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Online Research “Night Vision Goggles” for NZ Co’s

Media Release
21 August 2005

100K New Zealanders Say “Ask Me”
- Online Research “Night Vision Goggles” for NZ Co’s

Nearly 8% of all New Zealand households are now asking to be interviewed for market research online, because of massive enrolment in New Zealand’s website SmileCity.

The country’s largest on-line survey panel hit 100,000 last week, with the 100,000th member of SmileCity signing up to participate in the company’s popular online surveys.

According to leading global research company (and SmileCity research partner) TNS, the willingness of this ‘opt in’ audience to participate in online surveys is giving the equivalent of “night vision goggles” to New Zealand corporates, otherwise in the dark on opinion about their products and offers.

“New Zealanders are opting in faster than we dared hope,” says Managing Director of TNS in New Zealand Murray Campbell. “Because of the features of the internet, and the fact that around 65% of NZ households are online, we have the potential to select from a huge group and engage interactively. We can quickly assess the look of advertising, product packaging and products amongst a diversity of New Zealanders – not to mention surveying them for opinions and perceptions. It’s the further democratisation of consumer products. It’s lending clarity and precision to what organisations understand about perceptions of their products and services.”

SmileCity members sign up for free and agree to receive emails asking them to participate in surveys. (They also receive product offers.) The relationship is incentivised with points that are redeemable for cash, charity donations or purchases with more than sixty online shopping partners. Members are free to ‘opt out’ or unsubscribe at any time. SmileCity is the country’s number one online loyalty programme.

“The 100,000 member panel strongly represents the New Zealand online population by age, sex, ethnicity and socio economic group,” says Campbell. Campbell also says that members of this ‘virtual city’ include the hardest to reach individuals, who engage readily with the web.

“Notoriously hard-to-find consumers such as young males, and young Asian males are members of SmileCity,” says Campbell. “They are now willingly participating in research.”

Many of New Zealand’s largest companies are using SmileCity’s enormous research panel to probe consumer preferences for everything from travel to snackfood to moral and social issues.

“The tipping point has arrived for New Zealand companies and advertising agencies in their use of this research,” says Campbell. “In the USA, one of the major FMCG goods companies committed to online product development in 1997 and spent millions on internet researching from there on. Now, New Zealand organisations are doing the same. The lag time has been a bit like that with Trademe, but now it’s booming.”

Air New Zealand is a client that has utilised this approach. The company undertook major consumer research to establish what the travelling public wanted from a long haul airline. “We used a comprehensive plan of research to construct our new long haul product offering, and are now using the SmileCity panel to monitor the market reaction to our new product” said Wendy Powell, Manager Insights and Planning for Air NZ. Air New Zealand continues to use SmileCity to measure New Zealanders’ perceptions of airlines operating here, to evaluate its promotional work in the New Zealand market, and also to assess awareness and understanding of the introduction of new products.

Key differences in using online methods to research include:

- The willingness of respondents. Communication is based upon interaction with willing participants, rather than reluctant respondents.

- Ease of participation. The audience is ready and willing to participate

- Visual stimuli can be used including TV images

- Fast initial concept screening can be undertaken, including on proposed packaging, presentation, offers etc

- Open-ended questions can be used, so responses contain information and emotion

- Hard to reach audiences (such as young males) can now be readily accessed

- Surveys tend to be shorter online; people prefer shorter, but the longer the surveys are, the more points members receive.

- Respondents can answer whenever they wish, in their own time.

Campbell says that many people now use email or text as their major form of communication. “It’s a fundamental switch in the way we’re living,” he comments. “This form of research is directly in synch with that change.”


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