Research professionals who have been in the business for years have seen survey popularity with consumers ebb and flow. When surveys were new, they were fun and it was easy to find survey participants to complete them. However, it became evident that survey data collection was becoming more and more challenging, due to other activities on the calendar that became a huge distraction to the average consumer.
How do researchers compete for the consumer’s time effectively? Respondents who complete a survey are often rewarded for their time and participation. At a time when the economy was somewhat sluggish, survey honorariums became a huge attraction with research participants and viewed by some as a way to earn some income on the side. A focus group participant, for example, can earn anywhere from $50 and up for their time. With the growth of social networks, taking a survey has become easier than ever and many research firms, including qSample, take full advantage of the methodology.
For this post, we explored the pros and cons of surveying.
Surveys allow marketers to gather many different opinions from a wide-market spread, or from many different markets. Running around the mall with a clipboard to complete surveys can sometimes lead to skewed conclusions, since the majority of survey participants will consist of local residents. While this might work if the research requires speaking with local area residents, an online survey is probably a better, cheaper and more effective method to reach a broader audience.
Surveys allow for sampling within certain regions, if needed. Surveys can be initiated in certain regions only, if needed. In fact, panel providers, like qSample, can target respondents’ zip codes for very selective geographic studies. If a respondent needs to live in Midland, TX because a researcher wants to discover the draw of living there, a researcher can pull respondents from that area only.
Surveys ensure that all respondents are answering the same questions. This is important so that the resulting data is very clear (i.e. 40% of respondents said that they like to pack a lunch and 60% of them do not like to pack a lunch). If participants receive different questions and options to respond, the survey results become null.
With modern surveys, marketers can compile results quickly and use technology to see trends. Gone are the days of hand-counting checkmarks in certain columns and then creating reports about those results (unless one IS running around a mall with a clipboard).
qSample has unique technology that allows instant graphing of results as they come in. Those results are open to all team members involved so that adjustments can be made if needed and communication is clear. Because qSample already has active panel members ready to participate and great software, surveys can often be completed within days.
Surveys protect respondent’s personal information and do not affiliate information with a name. Online surveys in particular guard the consumer’s private information so that it cannot be sold, rented or tampered with. There is no paper trail on respondents. Although certain demographics might be tapped for a particular survey, contributor’s contact information is kept separate from the results lessening the potential fear of identity theft, inherent bias, etc.
Respondents may be biased when answering questions. Although researchers, not unlike lawyers in a jury selection process, can attempt to find any bias before running a survey, this isn’t always possible. If the goal is to find consumers who love General Mills, a marketer will initially ask consumers if they buy General Mills products before sending them to the rest of the questions and of course, it’s possible some would claim to buy the brand when they really don’t. This would immediately skew the results. Surveys must operate on the assumption that most contributors are answering to the best of their knowledge and allow for a small margin of nuances.
If survey answers are multiple choice, some answers may not be listed. Many wonder why there is not an answer that fits them on some survey questions. It is because the researcher wants participants to fit into the categories offered. Although they recognize that not all participants will comply, they want to connect mostly with the people that do fit into those categories. The best surveys will have an “other” or a “none of the above” option.
Respondents sometimes skip or are untruthful about personal questions, like income and age. Respondents have a natural inclination to be untruthful if they perceive that the question crosses a line. Annual income ranges are an example of this. Does it matter? Perhaps. Market Researchers know this and can work with it. If researchers want to know if those who make more than $100,000 like to buy a certain car or not, the survey should be approached with that qualification up front by gathering respondents who make that verified income range before even beginning the survey.
Marketers can be biased when putting together respondent qualifications or survey questions. It exists and is sometimes hard to pin down, but of course there can be bias when writing a survey. In addition, questions can be leading, which makes for a poor tool to gather unbiased data.
Sometimes surveys don’t hold consumer’s attention long enough to complete. Ideally, a survey is created with this in mind and retains the interest of respondents. Minimizing respondent fatigue and making the survey as user friendly as possible is paramount to getting the best responses possible. qSample keeps this in mind before fielding any surveys and employs several different tactics to keep respondents engaged.
Understanding the potential cons of surveys, market researchers have implemented methods to minimize these issues and gather accurate data. With the large reach of surveys, and especially qSample’s online and mobile options, marketers can reach the exact market of people that they need and gather the best data possible.