and demographics."

"I am not at all comfortable with this development. I am concerned about privacy and the risk of hackers."

"No amount of so-called incentives is worth losing your identity."


More data, more problems

Respondents who were inclined to use these technologies did so with reservations. To get them to participate, companies would need to guarantee data privacy, be very transparent about how the research would be collected and who it would be shared with, as well as including much greater financial incentives to subsidise the effort involved. Respondents believe they should be compensated in a way that matches the amount of value their responses give brands.

"I would expect more money for the convenience at least $20 for those types of surveys."

"I have no problem with this as long as it is clear upfront how your information will be collected, how it is handled (including who it might be shared with, and when it is destroyed)."

"More incentives would probably entice people to use these newer technologies."


A mixed bag of comfort

Respondents were mixed in which particular technologies they were comfortable with and which ones they weren’t. While some were fine with Visual Tracking, others found it the most concerning and some see Facial Recognition as an invasion of privacy, whilst others saw it as a technology that is already widely accepted by the world, with Face ID used to open smartphones. Most agreed, Sensory Research needed to be held to a higher standard of ethics because it may include invasive techniques and that it needed to be done in a more controlled environment, rather than just at home on your computer.

"New techniques such as Facial Recognition for verification are not new and would be easily accepted. Many consumers already use this technology for phone apps. Visual Tracking and Sensory Research both have a personal intrusive flavour. These would be harder to convince consumers of their benefit and that data security would be upheld."

“Sensory research sounds like there would need to be more advanced tech than I have at my disposal currently and that could preclude some people from their involvement. I would expect sensory research to be at a higher level and conducted within a laboratory environment or similar, at least with the same ethics and guidelines for usage/collection setup.”


Unphased

A small number of respondents were unphased by the use of technology in surveys, with some already having experienced this in action. Scanning Technology, in particular, was seen as one of the easiest ways people can adopt technology into activities they already do, like grocery shopping.

"Very happy with new technology surveys, l have done Vision Technology in surveys, an interesting and entertaining and scanning technology as its rewarding to see the products and identify a person via face mapping or scanning."

"The growing use of technology in surveys is great. I have used Visual tracking and facial recognition. I am I.T. savvy so l am comfortable using the above techniques. I am happy to be convinced by getting eGift cards for completed surveys. The use of these techniques in surveys is in its infancy so l am sure they will be widely spread in the future."


So what does this mean?

The results show there is a great need for robust protections for individuals’ data and privacy before researchers can implement these types of technologies into studies. Education and transparency on how respondent’s data is used are of utmost importance if they are to be used successfully.

At Edentify, we continue to invest time and resources in assessing how new technology can be used and introduced where available and appropriate. However, it needs to be beneficial for all parties involved and proven to work effectively. It cannot just be for the sake of doing something new and shiny.

As market research professionals there are obvious risks that come with choosing to implement these techniques in quantitative or qualitative studies. Concerns about privacy and technology invasion mean that we won’t push people, because if they aren’t comfortable, they simply won’t do it and this will only impact the quality of the research. 

It is and will continue to be a complex issue in the industry as research agencies and their clients alike, navigate the pros and cons of including these new technologies in their studies.


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