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Toluna Intros SmartSelect for Online Sample Design

March 12, 2012

Chief research officer John Bremer describes the SmartSelect approach as a response to the growing use of blended samples and the accompanying wariness about it.

Essentially, the approach involves designing a “pristine” sample to act as a baseline, against which respondents from a variety of sources can be pre-screened to make sure they fit with the requirements of the survey. Those that don’t are routed through to a different survey.

SmartSelect is designed not only to help make sure samples are representative of the population of interest, but to ensure consistency in sample which is of particular importance for tracking studies.

Attitudinal and behavioural characteristics are used alongside demographics in designing the sample to help maintain consistency, Bremer said. Referencing the Advertising Research Foundation’s work on online research quality, he said a demographically-consistent sample can still show variances in terms of attitudes and behaviours.

Bremer designed SmartSelect alongside George Terhanian, Toluna’s North America president. The pair previously worked together at Harris Interactive where they developed a weighting technique to match online samples to the national population.

But Bremer said that it is no longer enough to weight online survey data outputs. “Most clients want a pristine sample and don’t want to use weighting mechanisms,” he said. “After all, you can only do so much with a sample that may already be biased.”

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