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Market Research Blog

Updates from CFR

Online Surveys: Data Collection Advantages & Disadvantages

Posted by Colson Steber on 11/22/2016

Online Survey Advantages & DisadvantagesOnline surveys have become the default tool for many market researchers. This is for good reason.  Often times the ease of access to using online surveys actually causes issues in itself.  Below, we highlight the advantages and disadvantages of this market research method.

Online Survey Advantages

  • Price - Actual dollars spent per completed survey when the only cost of contacting someone was to send them an e-mail is low when compared to other methods
  • Online surveys are accessible to most target audiences.  
  • Online panels available for purchase are better quality than ever and offer inexpensive access to many qualified people
  • Setup - While sometimes this is mis-used, the reality is that there are many tools that make setting up online surveys simple that are great when used appropriately
  • Meeting the audience where they are.  Online surveys can be deployed through various online channels (e.g. web, mobile, email, kiosks for retail environments, etc.)
  • There are usually no cost-based geographic restrictions.
  • Leverages data automation (e.g. input, handling, analysis, reporting, etc.).
  • Supports flexible design - countless question types and formats can work when the respondent sees what they are responding to

Online Survey Disadvantages

  • Poorly chosen distribution channels can lead to biased data, low response rates and a host of other potential issues.
  • Participants are less likely to stay fully engaged for a survey of more than 8-10 minutes than with other research methods
  • Repeated requests to complete the survey can be perceived by participants as annoying, and can therefore backfire against a business.
  • Unless an identification verification tool is used, it is impossible to know if the sample providing answers is the right person (i.e. it could be a family member, friend, etc.) or if one person is submitting multiple responses
  • Difficulty reaching certain types of participants, such as those who do not have internet access or non-customer samples in niche industries
  • Lack of quality random sampling leads to questionable (if any) statistical confidence and margin of error.  A topic that is a major challenge the market research industry faces right now.

What’s the Verdict on Online Surveys?

At Communication For Research, we know from in-depth experience that online surveys usually should be part of the market research puzzle. However, as with many other technology-enabled data collection methods, online surveys are not a silver bullet or magic wand. It is important to take several factors and variables into account, such as:

  • Why a business is distributing a survey (i.e. what is the problem to be solved?).
  • Why someone should complete the survey (i.e. what is the motivation and self-interest for participants to invest their time?).
  • How the information will be used (being upfront and transparent with participants is critical!).
  • The connection between study design and response rates.
  • Timing is everything (it is imperative to deliver online surveys at the right time and the right place).
  • The value and impact of different strategies.  

Learn More

To learn more about online survey do’s and don’ts, and how to take full advantage of this data collection approach, contact the Communication For Research team today.

Our expertise is in managing research logistics and executing the data collection process.  We use proven strategies, comprehensive systems and advanced technology to empower our clients with actionable intelligence, which ultimately puts their products – and their organization -- on track for maximum profitability and ROI. We are happy to provide accurate, concise, and complimentary feedback on your existing research plans or discuss new research ideas that will bring value to your business.

For more information on market research online surveys and how they could help your business, download our FREE eBook:

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Topics: data collection , online surveys

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