Taking Aim with Consumer Cellular Sample

How Consumer Cellular Sample Can Give You a More Accurate Geographic Fit of your Target Population and Improve Coverage

Geo-targeting. We all know what it means, but for the sake of this article, let’s get at the essence of the concept. Geo-targeting is a way to pinpoint an audience based on location. Accuracy is everything. Geography is the fundamental basis for every sample frame – be it individual streets, Census geography or Postal geography.

Certain sample frames such as Cellular RDD tend to be difficult to target geographically due to inward and outward migration of individuals who retain their cell phone numbers.  It’s important to be aware of these limitations when using a Cellular RDD sample, especially when targeting small geographies.

Here’s how you can miss the target: a cellular RDD sample will include people who have moved outside your target geography (a.k.a. outward migration). Additionally, respondents might live in the area of interest, but do not have an opportunity to be included in the RDD frame (inward migration). They have a cell number that corresponds to an entirely different geography. These people wouldn’t  be included in a traditional cellular RDD frame. The result? Under-coverage due to inward migration and increased data collection costs due to outward migration

So how can we account for the under-coverage and take better aim? One option is to supplement from a relatively new convenience frame called Consumer Cell. This frame is based on a multi-source model comprised of consumer databases linked to publically available cellular telephone numbers. It is updated monthly.

The Consumer Cell  database is built from literally hundreds of sources including

  • Public records
  • Census data
  • Consumer surveys
  • Telephone directories
  • Real estate information (deed & tax assessor)
  • Voter registration
  • Magazine subscription
  • Surveys responses
  • E-commerce
  • Proprietary sources

Geographic targeting using consumer cell can be highly accurate, zooming in on small geographies such as census blocks or even the household level.  Further stratification can be done for numerous person and household level demographic variables.

One limitation to the database is that it is a convenience frame (non-probability compilation of households). It does not offer the same coverage as an RDD frame. It is probably best utilized as a supplement to sample respondents who live in a targeted geography. One of the benefits is that you now include respondents who otherwise would not have been sampled.

If your area of interest is at the state or local level, you should consider where we can address under-coverage issues with RDD cell sample.

DIY Web Scraping: Fetching and Extracting Data

Given the sheer multitude of accessible data available on the world wide web, the “web scraping” phenomenon has caught on like wildfire. Web scraping is a method for extracting data from websites. The scraping can be done manually, but is preferably done in a programmatic way.

Many free programs are out there to assist you with your forays into web scraping.  For a recent project we used IMacros to automate the fetching/extraction of needed data from the Residential Construction Branch of the U.S. Census.  This website provides data on the number of new housing units authorized by building permits.  Data are available monthly, year-to-date, and annually at the national, state, and most county and county subdivisions.  Prior to January 9, 2017 all building permit data at the county level or below was only available as individual text files.  This meant we had to manually download over 3,142 individual text files in order to obtain the data for all the counties in the U.S. It was a tedious task, to say the least.

Such a manual process would have been too labor intensive to take on without any automation via web scraping. Automating the entire process using IMacro was pretty straightforward and simple. Here’s an outline of the steps:

  • Install the IMacro extension to the Firefox web browser.
  • Test the IMacro recording function by going through the process of selecting and downloading the first file.
  • View the recorded code and create a loop +1 so that the code repeats itself and downloads each text file.
  • Save the files in the same file/folder location to make the process of merging data files into a single file much easier.
  • Extract data easily for every county, with the ability to roll up by state, region and nationally.

Like many data sites, the Building Permits Website now provides access to the FTP directory where you can navigate and download all 3,142 text files without having to enter specific parameters for each file.  However, if you come across websites that do not, we recommend that you get familiar with the site to determine what format the data is in: i.e. tables, individual pages etc.  If you need to scrape from numerous websites, take the time to get familiar with each one, because any change in formatting from site to site can cause havoc if you are not aware of the potential problem of downloading misaligned or incorrect data. Never forget the rule: garbage in, garbage out. Test before you scrape!

Why Volunteer?

The research industry needs volunteers. Here’s why you should consider playing a part.

Many of us here at MSG serve as active volunteer members of market and survey research industry organizations. It’s part of our company culture to get involved and make a difference. Recently, I attended back to back chapter events, and I began to reflect on the benefits of volunteering. Was it really worthwhile to devote my time to a local chapter organization?

It’s true, the amount of time you need to devote to volunteering can feel like a second job, and it is crucial that you be able to balance your primary and secondary activities. It’s definitely a juggling act, and it isn’t always easy.

That being said, there are loads of good reasons to become a volunteer. Here’s what influenced me to get involved:

Networking. Serving as an industry volunteer will get you talking to people and is a wonderful means for creating and maintaining relationships. I want to meet people whom I can work with, but I also want to build a network of long-lasting professional relationships. In my roles as a volunteer for a local chapter organization and committee memberships, I have encountered industry pros whom I never would have met otherwise.

Learning best practices. Education doesn’t end with a degree, a certification, or on-the-job training. It should be seen as a lifelong habit of mind. By attending events and seminars outside the orbit of your day-to-day business, you will be exposed to new ideas and pick up on new trends within your industry and related industries.

Organic growth. A natural goal we all have is to grow our business. When you volunteer, the cultivation of business growth can tend to happen more organically, as a function of developing relationships within the membership environment. As you discover ways to collaborate and partner with others, those seeds will sprout.

I firmly believe that volunteers are the lifeblood of an association. They keep our communities engaged and informed. Despite the fact that it can take up a lot of spare time, when I reflect and ask myself, should I have volunteered? I always answer a resounding YES!

 

 

 

Who Really Owns the Cell Numbers on Your List?

Say you have a list of cell numbers for consumers and you want to message them. Then you use an automatic dialing system to send text messages out to those numbers. This simple and apparently innocuous action could have drastic consequences that could actually cost millions of dollars.

This could happen to you

Take the case of Philadelphia-based frozen treats company Rita’s Water Ice, which settled a class action lawsuit for three million dollars in May 2016.

The reason? The plaintiff claimed that Rita’s had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The TCPA requires you to have prior express written consent before using an automatic telephone dialing system for messaging cellular numbers on a list.

In the Rita’s Water Ice court case, the company strongly denied the accusations, but they agreed to a settlement so as to avoid a prolonged lawsuit.

The plaintiff argued the case from two perspectives:

  1. Those who had given original consent but changed their mind and asked to be removed from the distribution list, which never happened.
  2. Those who claimed that they had never given consent to receive text messages.

What’s most interesting for those of us in the research industry is the second group. Upon analysis, it was discovered that certain plaintiffs owned cell phone numbers that had been assigned previously to consumers who HAD in fact agreed to receive text messages from Rita’s.  In effect, written consent had been given originally, then the cell number was reassigned to a new consumer who had no clue about any of that.

Navigating the murky waters of compliance  

All of this points to an issue of great concern to researchers: the vagueness of the TCPA. And it begs a major question: how much due diligence should a company or researcher have to perform, to ensure that the cell phone numbers on their list are in fact registered to the names on the list? It’s murky. A grey area. Undoubtedly, more litigation will have to occur before the question is answered definitively.

In the meantime, if TCPA compliance is at the forefront of your data collection, you should contact an MSG account manager. We have the ability to mitigate TCPA risk. We can identify wireless numbers for you, and we can offer identity verification that verifies called-party consent.

Until the TCPA is amended, clarified, or scrapped, the second golden rule always applies: “better safe than sorry.”