The blog goes pod (and digital nomad thoughts)

I published my first podcast a few weeks ago! It’s short, hopefully both entertaining and thought-provoking. You can find the episode titled Digital nomadery and market research on Anchor, and eventually on all podcast services. In fact, I think it’s hit all of the services by now (iTunes, PocketCast, etc.).

However, completely unscientific Twitter survey says most would rather read a blog post than listen to a podcast, so I thought I’d complement the podcast with a blog post.

Because, why not?

At IIeX North America 2018, we had the opportunity to listen to Per Hakansson, a self-proclaimed digital nomad. He works for himself, has a “virtual physical address” so he can get packages delivered to him wherever he is at, lives in AirBnBs, travels by rideshare, etc. At the conference, his tale drew all sorts of reactions, from “WTH are you thinking?!” to “Wish I could live like that!”

My mind went elsewhere.

No, not THAT elsewhere.

It went to the topic of conducting inclusive market research. I have another podcast recording that’s being edited (p.s. podcasting takes a lot more work than one might expect!) where I talk about market research practices not keeping up with the pace of society’s adoption of technology, but even if we were all on board with creating surveys that could be taken on any device and were all engaging and beautiful and didn’t treat people like robots, we’re still left with questions and ways we segment audiences that unintentionally would exclude digital nomads. Whether or not you agree with the lifestyle, here are some areas where this group could naturally end up being excluded from data, or where one would need to potentially think broader than we have been thinking due to the general acceptance of a lifestyle where adults generally stay put in one location for years at a time.

Annual income: If digital nomads are more likely to be using cryptocurrency, whose value changes quickly, how do you measure something like spend or income?

Shopping habits: I could see this group being naturally excluded as their spend habits might look odd. Instead of a grocer they visit routinely, perhaps they’re getting basic foods from a street vendor one week, a large grocery store the next, and an online delivery service the next. I can see a shopping behavior tracker excluding this type of person because where they are spending money seems erratic. [Note: I’m being extremely hypothetical here, top of mind kind of brainstorming, so it’s entirely possible some of these are actually moot points.]

Residency: I can blame some of this on some of my science fiction reading lately, but digital nomads don’t really have an established residency anywhere. For research purposes, consider the potential this lifestyle has of growing, which could end up confusing things like population counts, as this group is generally constantly moving.

Surveys: One of Per’s statements in his talk was that he has worked to remove anything that causes friction from his life. Where, my dear market research colleagues, does that leave our surveys? (If they don’t even respond to surveys, perhaps it makes the above items moot, but it also makes it more relevant if more people decide to adopt this type of lifestyle and we end up not getting feedback from this growing group whose jobs, homes, and way of living generally differs so dramatically from the current general population.)

And this line of thought brings me beyond how do you include digital nomads in your market research, to what are we doing to be generally inclusive in our studies. Have you updated your gender question to address transgender? How about the way surveys are administered – could someone who is blind take your survey? How about someone with paralysis? Are your surveys including verbiage that uses colloquialisms that someone from a different country might not understand? Even using a term like “love” could mean drastically different things in different countries – are you taking that into account for your studies? And what about mental health like attention deficit disorder? Do you really think that person is going to easily take your grid-riddled survey?

This conversation needs to be more prevalent among market researchers as our general society grows in awareness of systemic ways we exclude various groups.

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