Phone vs. Online Research: Have We Reached the Tipping Point?

For 2016, NuVoodoo fielded two national consumer studies.  One focuses on programming issues, in part tracking some of the questions we’ve asked in previous studies to look at consumer satisfaction with terrestrial radio as well as usage and perceptions of the ever-growing competition for consumer ears coming through the internet and mobile internet.  The second study focuses on promotional concerns, as we seek to enhance and refine our best-in-class direct mail and social marketing tools.

It’s a mountain of data: thousands of respondents and hundreds of questions between the two studies.  So, where to begin?  Many of our prospective research clients say they’re waiting for the “tipping point,” before jumping from research conducted on the phone over to research conducted online.  As veterans of both telephone and online, we’re confident that tipping point is here – we believe it tipped several years ago.

We had front row seats through the 90’s and early 2000’s as Caller ID, Do Not Call lists and cellphones whittled away at cooperation rates on the telephone.  But, as the telephone was Neilsen’s first point of contact for respondents, we remained on the phone…despite the problems.  However, as Neilsen moved away from the telephone as its first point of contact, we began testing the waters online – and quickly adopted online as our preferred way to contact consumers.

The national numbers are sobering.  As recently as 2000, landline penetration was 94%.  By 2012, the number had dropped to 62% (and, of course, the demographics are not in your favor if you’re trying to reach callout respondents, for example, for a CHR station).  National and state Do Not Call lists take roughly 4 in 5 of those with landlines off the table, leaving about 12% nationwide as potential landline respondents – IF they fit the qualifications you’re screening for, IF they’re willing to talk to you then, and  IF they’re home.  Our experience is that 96% of those you can contact on the phone will never complete an interview.  On the phone, you have practical access to less than 1% of the population.

Our 2016 national consumer studies were completed entirely online with compensated respondents from national research panels.  De-duplicating the respondents across multiple sample vendors leaves us with access to a far larger percentage of consumers across the country that we can compensate to participate in our research studies.

We’ve learned that compensation is an important part of the recipe for cooperation among Nielsen Audio respondents in both PPM and diary methodologies.  When asked which of five factors would influence their choice to participate, being paid was cited by over 4 in 5 respondents whether it was the comparatively high compensation for wearing a meter or a couple dollars for keeping a diary.


In the online sample used for our studies, landline penetration has dropped to 50%.  Roughly 2 in 3 of those remaining are registered on Do Not Call lists or screen out unknown calls with Caller ID, leaving 17% reachable on a landline.


When we isolate that group and compare them to the overall sample, they’re only slightly more likely to participate in a callout interview on the phone.  And they’re far more receptive to spending the same amount of time participating in an online interview – in exchange for compensation.


What this means to you:

If you’re still paying to conduct research on the phone, give stronger consideration to moving online. We’re past the tipping point.  Additionally, costs are lower (since you’re not paying for a room full of call center agents to conduct interviews) and flexibility is increased (since you can test visual elements, video, etc.).

Next week:

How consumers think stations pick their music – and how they think stations should pick their music (we’ll break it out by format P1’s, of course).