In Data We Trust: qSample President Discusses 2015 Online Survey Trends

Rudly Raphael is the President of qSample. He is a Harvard University Graduate in Information Sciences, and has been working in market research for the past 15 years, specifically panel management and data analysis.

In this qSample Q&A, Rudly discusses the trends in online surveys for 2015 and beyond, addressing many topics like how mobile technology will affect online surveys and how can companies obtain the best possible panels and survey methodology.

Q1: What are you predictions for 2015 when it comes to online surveys or just surveys in general?

Rudly: Although online survey data collection does have its challenges, penetration for online survey continues to increase at a surprising rate—making it once again the data collection mode of choice for research practitioners. This trend indicates that online survey is here to stay and will not be extinct anytime soon, as some in the industry have predicted. I expect online surveys to maintain this pace in 2015, and while mobile is gaining some speed, its challenges are too far greater to overcome online within the next 5 years. In fact, CATI is regaining its place in the race, making it the second data collection mode of choice in 2014.

Q2: How has mobile technology changed the way online surveys are conducted?

Rudly: I’m not sure mobile technology changed the way online surveys are conducted, but all the rave about mobile certainly brings more awareness to those of us in the online space to step up our game and address some issues with the online methodology. Perhaps it’s about writing shorter surveys or implementing better tracking tools in online surveys to identify fraudulent respondents or simply optimizing online surveys for mobile as well. Only mobile survey is experiencing a similar growth in penetration, in comparison to online. However, while much has been made about mobile and there are certainly benefits to conducting mobile surveys, it still has a long way to go.

Q3: What are some the biggest mistakes companies make when conducting surveys?

Rudly: Our industry’s motto should be “In data we trust.” Without the data, there’s no research. One would think a lot of emphasis would be placed on data acquisition. Companies need to have more empathy for the research participant. The person(s) who writes the survey instrument should ask themselves if they could sit through that survey for 25-30 minutes.  Companies should make surveys fun and engaging, regardless of the topic. They should test their surveys over and over again to identify the fatigue points in the survey. This is usually the area where data integrity is compromised.

Q4: What advice/guidelines do you have for companies seeking to conduct online surveys when it comes to gathering the best data possible for their research?

Rudly: First, surveys should not be viewed as a final exam to the research participant. Second, the shorter the better.  Although the topic and the audience being surveyed can dictate the length of the survey, keeping surveys at a reasonable length will eliminate respondent fatigue and greatly improve data quality. Third, uniformity and simplicity in design. Survey pages must be free of design distractions and multicolors/pop ups flashing on the screen. Questions, instructions must be clear and legible to the respondent. Finally, understand your audience. If the survey is targeting millennials, perhaps instructions on how to move to the next page or click this or that button can be kept to a minimum. Whereas, if the survey is targeting baby boomers, maybe the question font might need to be a little bigger than normal or spell out those tech acronyms.

Q5: What is the most interesting factor about sampling to you?

Rudly: Sample from internet panels are typically non-probability samples. However, since our focus area is in developing and managing specialty panels that are smaller than general consumer panels, these niche audiences make it more likely to achieve a probability sample than your average panel. While some clients can sometime employ a quota to set the proportion of levels or strata within the sample, it’s always intriguing to see the results and how they compare to the population at large. We sometimes use this feedback to make adjustments in either recruiting more or less to make our panels more representative.

Q6: What is the most unusual survey you ever had to spearhead?

Rudly: The most unusual had to be an online usability testing survey, whereby we were asking respondents to take a picture and upload a female hygiene product, which was somewhat very personal or intrusive.

Q7: There are plenty of companies that offer affordable panels. Do you see a problem with that?.

Rudly: If it’s affordable and they have access to that audience, I don’t think there’s a problem. If the cost is below industry standards, then, like everything else, I’d question the quality. After all, I believe in the old saying that you get what you pay for.

 

Please visit Rudly’s other interview at Survey Analytics, where he delves into the more technical aspects of online surveys.

 

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