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Articles from MOISSANITE JEWELLERY (4 Articles)

Coleby Nicholson
Coleby Nicholson

Pointless polls produce meaningless statistics

Are you sick and tired of meaningless statistics? Coleby Nicholson says, “Click here if you agree that jewellers should stop conducting worthless polls.”
Did you recently read an article about how 86 per cent of people are “dubious about purchasing jewellery online” and that 43.8 per cent of people “wouldn’t buy jewellery online”?

I hope you didn’t!

The statistics in the story originated from a jewellery retailer who had supposedly conducted a survey, and then enlisted the services of a public relations company to send the results off to the media. The press release was titled, ‘86% worry about buying jewellery online.’

The media release started with, “A recent survey conducted by Moi Moi Fine Jewellery, Australia’s Moissanite and Created Jewel Specialists …”.

Magazines and newspapers receive this sort of material everyday and Jeweller decided it would not publish it. Journalists need to be skeptical about public relations material and the editorial team believed that it was not a survey but an online poll.

In fact, it was most probably a voodoo poll.

I have covered the voodoo poll issue before. In October 2007 and under the headline ‘Because I Can’, I wrote; “I dunno about you but I'm sick and tired of all those TV, radio and internet polls – the ones that say, “Vote yes if you're sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

I don't like the ‘because I can’ notion – that because you can do something, you should – and this latest ‘survey’ is another example.

There is a world of difference between a ‘survey’ and a ‘poll’. The former is the result of a controlled sample and implies a greater degree of professionalism in the survey creation and execution. A controlled survey is a microcosm of the larger population.

Surveys are more scientific because the result is less open to manipulation. The results may be open to interpretation but the sample should be statistically and scientifically reliable.

On the other hand, a ‘poll’ is usually open-access. In other words the participants are self-selected and any results is just a snapshot of opinions of a random group of people. Polls usually seek information about what people are likely to do or what they think whereas surveys try to project the future actions of the survey takers.

Then there are voodoo polls – a term coined to refer to internet, phone-in, click-on or ‘press-the-red-button’ polls usually launched by TV and radio programmes as well as other segments of the press. Voodoo polls do not offer accurate statistical evidence because people can often click or vote more than once and the poll is therefore easily manipulated.

They often have prizes for people who respond which may, or may not, skew their answers in an attempt to win a pirize.

Don’t get me wrong, polls and voodoo polls can be fun. A bit of light-hearted entertainment never hurt anyone. When a poll is meant to be a bit of fun, no one is harmed but the danger is these meaningless and absurd online voodoo polls are often misreported as fact or a survey.

That was the case in late 2007 when a jewellery company conducted a voodoo poll that concluded that, “70 per cent of consumers do not trust their jeweller”. Worse, the ensuing media release was picked up by a number of newspapers with one even extrapolating, “and think they are being ripped off [by jewellers].”

The damaging ‘poll’ was said to be a ‘survey’, just as this current Moi Moi Fine Jewellery has been. The media release issued by Moi Moi was published by a number of trade publications that deemed it worthy of reporting.

 So what were the key findings of this so-called ‘survey’?
* 86 per cent of those surveyed admitted they were dubious about purchasing jewellery online
* 42 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t buy jewellery online at all
* 43.8 per cent of respondents said they would only buy jewellery online if they knew that the store also had a physical outlet (‘clicks and mortar’)
* 86 per cent of the women surveyed aged between 26 and 45 said they preferred ‘clicks and mortar’ because they wanted to test the quality of the jewellery before spending a large amount of money
* 90 per cent of women surveyed also said they wanted to make sure that the jewellery suited them
* 89 per cent of respondents said they prefer ‘clicks and mortar’ because they liked the high level of personal customer service that comes with it
* 28 per cent of the men surveyed said they were dubious about purchasing jewellery online
* 33 per cent of the men surveyed said they were happy to buy over the net said they would spend over $5,000 at an online jewellery store

Voodoo polls are easy to spot because the results are often self-serving. Astute journalists will query the validity of the poll – would these results have been issued to the media if they were the exact opposite of what had been presented? The answer is usually ‘no’ because voodoo polls are often conducted by people with a vested interest in the result.

Ask yourself; do you think Moi Moi Fine Jewellery would have issued a media release if the results were the exact opposite of these ‘statistics’? Was it a legitimate survey or more of a voodoo poll? According to the company, the participants were self-selected and it was open for two weeks. Respondents went into a draw for a prize.

The original media release quoted Alana Chang Weirick, director of Moi Moi Fine Jewellery as saying consumers have been “left out of pocket due to dodgy websites”. She then named a well-known Australian online retailer as “dodgy” – something the company’s lawyers might not be too happy about.

One online trade publication that reported on the poll was prudent in not quoting Weirick, presumably, for fear of defamation action although another online quoted her word-for-word, openly naming the “dodgy” website.

[Jeweller could provide readers with a link to the online story, but it could open us to potential defamatory action because a republished link can be deemed to be a defamatory statement. However, if you’re interested, Mr. Google will help you find the so-called “dodgy” website.] 

So you are starting to see why I have a problem with the ‘because I can’ approach to public relations and marketing. These things can often backfire on you as it did for the company concerned in 2007. Not only did it harm the company’s own reputation it caused untold stress for many other jewellery businesses.

Interestingly, it also damaged the reputation of some well-known publishers who reported on the ‘survey’ results. During the furore, the JAA lodged a formal complaint with the Australian Press Council against a number of news organisations, including the online version of Sydney Morning Herald. The Council upheld the complaint and found against

The adjudication stated, “In the Council's view, newspapers and their websites are solely responsible for their editorial content, regardless of the source. The use of unchecked material is at the publisher's own risk.” It added that the Council’s guidelines on the reporting of opinion polls, “encourage editors to be cautious of open access online polls, where the sample size in unknown, the questions asked are unknown, and where the results have been generated by self-selecting respondents and not by proper statistical sampling.”

What worries me more than banal online polls and the publications that report them is that many in the jewellery industry try tricking themselves into believing that online retailers don’t offer a genuine alternative for consumers. They do. Maybe not for all consumers across all retail categories, but the sooner many retailers (and suppliers) face up to the changing market, the better.

Jewellery retailers and suppliers should concentrate on improving their own business and stop trying to convince consumers that the competitor [internet retailing] is no good. Consumers will make their own assessments and silly online polls will not sway their behaviour, one way or the other. You’d be better off spending your money on improving your own business rather than handing it over to ‘clever’ public relations companies.

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