What it does
Fully hosted software-as-a-service online research suite that offers a high level of performance and flexibility, with tightly integrated panel management capabilities. The panel module now offers support for online research communities
Ease of use
Compatibility with other software
Value for money
Three components: Set-up and customisation fee for panel typically £10,000-£14,000; plus, annual company-wide licence fee for survey module: £2,700 and for panel on sliding scale, from £6,830 (10,000 members) up to £20,630 (half a million or above); plus, usage fee per complete interview on a sliding scale, e.g. 49p for 10,000-20,000 in a year; 12p for 2 million.
- A captive application for CATI interviewers and supervisors rather than a web browser interface
- Integrated question and media library for rapid survey development
- Works with any modern browser or OS
- Provides a full web content management system (CMS) for multiple panel/community sites
- Panel can work standalone with other interviewing software, e.g. for other modes
- Online and mobile interviewing are the only survey modes supported
- Steep learning curve
A lot of web technical knowledge needed to fully exploit panel customisation
- Contains quant research elements but no obvious survey workflow for quant projects
How a panel differs from a community has become a bit of a topic among the research profession of late: how to avoid influence, whether incentives should be paid or not, or even whether the two differ at all. It’s clear that there is diversity in understanding and practice, and in introducing community support to the Globalpark EFS interviewing suite (the EFS stands for enterprise feedback management) this research software provider leaves those decisions to the individual. You could use the software to run multiple communities, multiple panels or any combination of the two, with different websites for members to use for each, and behind the scenes you may choose to keep all your panel members in one database, and segregate them logically, or physically segregate them into separate databases.
Globalpark EFS splits the task into three essential components: panel (or panels), projects and websites (the panel members’ portal). Therefore, if you had a panel of customers, and wanted to create a community of premium customers, as an elite group drawn from the panel, you could create a special website for these customers. Surveys are deployed through the respondent-facing website, and can be deployed to more than one site. They can even be skinned differently, so the survey the premium customers get be the same survey as in the general panel, but could take on a different look, consistent with the premium site’s theme. It also makes this a very appropriate pick for research companies, alongside the corporate EFM customers that Globalpark target, since panels and surveys can easily be branded for different customers or contexts.
The real power of the system is in its ability to create multiple panel and community websites, and for these sites to contain dynamic content driven from a number of sources. It means that once the site has been configured, no further technical tweaking is required, provided you do not fundamentally change the scope of what you are doing. All the routine activities such as putting surveys live, inviting panellists to participate, collecting demographics and contact updates from members, reward redemption, and the more community-oriented capabilities such as adding content to news feeds, featuring snap polls and results of surveys are simply managed through a set of attractive and straightforward control panels.
The site builder is another matter though – this is something aimed squarely at the web technician, and even then it will tax even the specialist, as there is a lot to learn and a lot of layers to work through. What Globalpark give you is a fully functioning web content management system (or CMS) which conveniently happens to understand surveys and panels. It is HTML and PHP based, browser-independent and, following best web practice, rigorously separates presentation from function. In an attempt to make it a little less complex, rather than having to write any PHP code, most text content can be written in Smarty, a text markup system. This makes it easy to pull fields from the panel database for display, and put logic into the text too.
It’s a highly accomplished implementation of a CMS and you could certainly use this software to build big fast-moving content-rich sites in which the survey activity was only a small component. It is a clever stance to take, though the trade-off is that all this flexibility is the time and expertise required to create a new site. This will not let you pop-up a new community in a couple of hours. To be fair, the people at Globalpark recognise that only a minority of customers would be able to do the configuration from scratch and tend to quote for doing the initial configuration work with new customers.
Version 7 also introduces a number new Web 2.0-style ‘community’ building blocks. Forums allow you to create threaded discussions, with members contributing responses, or optionally, defining new topics too. Whiteboards let you create a simple single-topic forum. Blogs let you turn the commenting over to your participants, who can add their own content and upload images, documents and so on. You can also feature selected blogs on the home page. Chat lets you hold one-to-one or group discussions in real time, to a limited extent, though stops well short of a full online group.
You can restrict access to forums and all the community components, so you can work with an invited subset of members only. Whenever content upload is an option, you can restrict the files you permit, e.g. only to allow JPEG images or Word documents, and the size can be limited too. It’s all very sensible, but it does not really jive yet for the qualitative researcher wanting to pull panel members into open, semi-structured research. There is no built-in workflow in the way there is for a quant survey and your data is likely to end up scattered all over the place. This needs more thinking through, and no doubt later versions will improve the situation.
However, praise must go to Globalpark for providing these features and making the software entirely DIY, if you have the skills to do the CMS configuration work behind the scenes, because many other community tools do not give you this degree of control or flexibility. You could do a lot of novel and interesting community-based and collaborative research with what this offers.
Sony Music in Germany started using Globalpark EFS a year ago for a range of research activities carried out in-house using their own panel. These include new product and concept testing, as well as song cover and artist image tests for upcoming artists or newcomers. Michael Pütz, Director CRM, Web Strategy and Research explains: “We also create target group profiles, including information about media usage, which is useful for developing marketing and media plans, later on, and we use it to gain additional overall consumer insights.
“It is sometimes said that the music industry is failing to meet consumers’ needs and adapting too slowly to new business models and technologies; our activities with our online panel at www.musikfreund.de (along with other initiatives) shows evidence to the contrary. For some years now, our consumers have become regular part of a&r [artist and repertoire] and marketing decisions and our reliable partners in developing new business models and proofs of concepts.”
The market research team was therefore seeking something that would let them create well-structured and well-designed surveys and offer integrated panel management capabilities too – and to expand some of these into communities – something else EFS offered.
Mr Pütz continues: “The possibilities with EFS are huge. We are constantly challenging EFP and the Globalpark team, and they nearly always come up with good ideas on how to transfer what we want to do into solutions.” He notes in particular the ways in which Globalpark allows users to save time and improve consistency through the use of both standardized ready-made types of questions and the ability to set up a media library to make it easy to insert audio and video clips, which are fundamental to the research he does.
“The basic functionalities of EFS are easy to learn and to teach, however, configuration and tool menus of EFS can be a little bit confusing to beginners – it is not self-explanatory, which is when the help of Globalpark support teams and experts is needed.”
A version of this review first appeared in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, October 2009, Issue 521