Editor’s note: Jim Longo is the co-founder and chief strategy officer at market research firm Discuss.

Market research has always been about the human connection, from door-to door and kitchen table interactions, to shopping mall intercepts and in-person focus groups. It wasn’t until the late 1990s during the technology revolution that market research moved online, creating the opportunity to do both quantitative and qualitative research in more efficient and innovative ways.  

As online research began to grow, so did the opportunity for fraud. For years the industry sounded the alarm, but few answered the call because many companies did not see it as a priority. At the time it didn’t get a lot of attention because analysts were able to over sample at a low price point. Now fraud is impacting overall costs to projects.

Today online fraud is pervasive and threatening the integrity of the market research industry, especially when it comes to quantitative research where people are completing surveys on things they don’t use or buy. 

When the pandemic hit and forced everyone online, fraudsters capitalized on the opportunity and the industry began to feel the economic implications of poor quality and inaccurate research results. According to IPQualityScore, on average, one in five survey responses or roughly 20% of market research is submitted with fraudulent user data or bogus feedback.

Click farms – which have long been associated with social media and advertising – where a large group of workers are paid low wages to click on links, are now infiltrating the market research world. Fake panelists posing as real customers are responding to survey questions that sometimes are not even in a language they understand. Often it isn’t even a human answering questions but rather a computer bot that is imitating human behavior. This is happening in qualitative research with bots in text-based communi...