By the Editors
Bias impacts all types of market research. It is notoriously difficult to eradicate, and can occur on the part of the respondent, the researcher. It could simply be a byproduct of oversights in questionnaire design. It helps for researchers to be aware of the types of bias that are likely to arise during business-to-business (B2B) projects so that they can make the right choices during each stage of their project design and analysis. Here’s a closer look at five types of bias that can impact B2B market research and how researchers can avoid them.
#1 Acquiescence Bias
Acquiescence bias occurs when there is a degree of friendliness between an interviewer and participant. The respondent may tend to give answers that they believe will please the interviewer. In an extreme case, if a survey is being conducted by an in-house researcher, participants might say positive things about a brand or product. This relates to sponsor bias, where a participant perceives who is sponsoring the research and that perception impacts the feedback that they give. Acquiescence bias can occur if the participant perceives the interviewer to be an expert, or if they generally have personalities that align with this behavior. Be mindful of questions that suggest that there is an appropriate answer, and instead focus on neutral questions designed to solicit the respondent’s point of view.
#2 Leading Questions and Wording Bias
Leading questions and wording bias are one of the fundamental issues that researchers work to avoid in all types of research. Consulting a questionnaire design expert ensures that leading questions and wording bias have a minimal impact on your research. Another strategy is to do a field test or pilot of your study with a small sample to note if leading bias occurs. To avoid this type of bias, focus on language and ideas that resonate with participants. Researchers should not use statements that respondents have previously made to lead into further inquiries that are not built naturally into the research design.
#3 Question Order Bias
This occurs as a result of the order that questions appear on a given questionnaire. For example, if a survey includes several questions about a specific brand and then asks about a competing brand, the participant may be more likely to give negative answers about the competitor. It is not always possible to eliminate question order bias 100% of the time, but consider the following three tactics in your B2B research:
- Feature positive questions before negative ones;
- Start with unaided recall and then move to aided;
- Funnel from the general to the more specific in terms of question order.
#4 Confirmation Bias
When conducting B2B research, a company has often developed a hypothesis or wants to test an idea around how to grow their business. For example, the company may have a concept for a new product that it believes will make a splash and want feedback from the market on how to position it. Ultimately, it is in the company’s best interests to get an accurate reading that can help them make timely decisions. Sometimes an organization has already decided that this is the path to follow—and this preexisting bias can cause researchers to seek confirmation, rather than objective insights. Commit to getting the real data needed to make the best decisions for your company by rooting out confirmation bias at all levels of your research initiative.
#5 Culture Bias
As conducting B2B research increasingly becomes international, the risk of cultural bias is important to note. A cultural bias occurs in the design, survey administration or analysis phase when researchers look at the problem strictly through their own cultural lens. Survey participants from another culture are more likely to take a different approach or see issues in a different way. Successful B2B researchers are able to look at answers within the context of the participant’s own culture.
When conducting B2B research with and around varying cultural constructs, consider having an expert on your team that can help you anticipate differences during the research design. Vet your questionnaire design and localization process to ensure that you’re delivering the best respondent experience possible. Finally, filter your assumptions and analysis to make sure that your own cultural biases aren’t coming into play and causing you to misinterpret critical information.
Bias occurs in the research process because we are human. Researchers and participants bring ideas, concerns and other factors to the table that can influence how we see the research process and answer questions. Avoid these issues by keeping in mind the different types of bias that can impact B2B research and having a clear plan in place for addressing concerns.