Geographic portability, or the ability to apply a technology used for market research across a variety of countries, has been identified by Microsoft and Procter & Gamble as one of their selection criteria for online research quality solutions (noted by my colleague Emily Morris in her recent blog post, and by Reineke Reitsma of Forrester). Research companies who can offer their clients geographic portability in their solutions to validate survey respondents and panelists are able to ensure better data quality, as well as reduce costs for global market research and allow for easier comparison of results across countries.
However, few data quality solution providers are able to offer geographic portability for a variety of reasons. One major reason is differing privacy laws and other regulations across countries. For example, digital fingerprinting technology is very commonly used in the United States to identify when an individual panelist attempts to complete the same survey twice, but may be problematic in other countries, depending upon whether a particular implementation collects too much or the wrong types of data. The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) has warned its members that digital fingerprinting may be unlawful in Canada as it “may collect more information than is necessary to identify fraudulent and duplicate respondents in online research”. Canada’s comprehensive privacy law is similar to data protection laws found in Europe, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Japan – which means that solution providers need to be careful to ensure their digital fingerprinting methods conform to local privacy regulations.
Another challenge is identity verification. In more mature markets (such as the United States and the United Kingdom), access to identity verification data is relatively easy – so a data quality solution like TrueSample can use name, address, and other data to verify survey respondents and panelists. In less mature markets, this kind of data has not traditionally been available – but a number of trends are improving the situation. For example, as China has grown and developed, the establishment of state and private credit bureaus and the emergence of data providers like ChinaLOOP (now Axciom China) provide ways to verify that survey respondents and panelists are who they say they are.
More and more multinational businesses are conducting research projects that cross international boundaries – which means that the need for online research quality solutions that meet geographic portability requirements will continue to grow. Currently, the TrueSample data quality solution is one of the few solutions that meets geographic portability requirements across the US, Canada, Germany, France and the UK. As MarketTools and other companies develop and enhance technologies to expand geographic portability, market research clients will gain greater trust that all researchers are meeting an expected level of quality – even when the survey sample extends across the globe.