Traditional Open Ends: Say Goodbye to the Dinosaur of Market Research

The Quester Client Services team recently had fun debating the best analogy to describe the role traditional open ends play in market research today. Suggestions included cargo pants, the Walkman, floppy disks and MySpace to name a few. We ultimately landed on the yellow pages. Here’s why:

Like yellow-pages advertising, they’re severely limited in value
When’s the last time you picked up a phonebook? Remember when businesses spent big bucks on yellow pages advertising? There was a time when it was one of the best options for connecting with customers — but the amount of information one could glean from a yellow page listing or advertisement was minimal. Traditional open ends in surveys have similar content restrictions — while they can add a little perspective to close-ended (scaled) questions, they don’t provide insights with full depth and context you can take to the bank.

Technology has rendered them obsolete
People rarely pick up a phonebook anymore. Why would you, when the quality and amount of what you can learn from a quick internet search is infinitely better?
And so it goes in market research. The idea that collecting responses to traditional open ends and counting words to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions is archaic – not to mention risky due to the inherent nuances of language. Understanding what people think or how they feel requires much deeper investigation. Having conversations with people is the only way to get down to the emotional level that really drives decisions.
Companies like Quester, iModerate, MFour and Voxpopme are utilizing today’s technologies to set a new bar for what researchers expect to learn from market research. At Quester where a software moderator backed by artificial intelligence conducts one-on-one online and mobile interviews at scale, open ends are used merely as a gateway to a deeper conversation.

The information you miss is game-changing
Imagine going back in time to when people relied on the phonebook. The information that matters most in the decision-making process today would vanish – product and service details, photos and videos, customer reviews, driving directions and so on. Likewise, the rich, qualitative information traditional open-ends miss is the game-changing information businesses must have to truly understand what drives consumer behavior.

People like other options better
Finally, new technologies squeeze out the old way of doing things for the simple reason they provide a better, more satisfying user experience. Survey design that incorporates two-way conversations is, by its very nature, more fun and engaging for participants. We know that because we routinely ask our respondents about their experience. Quester survey satisfaction scores are markedly higher the industry average.

Few insights professionals would dispute that happy, engaged participants provide higher-quality, more reliable data. Ultimately, companies have to determine whether to stick with the Fred Flintstone approach or take advantage of companies like Quester offering new, better solutions.

Learn more about our software-led moderator here:


  • Quester

    Quester is an award-winning consumer intelligence firm that harnesses the power of human conversation, artificial intelligence technology, and expert marketing research design to yield superior understanding of consumers for clients.

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