Editor’s note: Scott Worthge is AVP, survey solutions, at Encino, Calif.-based uSamp. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Taking the pulse of the market: What you should know about tracking studies.”

Tracking studies are the heartbeat of your marketplace. They provide a baseline against which changes in customer attitude and behavior can be identified and measured for products and services. These ongoing, standardized measurements are useful for measuring your target customer against the marketplace.

A few of the most common tracker projects revolve around:

• Financial services – bank/investment services, customer satisfaction
• Consumer goods and services – food, alcohol, technology, cosmetics, cars, restaurants, especially for ad testing and media campaign tracking
• Brand/corporate image monitoring

Basically, trackers are valuable to any client who has a need to gather information about their customers or intended customers over time to monitor changes for key metrics as well as look for surprises in consumer sentiment, ratings, etc. This is so often the case with fast-moving goods purchased frequently by consumers or even businesses but can apply to any company wanting to watch what’s happening and investigate what’s moving the needle, and how, for their market.

Executing a tracker
For those used to a steady diet of ad hoc studies, trackers can be a different animal when it comes to setting up the support necessary to field these efficiently and effectively. Trackers require ongoing attention, with several additional unique requirements vs. the more common ad hoc projects.

A few important considerations:

• Continual project management for quota monitoring, especially for how survey completions are spread across the timing for data collection – quarterly, monthly, but even weekly or daily.
• Consistency in the methodology and sourcing for participants in the research.
• Replicable sample frames – ensuring the same process is being followed for each data collection period.
• Exclusions, to ensure that “fresh” respondents are providing data and to prevent bias due to familiarity with the survey.

These are just a few of the many issues that trackers bring to a researcher.

We would be interested to hear about your experiences with trackers. In particular, any considerations that we left out?