How to evaluate market research platforms: Questions to ask

Mark Resnick

In the future, the role of insights will be different from what it is today. Shrinking budgets, shifting expectations and AI are pushing insights teams to work in a different way to truly facilitate customer-centric thinking in their organizations. But to accomplish this, you need the right partners. 

It’s a good time to take a look at your current research stack to make sure your partners can help set you up for success in this future. 

We’ve compiled a few questions we think will help you evaluate market research platforms specifically. Because the future is digital.

This doesn’t include the obvious questions around what the platform does, how it’s priced, how long it takes to get results, etc. because we figure those are already top of mind for you. These are some of the questions you may not think to ask. Let’s get into them! 

1. What’s available out of the box and how much can we customize?

There are many options that a research platform will offer out of the box, and it’s important to understand what those are. But you are a unique business with your own needs, so you also need to know how much flexibility the platform offers to tailor to your needs. 

What audiences can you target and can you set up your own? What questions are asked and can you add your own? Which KPIs are tracked? How are the metrics worded and can you change them to match your internal language? These are some questions you may want to ask to help you uncover how flexible the platform is.

At Zappi, our dedicated team of research experts have designed and tested standard questions you can count on to validate and inspire your creations to be as great as they can be. But we also understand that each brand and company is unique with its own KPIs, internal language and ways of thinking. Zappi gives you the flexibility to account for that. We will work with you to build your own audiences and norms, establish your own naming conventions, add in new questions, etc. 

And once you’ve made it yours with your best practice built in, your business can run research quickly and consistently every time — giving you the best, most relevant insights time again.

2. Can it be used by non-research experts?

In the future, insights teams will not be responsible for running every individual piece of research themselves — rather, they’ll be responsible for setting the business up to access consumer insights when they need them. 

That means, in many cases, insights teams will need to empower people with little-to-no experience to run new research so they can get the consumer feedback they need to iterate on their ideas and make the right decisions in the moment.

Any new technology you bring on needs to take this into consideration. Is it easy for non research experts to use the platform? Are there guardrails that ensure they won’t use the wrong audiences or add in poorly written questions? Is the data easy to understand without a deep data research background? These are the things to pay attention to.

Zappi makes it simple for non-experts to use the platform. When marketing users log in, they know exactly what they have to do. From a research standpoint, they don't have too many decisions to make by themselves so they can actually make it happen.

Jennifer Picard, Head of Centre of Excellence for Mix Optimization at Pernod Ricard

At Zappi, we are always working to make our platform easier to use and our data easier to interpret and act on. Guardrails can be set up to standardize processes and allow non-experts to run correct research in a consistent way, every time. And while our data is already easy to interpret, we are working toward embedding more artificial intelligence into the platform to give clear answers — so marketers cannot misinterpret the data. 

3. How easy is it to learn from all our data and research?

Think about how much consumer research your company has conducted in all the years it has existed. Now think about how much of that research you can personally access right now. It’s probably only a very small percentage — but it shouldn’t be that way.

Any time anyone in your company conducts research, it should be an opportunity for your whole organization to get smarter. It shouldn’t just help the person running the research in the moment, it should be used to tell the organization something bigger about what works and what doesn’t work. 

Being able to measure the effectiveness of your creative if you do it at a single project level. That gives you one level of insight. The real value in raising the creative bar is when you begin to get to that meta insight, when you connect the dots, when you see a body of work and you can really ladder up and see what is the lightning in the bottle.

Jane Wakely, Global CMO at PepsiCo

Ask the supplier how the data is stored within the platform, how that data can be accessed and viewed, and how easy it is to look across projects to pull meta learnings.  

At Zappi, there is no “single use” data — it is always growing more and more valuable over time and it’s always available for you to access. Your team can see how their creations are improving year on year. They can look at the characteristics driving success of the creations versus characteristics that are holding them back.

The platform not only stores and organizes data in a way that enables learning, it also provides automated analytics to identify patterns and relationships quickly and easily to create an ongoing cycle of improvement.

4. How do you ensure data quality? What are your quality checks?

Declining data quality is an ever-worsening problem in the world of survey research. Frustrated with poor pay and poor survey experiences, respondents aren’t fully engaging with surveys — resulting in inaccurate data. And survey farms and bots can now fill out surveys faster and more credibly than ever. Large language models like ChatGPT will only make this worse. 

It’s imperative that your suppliers take data quality seriously and have a clear approach to filtering out bad data. They should be able to explain their approach, as well as what they’re doing to improve data quality into the future. 

We are extremely passionate about data quality at Zappi. We believe it is not a one-time fix — it’s an ongoing process of iterating and improving. Read more about our 5-step approach to data quality that ensures our data gets better and better over time. 

5. How do benchmarks work within the system?

Any good researcher knows that data without context lacks clear meaning. Research data needs a benchmark to bring it to life. You’re probably already asking about how many assets comprise the supplier’s norms and what their market coverage looks like. It's also worth thinking hard about the relevance of what you're comparing to. Do the norms include ads/products that are relevant to your business? Are they relevant to today’s world? 

It’s also important to understand how benchmarking works within the system overall. Sometimes a general norm doesn’t give you enough information — you may want to dig deeper with a comparison to a north star creation, other ads or concepts with shared characteristics, key competitor campaigns, etc. It depends on the goals of your research — and you can often benefit from using more than one for a single project. 

A good supplier will be able to explain not just the ins and outs of their norms, but also what other benchmarks you can use and how you would set those up. 

The beauty of the Zappi platform is that you can easily create your own benchmark depending on what matters to you (so you always have the right context to help you make the right decision) — but you also have the flexibility to switch benchmarks on the fly. With Zappi, you don’t have to wait to get that data back each time you want to compare against a different benchmark. You can simply switch views with the click of a button in the platform

6. How are you using AI today? What does your vision for the future look like with AI?

There’s no denying that AI is poised to disrupt nearly every industry, and market research is no exception.  

We’ve already touched on one area that AI is affecting market research: data quality. 

But beyond the potential risks to data, there’s a beneficial role for AI to play in research in the future. If you’re looking for a partner that will help you stay ahead of the trends (and you should!), ask these questions to make sure the supplier is credibly thinking through how to make the best use of AI. Your platform needs to not just meet your needs now, but grow with you into the future. And that means it needs to be constantly innovating.

At Zappi, we’re excited about the opportunities AI presents. We’ve already incorporated AI into the platform in several key areas, and we continue to enhance those every day. The main areas we’re looking at right now are using AI to help you: 

  • Find which solutions fit your need quickly and easily

  • Secure quality responses from real, engaged respondents

  • Get deeper responses for better consumer understanding 

  • Turn data to insights with effective storytelling and reporting 

  • Learn across all your research through surfacing of relevant meta insights

Final thoughts

The right research partner of the future is a platform. Old-school research is dead. But finding the right platform is deeply personal to your company — we can’t tell you who the right partners are for you. 

We can tell you that Zappi has good answers to all of these questions and more. Reach out to talk to someone so you can ask all the questions you have. 

And if you’re interested in staying on top of insights trends and future-focused insights leaders, subscribe to Zappi’s podcast Inside Insights.

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