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Passive vs. Active: The Role of the Survey
in a Big Data World

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By Joe Jordan, Vice President of Panel Operations

big data


We live in a world of big data. Everything that consumers do is closely monitored and analyzed. The body of behavioral, demographic and purchasing data that exists and is available to marketers is staggering. In fact, the amount of data that companies collect on their own customers from the geolocation tracking of in-store behavior to the microanalysis of what visitors do on websites is massive. Consider that we generate 2.5 quintillion new bytes of data each day.

Increasingly, research professionals are discussing the role of passive and active data collection in the overall corporate research agenda. How do they differ and what are their individual strengths? What’s the role of surveys and concept testing against this big data backdrop? Most importantly, how can we make the most of these quickly evolving insights to improve how we do business?

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November 7th, 2014

Posted in Best Practices

Data Privacy Part III:
Will a Leader Step Forward?

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By Justin Wheeler, VP Product Innovation & Business Development

In my first two posts in our data privacy series, we learned that Americans are strongly in favor of personal data protection and want an amendment that explicitly makes data privacy a guaranteed right. From a political perspective, this seems like an easy lob for someone to step up and knock right out of the park, or at the very least use to mobilize a national conversation. We polled our respondents to find out if Americans already have someone in mind to lead this charge. So who’s at the top of the ballot? That’s still a big question mark.

No Heroes Here, Only Survivors

Respondents were asked to identify which current political figure “best represents” their own views about appropriate protections for data privacy. As Richard Pryor championed in Brewster’s Millions, we got the answer that few politicians are going to like: “None of the Above” is currently carrying a double-digit lead over any challenger from our list:

Political Figure Who Best Represents My Views on Data Privacy

None of the Above 38%
Barack Obama 17%
Hillary Clinton 14%
Rand Paul 8%
Chris Christie 6%
Other (Write In) 5%
Joe Biden 3%
Marco Rubio 3%
Ted Cruz 3%
John Kerry 2%


It’s worth noting, of course, that Democrats were much more likely to indicate Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton here, and Republicans were more divided among several players. Also of note: Nearly 1/3 of “write-in” votes were for Ron Paul (retired), and there were a few “Edward Snowdens” thrown in for good measure.

The following charts further break down these rankings by the respondent’s political party:

Democrats Republicans Independents
Barack Obama 31% None of the Above 37% None of the Above 43%
None of the Above 30% Rand Paul 15% Barack Obama 13%
Hillary Clinton 27% Chris Christie 13% Rand Paul 12%
Joe Biden 4% Ted Cruz 9% Hillary Clinton 10%
Other 3% Marco Rubio 7% Chris Christie 7%
John Kerry 2% Other 5% Other 7%
Rand Paul 1% Hillary Clinton 3% Marco Rubio 3%





As we head into the 2014 election year, one thing is clear: Protecting data privacy is a key issue among voters, and a strong bi-partisan majority support the cause enough to want to amend the U.S. Constitution. Although Americans still have mixed feelings about who should lead the charge, rest assured change is on the way. In fact, this morning CNN reported that Sen. Rand Paul will file a class-action lawsuit against the NSA for their surveillance programs. Paul is filing the suit with former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli and Matt Kibbe, president of the political group FreedomWorks.

The next couple of years will prove whether Paul or another from this list is up for the challenge. Then again, the 38% “None of the Above” response suggests that the people could be looking for a newcomer to fill that void.

Justin is entering his 15th year in the SaaS space, having helped to build and manage DIY business service and marketing platforms at Overture/Yahoo!, Perfect Market Technologies, and Spot Runner. Since joining uSamp, he has managed the insights platform providing Online and Mobile insights to over 40,000 clients in only 18 months of operation.

February 12th, 2014

Data Privacy Part II:
The Anatomy of an Amendment

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By Justin Wheeler, VP Product Innovation & Business Development

In my first post about our data privacy study, we learned that regardless of political affiliation, an overwhelming percentage of Americans find the government’s data monitoring practices troubling. In fact, Americans are so concerned about the safety of their personal information that they’re ready to support a Constitutional Amendment on data privacy. But it’s easy to get behind such an amendment without having to articulate what that means. We wanted a clearer understanding of what Americans want in an amendment, so we asked respondents to evaluate and rank potential amendment language.

Rewriting History

In order to get specifics on privacy amendment language, we showed respondents several proposals and asked to rate them in terms of appeal. Note: For comparison purposes, we included the 4th Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure and is the closest thing we have to data protection under the law. We found that 84% of respondents thought the language from the 4th amendment appealing, but there was slightly greater support (85%) for a more strongly and clearly worded amendment related to data privacy. This proposal also received the highest number of “extremely appealing” votes. The proposed amendment that received the third most support was excerpted from a November 2013 publication by the United Nations General Assembly about the right to privacy in the digital age.


The results of our privacy language question suggest that voters tend to support strong language that explicitly limits the government’s scope of authority.

When we asked respondents to rank specific statements and choose three that should be included in an amendment, the support for limiting power in government agencies became even clearer. The statement with the second-most votes for the #1 ranking includes language about “prohibiting” the government’s authority to engage in general or blanket data monitoring and gathering:


So there we have it. The amendment is already being written. Congress’ job is practically done. Only one question remains: who will champion this cause? The President made only a passing remark on this issue in his last State of the Union Address, so we still don’t know if data privacy will be made a priority by the current administration. In my next post, we’ll learn which political figures Americans feel most align with their position on data privacy. Have we predicted the next election? Not likely. But we sure have some interesting directional data on our hands. One last thing: Don’t forget to check out our infographic for more results from our data privacy survey.

Justin is entering his 15th year in the SaaS space, having helped to build and manage DIY business service and marketing platforms at Overture/Yahoo!, Perfect Market Technologies, and Spot Runner. Since joining uSamp, he has managed the insights platform providing Online and Mobile insights to over 40,000 clients in only 18 months of operation.

February 7th, 2014

Posted in Industry Trends

Data Privacy Part I:
Republicans, Democrats Seeing Eye to Eye on Data Privacy

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By Justin Wheeler, VP Product Innovation & Business Development

Ever since Edward Snowden shed light on NSA spying and data collection practices last year, the entire country and much of the world has been in a frenzy over data privacy. The so-called “Snowden Effect” is creating serious repercussions for American businesses, too, as many countries fear that partnering with a U.S. tech company could open the door to more spying.

Because our industry traffics in data to produce business insights, we should take note of the public outcry over data privacy, as it could ultimately catalyze legislative action that has lasting effects on the way we collect and share information. That’s why we decided to ask Americans directly how they feel about this issue. The results of our survey, much like the leaks themselves, were eye-opening.

Many of the political surveys we field paint a picture of a citizenry divided. But according to our latest research, data privacy is one issue that people from all political persuasions can get behind. The message is unequivocal: Liberals or Conservatives, Libertarians or Green-Party, want their data and information protected. Our survey also revealed that concern over data privacy will impact voting in 2014 and beyond, and that Americans are prepared to amend the U.S. Constitution to ensure their rights are protected.

To execute this study, we surveyed 1035 voters from across the political and demographic spectrum. Here’s what we learned about how data privacy plays into their lives:

  • 82% are familiar with recent news stories about the NSA and U.S. government gathering data from phones, websites, and social networks; only 5% are not familiar with this news.
  • 92% cite data privacy as a concern, with 48% indicated it is a major concern.
  • 63% say data privacy concerns will influence how they vote in upcoming elections.

A Proposal: To Amend, or Not to Amend

One way to measure whether or not people’s stated passion for a topic carries real-world impact is to propose an action and measure support for it. In this case, we proposed a new amendment to the Constitution to protect data privacy.

Before we get into the results, here’s a little context: There hasn’t been a meaningful amendment to the U.S. Constitution since 1971, when the voting age was set at 18. Since then, amendments have been proposed for many issues, including same-sex marriage, drug use, balanced budget, school prayer, flag burning, but none of them have ended up with the strong bi-partisan support necessary to make it out of Congress.

Based on our survey results, this issue has the potential to break that pattern, as respondents overwhelmingly support the idea of an amendment to protect data privacy. Here’s what we discovered:

  • 81% of respondents support the idea of an amendment to protect data privacy
  • 45% would “absolutely support” such an amendment, while only 2% were “absolutely opposed” to the idea
  • This level of support was consistent for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, as indicated in the chart below:

Support for Proposed Data Privacy

Amendment, By Political Party




More Than Newspapers—and Guns!

Such strong support across the political spectrum for a key issue, particularly when considering an important step like amending the U.S. Constitution, is interesting itself, but we decided to go deeper into the topic by asking comparative questions. When asked how protecting data privacy, a hypothetical constitutional right, stacked up against other rights, and the responses were surprising.

Our proposed Right to Privacy ranked only slightly behind some of our most sacred beliefs, Freedom of Speech and Religion, while it finished ahead of Freedom of the Press, Self-Incrimination, and well ahead of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Additionally, the study confirmed that some of the above issues are strongly partisan, while Right to Privacy seemed to transcend the political divide:

  • While 68% of respondents indicate the Right to Keep & Bear Arms as an important right, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to rate it “Very Important” (65% of Republicans compared to only 37% of Democrats). That discrepancy isn’t true of Right to Privacy, which enjoys strong support regardless of political ideology.
  • Even among Republican voters, the Right to Privacy was scored as more important than the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, even if by a slim margin: 89% said the Right to Privacy was a 4 or 5 on our scale, where Right to Keep and Bear Arms scored an 85%.


Rating: Importance of Key Constitutional Rights
1- Not Important 2 3 4 5- Very Important
Freedom of Speech 0% 0% 3% 14% 82%
Freedom of Religion 2% 1% 6% 14% 78%
(Proposed) Right to Data Privacy 1% 1% 8% 22% 68%
Freedom of the Press 1% 2% 12% 24% 61%
Right Against Self-Incrimination 2% 2% 12% 23% 61%
Right to Keep & Bear Arms 9% 6% 16% 18% 50%


The people have spoken loud and clear: Data privacy should be a protected right. And while we may only be scratching the surface on what could become one of the defining issues of this century, the survey results raise an important question: What would an amendment on data privacy look like? Check back for parts two and three of this series, in which we reveal the survey’s qualitative data and let Americans write a new amendment. Plus, don’t miss our full-blown infographic based on the data privacy survey results.

Justin is entering his 15th year in the SaaS space, having helped to build and manage DIY business service and marketing platforms at Overture/Yahoo!, Perfect Market Technologies, and Spot Runner. Since joining uSamp, he has managed the insights platform providing Online and Mobile insights to over 40,000 clients in only 18 months of operation.

February 5th, 2014

Posted in Data Quality

2014 Year-in-Preview:
Ben Leet’s Predictions

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In this post, Ben Leet shares his predictions on where the market research industry is headed in 2014.

What is your New Year’s resolution in 140 characters?

Stay ahead of the game! The pace of change will not slow down anytime soon.

What do you anticipate being the biggest trend for 2014, and why?

As mentioned before, I think the wider marketing world is going to move increasingly into big data analytics to find uplifts in marketing ROI, and I still think research has a big part to play in this area. And, of course, mobile methodologies will continue to evolve and adoption of them will increase.

What companies/brands do you think will do well in 2014, and why?

Those that understand how consumers think and move with them will do well across all verticals, but those that continue to “do what we’ve always done” will start to fall by the wayside pretty quickly.

Any thoughts on what 2014’s biggest buzzword might be?


What will success look like in 2014?

For my company it will be to continue innovating and bringing new concepts and ideas to the marketplace, and I hope the same is true for the industry at large.

January 15th, 2014

Posted in Industry Trends

2013 Year-in-Review:
Ben Leet’s Reflections for Research Magazine

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In this interview for Research Magazine, Ben Leet reflects on the market research industry in 2013.

Looking Back

What has been the biggest development of 2013?

Without question for me it’s the use of mobile as a methodology. The technology has, to a certain extent, been here for a while.

What was 2013’s biggest buzzword?

As above, mobile! now (although development is ongoing of course!), but the industry is beginning to adopt mobile as an accepted additional methodology, and this is very encouraging.

What was, in your opinion, the best campaign (ad/brand/political/social) of 2013, and why?

I thought the out-of-home interactive advertising by Google in the UK was very clever, and probably a sign of things to come as advertisers look to customise ads to their audience across all channels.

What has/have been the year’s biggest success story?

I attended a presentation recently where AIMIA talked about correlating data across Nectar users and Facebook users for specific product promotions in Sainsbury’s; they looked at understanding the monetary value of having a Facebook presence for the first time, and I thought it was a great approach by them as they get more involved in the research industry.

What has been the year’s biggest disappointment/ anti-climax, and why?

I don’t think that the research industry has fully gotten to grips with big data, and our role to play within the wider marketing space which is looking at big data much more already (with the exception of the aforementioned AIMIA of course!). We have a great opportunity to embed ourselves as the context behind the numbers and answer the “why,” and I think we can do more in that area.


December 30th, 2013

Posted in Industry Trends

2013 Year-in-Review: Top 5 uSamp Blog Posts

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Data, whether it was being leaked, mined, or modified by “big,” was on everyone’s minds in 2013. Mobile technology continued to push forward with lower-cost, higher-tech, sharper-pixelated options emerging in the market; while telecommuting, something that seemed the natural progression of the digitally savvy millennial, took a step backward. Many of these major developments also rippled through the market research community, so uSamp’s leaders took to the blog to weigh in and offer commentary on how these changes shaped the direction of our industry.

Here are our top five blog posts from 2013:


#5 An App Alternative: How the Mobile Web Expands Reach

A late entry in the year but an obvious contender for top blog post. In this piece, uSamp director of product Allen Vartazarian explains why mobile apps are not the only game in town when it comes to mobile market research.

#4 The Virtual Office Place: Productive or Disruptive?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to pull the company plug on all telecommuting sparked huge debates everywhere from the water cooler to Twitter and more. In an age where technology has made working remotely so easy, the ban seemed a counter-intuitive move on Mayer’s part. We took the polarizing debate to our panel and received surprising results, which we pulled together in this infographic.

#3 Big Data in Market Research: Big Deal or Big Hype?

Big data was certainly the buzzword of record early in the year, that is, until over-zealous jargon junkies sucked every last drop of meaning out of it. And while data may be the new gluten-free in the media, it’s a familiar face for those in the MR space. In this piece, our former director of analytics, Siva Venkataraman, took a moment to demystify big data and articulate its real potential.

#2 Mobile Apps and Data Privacy: How Much Information Are You Willing to Share?

In hindsight, it seems less surprising that during a year when we all marveled at the power of numbers, we also become painfully aware of abuses in data collection. With the public outcry over NSA practices, we couldn’t resist polling Americans about where they stood on personal data and privacy.

#1 A Geofencing Primer

2013 was a year to stay on the fence—the geofence, that is. One of the most exciting strategies to emerge in mobile market research was geofencing, the ability to use location-based technology in smartphones to connect with customers in-store, at the very point of purchase or consumption. We found this topic so interesting, we devoted an entire three-part series to it. Click here for parts two and three.

December 30th, 2013

Posted in Industry Trends

Why Mobile, Big Data and Real Time
Are Here to Stay

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uSamp's CTO, Carl Trudel

Recently, uSamp published a Q & A with CTO, Carl Trudel, who is pushing his team to think outside the box and anticipate client demand before it happens. Here he shares the challenges of recruiting, iterating and the importance of being device agnostic.

Q: How are you developing technology to keep up with clients’ needs?

A: It’s all about platform and flexibility. When you think in terms of platform, you don’t build custom development for clients. Instead, you configure features for specific client’s needs. This is much more powerful and allows us to move much faster. This is key to staying on top of the competition.

Q: What is different today than five years ago?

A: A lot! My top three would be mobile, big data and real time. Mobile is not the next cool thing anymore… it is our way, our basis, our framework. Big data is not about lots of data anymore; it is about the right data. And finally, real time is not just a nice thing to have – everyone expects real time information for anything we do. At uSamp, we understand all this and that puts us ahead of anyone else.

Q: How fast can you bring product to market?

A: At uSamp, we move fast. We follow Kanban agile methodology, which optimizes the flow from product ideation to production release. Our highly customizable platform offers flexibility and allows us to deliver new product very fast.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: Unfortunately, everything. I always want more and to do better. I am very hard on myself and on the team. There is so much potential for what we can achieve – I wish I did not have to sleep at night!

Mobile is not the next cool thing anymore… it is our way, our basis, our framework. Big data is not about lots of data anymore; it is about the right data. And finally, real time is not just a nice thing to have – everyone expects real time information for anything we do. At uSamp, we understand all this and that puts us ahead of anyone else.

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October 2nd, 2013

Slideshare: An All-Hands-on-Deck Approach to Ensuring Data Quality

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“Data quality is an evolving and dynamic topic. We can never be complacent. We can never say that we have solved the issue. Our work is never done!” – Lisa Wilding-Brown, uSamp

Last week, uSamp’s VP of Global Panel and VeraQuest’s CEO held a webinar in association with Quirk’s that addressed key sample quality issues in the Market Research Industry. Although MR has certainly come along way since the early days of online sampling, there is still a ways to go in order to successfully control for fraudsters, bots, the hyper-engaged and the woefully disengaged. The webinar calls for providers to take a serious look at sample and suggests ways to further optimize quality through source testing, verification, balancing, respondent monitoring and research design.

July 31st, 2013

Posted in Best Practices

Big Data: How To Deliver Actionable Insights [Infographic]

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uSamp’s one billion data points are comprised of the market intelligence that they have gathered into consumer behavior, purchasing patterns and brand affinity across numerous verticals from auto, tech, gaming, health and beauty, entertainment, and travel, among others. Each participant has volunteered an average of 150 demographic and psychographic profile questions. The automobile segment alone offers over 100 questions that goes beyond the year, make and model of a car. Information about top rental loyalty programs, favorite insurance providers, hybrid-enthusiasts and GPS software preferences color each profile, ultimately helping marketers, advertisers, and manufacturers better understand whether a muscle-car fanatic will ever invest in an electric concept car.

The customer intelligence derived from actionable data helps identify markets and customers, measure brand loyalty and pinpoint new trends; ultimately, helping companies understand what people think. Big data doesn’t come from one source, but from a multitude of sources – surveys, focus groups, mobile feedback, purchase history and customer service to name a few.

March 26th, 2013

Posted in Infographics