02 Dec 2014

Surveys: An ABC Guide, part 5

Using the Internet for market surveys

Online surveys are booming thanks to their simplicity and speed, but it is still just as important to prepare and carry out the survey correctly. The risk of obtaining incorrect results is high, and in the worst case a poor survey can scare off customers.

As surveys go, Internet-based and email surveys are a relatively new and unexplored concept. Although our knowledge of them is increasing rapidly, we still do not have a full understanding of how the results may differ from those of traditional surveys. While most people nowadays use the Internet, it is still questionable whether Internet users as a whole constitute a representative sample of an entire population.

What we can say with certainty is that the Internet currently provides the quickest and most cost-effective way of conducting market surveys. Even so, we should still keep the factors mentioned above in mind when planning a survey.

Thanks to the simplicity, efficiency and ‘cheapness’ of designing online surveys, the phenomenon has grown rapidly in recent years, in many cases at the expense of the quality of the surveys. The enticing speed leads many to ignore the important fundamental details required when conducting a survey in the correct way. For this reason, many obtain skewed or downright incorrect results from their surveys. Even though the process has become more efficient, a survey still takes a long time to plan if it is to be a good one.

If you take a good look at the subject, you will find that there are a huge number of benefits when carrying out market surveys via email. The low cost, the opportunity to carry out surveys over a wide geographical area and the avoidance of the need to engage interviewers are just some of them.

In the following parts of this school we will be getting down to the details. We will be looking more closely at how best to design a market survey via the Internet, and the common pitfalls that should be avoided.

Prepare the survey carefully using a nine-point programme

The points below are designed to help you to put together your online survey.

1. Design the method. Decide which method to use to collect the measurement data that you require. (You can read more about methods in earlier parts of this school.)

2. Assess the feasibility. Give careful thought to how easy or difficult your method is to work with. If you notice that it will require too many resources you should go back a step and consider a different method.

3. Decide on your tools. There are various tools for online surveys. Choose the one that best suits your particular market survey. Paloma offers market-leading services for this.

4. Designate a test group. A test group is needed to detect whether the survey contains any hidden problems during implementation (which almost always is the case). The test group should be selected in a representative way in relation to the entire final group.

5. Conduct a pilot test.

6. Evaluate the pilot test and make any adjustments necessary. If the evaluation shows up any problems, the questions, form or some technical detail in the survey tool will need to be adjusted. Once this is done, you can return to point 5 and repeat the pilot test.

7. Conduct the market survey. Once the survey has been sent out there is no going back; if any errors are discovered at this stage the results will be highly unreliable. It may, however, be necessary to send the survey a number of times in order to generate more responses (please see previous parts of this school).

8. Analyse the results. The information obtained from the market survey must be examined through neutral eyes – particularly the qualitative parts of the survey. It can be an advantage if a complete outsider collates the results so that they are not affected by your wishful thinking. Review how your company or organisation will make use of this new knowledge.

9. Produce a report. Do not be content just to have found out what you wanted to know. Of course, it can be good to have your own suspicions confirmed. However, it is very important for everyone in your company or organisation to be able to share the results easily, quickly and simply. A well-written report makes this easier to achieve, as well as being important documentation for future reference. Save the results in an ‘experience bank’.