Why do marketing research surveys always ask you to buy stuff?


If you get right down to it, marketing research surveys are trying to discover what makes people more likely to purchase some products over other products. The surveys ask questions about you, including your age and gender, to find out which ages and genders like some products more than others and consequently which ages and genders are more likely to buy those products. They ask you what colour or flavour or size of product you like the best so they can, in effect, make more of that colour/flavour/size and less of others. This is a great way to make sure what you see in the store is actually stuff you’re interested in and not just 8 tracks and beta VCRs.
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Unfortunately, there is one question that often catches people off guard. Researchers call it “the purchase intent question.” Here is an example of that question:
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piquestion
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The question might also be phrased as “Using a scale from ‘Definitely will buy’ to ‘Definitely will not buy’, how likely are you to purchase this product?” The question might even be followed up with “When do you plan to purchase it” and “How many do you plan to purchase”. I’m sure a lot of client facing researchers would be surprised to hear that research companies receive a lot of complaints about these questions; surprised, because the complaint is so familiar to the communications team that they don’t even report those complaints to the client service team. Why the complaints? Some survey participants feel that this question is indirectly pressuring them to purchase the product. Some people feel that by answering ‘probably will buy,’ they are obligated to go and purchase the product. The researcher, of course, knows this isn’t the intent of the question, but researchers, forgive me, have forgotten how to be people, and are often blind to this interpretation.
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To our faithful survey participants, please know that the purchase intent question really is just an inquiry. We really are just curious to know if you think you might buy it. Whether you do or don’t is up to you so don’t feel obligated to follow through on your survey response. You can change your mind!
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Happy survey responding!

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