The world is begging to adapt – to become more inclusive. How is our industry, and MAi Research, helping drive this in the right direction?
What does DEI mean?
The purpose of inclusivity isn’t just to check a box. Diversity isn’t just to fill a quota. Equity isn’t just to make everyone happy. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI) should always be a consideration in market research, especially when we are talking about messaging to the customer. Many products that you see on a shelf are presented to some market research company somewhere, which is why we need to be actively paying attention and making DEI a standard practice.
What does Inclusivity mean?
How do we define inclusivity in market research? Inclusivity means making surveys accessible to everyone who fits the target and being empathetic to who they are as an individual. To accomplish this task, it might mean recruiting across several panels to find underrepresented groups, using more than the online survey method for those who are not online, or simply making font size larger for seniors. Identifying age, gender, and race has always been an important question during research but how we ask these questions now needs to be adapted to look more specifically at how customers identify themselves.
Inclusivity and Gender
Understanding gender or gender identity needs to be considered when asking these questions. Including a valid option for all respondents is the first step to being inclusive of everyone that you are interviewing. Forcing someone to identify as strictly male or female, isn’t always necessary in research. Offering the option of genderqueer, nonbinary, or a place to “best describe yourself in your own words” allows respondents to accurately fill out a survey, rather than putting a box that just says “other.” No one wants to be described as other.
Inclusivity and Race
Reaching every race in a survey isn’t always easy and not always necessary. Understanding what questions need to be asked, makes for a more empathetic researcher and happier respondents. Race isn’t black and white, no pun intended. People are black AND white. Hispanic AND Asian. Forcing someone to choose one, can weaken the validity of the research and offend participants to the point where they may not want to participate.
The Internet and Diversity in Marketing
The internet, as always, changes the way that we do everything. It doesn’t mean that phone call interviews are over. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be heading down to malls and airports, going door-to-door, or doing surveys at point of service. Using the internet in combination with some of these tried-and-true methods can help researchers collect a more inclusive sample.
Challenges to Inclusivity
It is the researchers’ responsibility to take on the challenge of increasing the inclusivity of the respondent pool. The cost per interview (CPI) to acquire data from the hard-to-reach populations is higher. Reaching lower socioeconomic classes, and even the highest socioeconomic classes, requires more money and more effort. You may not get the data you need if you are putting out an online survey and the people you are looking to reach don’t have high-speed internet access.
MAi is Taking Strides to Improve Inclusivity in Market Research
We are actively working on improving our inclusivity and diversity within our research. We believe that everyone in the target demographic who can potentially use or benefit from a product should be represented within that research.
Recently looking at a make-up product’s packaging, specifically foundation, we were able to include multiple skin tones and colors within the questionnaire instead of just including the same skin tone color for all packaging options. While makeup products at one time offered a very limited palette, research helped reveal that broader palettes, inclusive of all skin tones, inevitably broaden a brand’s reach, consumer goodwill, and sales.
Standardized Approach for Asking About Race and Ethnicity
MAi Research has developed a standardized approach for inclusivity to make sure that all respondents can accurately represent themselves and we continue to adjust and evolve our approach. This offers more specific ethnicity and race options and offers a “check all that apply” system that allows people of more than one race to describe themselves accurately. These questions cannot be stagnant or left the same forever. As the world and the population change, so must we.
Prefer Not to Say
MAi Research always offers a “prefer not to say” option for questions related to personal information. We are aware that these questions are sensitive for some people, and it does no good to force people to answer a question that makes them uncomfortable or angry. Being empathetic to respondents is not optional but understanding how these questions can make people feel is important.
Questions shouldn’t just be asked because that’s the standard. There are times when certain identifiers aren’t needed for a certain project. We don’t need to ask sensitive questions about race, gender, or income just because that’s the norm. Our practice is to ask what questions matter for the project at hand.
Utilizing Multiple Methods
Being a responsible researcher means utilizing multiple methods to acquire data. MAi always makes sure to recruit across multiple panels and use online methodologies for collecting data to reach the hard-to-reach populations. Reaching everyone within the target is the priority and sometimes saving a penny can mean losing a dollar. Spending the time and money to reach all necessary parties upfront makes for solid data.
Thanking people for sharing
We make sure to ask these race and gender questions in a sensitive and empathetic manner and understand that it is up to the respondent to decide whether to share this information with us. Instead of just telling respondents these questions are for classification purposes, MAi Research is explaining to respondents why we collect this data and how it is used. We are thankful for our respondents taking the time to share their experiences and always state that at the end of each survey. Respondents should finish our survey and feel good about their experience and the products and brands they have just rated.
MAi Research pledges to actively put inclusivity first and always learn more about ways to be inclusive. This is not a one-time change that we have put in place. It is part of this company’s culture to be inclusive and to always do better.