Increasingly, we're seeing online panel providers blame clients for their inability to deliver the quality, representative completes that a study demands. If not for poor survey design, the logic goes, online surveys wouldn't be losing their ability to engage and deliver.
But new sales figures for personal computers, the devices online studies primarily rely upon, tell a very different story. They show that the fault lies not in researchers’ failure to write effective surveys, but in the fact that consumers are ditching PCs and simply aren’t available to answer when online research calls. Online providers who pretend otherwise seem to have persuaded themselves that they are not riding the wrong horse, but that you, the client, are to blame for not feeding the stumbling beast the right brand of oats.
Here’s the latest bad news for online, PC-driven research:
- The technology research analyst, Gartner, reports that U.S. shipments of PCs fell 5.7% in the second quarter of 2017 compared to Q2 in 2016.
- This follows a 2.4% drop in Q1. Globally, personal computer shipments have now declined in 11 consecutive quarters, which CNet characterized as “the longest slump in the PC industry’s history.”
- Commenting earlier this year on the Q1 sales, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa told USA Today that “the whole mechanism of consumer computing usage is through smartphones. We go to sleep and wake up to them. You maybe open your personal laptop once a day, but your smartphone is an indispensable item in your daily life.”
- According to Gartner’s most recent report, “consistent growth” in the business market is propping up PC sales somewhat, but not nearly enough to make up for consumers’ flight to mobile.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s latest report on how consumers rate their devices is the proverbial other shoe that’s dropping on personal computers. Satisfaction with personal computers fell 1.3 points to 77 on a 100-point scale, according to its latest ACSI E-Business Report. That's one more indication that opting for online research is like betting on a long shot at the race track.
“The problem with PC demand is actually quite simple, and it’s reflected in weak customer satisfaction,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI’s chairman and founder. “Manufacturers aren’t investing enough in innovation. Compared to smartphones, there is very little advancement in technology to speak of. Functionality is basically the same as it was a few years ago. That’s not a formula for creating satisfied customers, and provides no reason for people to replace their old model with a new one.” According to ASCI, this increasing indifference is reflected in plunging Q2 sales for desktops and laptops: “the lowest quarterly shipment volume since 2007.”
Are we beating a dead horse when we beat up on online/PC-fed research? We’ll be happy to stop when the consumer insights profession finally put online out to pasture and seizes the mobile solutions that will make up the loss in representativeness and data quality the industry experiences when it bets on a horse that's past its prime. For a productive conversation on how offline mobile-app research can meet your projects’ specific needs, just get in touch by clicking here.