Online Surveys

The value of online surveys

Although severely outdated, the article by Evans and Mathur accurately depicts the successes and potential pitfalls of online surveys. They identify global reach, diverse appeal, flexibility, speed, convenience, and overall control as positives of online surveys. They identified skewed internet population, lack of online expertise, impersonal, low response rate, and perception of as junk mail as negatives. Since their survey, I think the lack of online expertise and age skewing are not as much as an issue as seniors flock to social media websites like Facebook. Still remaining as issues are the potential of them being impersonal and quality control, but overall, the strengths continue to outweigh the weaknesses. Of the positives, I would add advanced analytics as another item that is a definite strength of online surveys. This is a modern branch of “Ease of data entry and analysis” as I think the ability to manipulate the data based on demographics with responses is an important advantage of online surveys. 

As time has moved on, I think the value of mail surveys has gone down significantly as very few people are no longer connected, but more and more do not check their mail in a traditional manner. In fast, I’d argue that there’s more of a demographic bias in mail surveys than online now. 

The possible solutions to the weaknesses laid out are outstanding. The small incentives suggestion and opt-in only surveys will help ensure that a lot of the “impersonal, spammy” feel to them will be removed. It’s also obvious that aside from their suggestions, there’s a lot of other variations as there are a large quantity of companies that offer services to conduct surveys in varying industries. 


Online Survey Services

Survey Monkey, Opinion Lab, and Qualtrics are all trying to serve a similar purpose, but target different markets. Just by looking at their websites, it’s very obvious that SurveyMonkey targets the low end while OpinionLab has a strong focus on mobile and is targeted on retail B2C’s. Qualtrics is the most advanced with a strong focus on marketing research and advanced advertisement testing. 

I signed up for a free trial with SurveyMonkey. I found the system fairly basic, but perhaps a little more advanced than Wufoo forms. It seems as though perhaps it may be a good option for a small business trying to get feedback from customers, but even the paid versions have limited usability since they don’t integrate well with more advanced services to use for overall marketing efforts. I do think that the question bank area is useful to novices to brainstorm question ideas though and the ability to analyze the results was solid. I would be interested to see the paid version used by a professional since the free trial gave me a limited view of its abilities.



Are there any other survey services that you have used and did you find them useful? Also, how do these services connect with marketing automation?

How often do you think a marketers personal opinions influence the outcome of a survey? 


4 thoughts on “Online Surveys

  1. Chelsea Bundschuh says:

    I agree with your comments about mail surveys opening themselves to demographic bias. Though I don’t like to admit it, continuing education had kept me in what is considered “student” housing. My mail box is not at the end of my driveway where I can drive by it multiple times a day. It is across a parking lot under lock and key, so even if I am out walking my dog right past it, I can’t access my mail unless I remembered my keys. I also have all of my bills sent to me electronically, so the mail typically consist of coupon books, catalogs and other junk. Because of this less than ideal scenario, mail gets checked maybe twice a week and I do not think I even own a stamp currently. So if I got a survey in the mail, not only could it sit in my mailbox the days, but it is also lumped into a lot of junk, and if not pre-stamped, will not be returned.

    • Exactly Chelsea. Our generation does not like mail. It’s obvious with the electronic bills. I think this means younger people you do get are a very different bunch from the average. Ultimately, online is the mainstream now, which makes it the most effective method despite it’s obvious issues. I think Google Hangouts/Skype group studies would be a very effective method though thinking outside the box for more qualitative data.

  2. My company is in the process of implementing a new MIS that will allow us to have surveys go out automatically to customers after they order. It seems like that is happening more and more lately. When I order from Amazon or other online vendors, I occasionally get surveys that ask if I was satisfied with the product, delivery speed, etc. I think having that go out automatically is a great low-touch way to stay in touch with a larger amount of customers. In my experience, when customers are unhappy, they are either very vocal about it or not vocal at all. I think automated surveys like this help flush out the customers who are not vocal about issues they encounter and prevent them from staying unhappy.

    Personal opinions affecting survey outcomes probably happens more than I’d expect. I think sampling bias happens more than question bias, though. I occasionally see graphics on websites that say something like, “99% of our customers recommend us,” and I’ve seen that on sites that I don’t consider reputable. That makes me wonder if the company only sent the survey out to customers they suspected were already happy. Unless you had access to the list of customers who received the survey, it would be extremely difficult to spot.

    • I think those automated surveys could work, but many people do not yet know their feelings about a product immediately. I think forward dating an email a week to a month would be a much more effective method to make sure the original email doesn’t get lost in the mix.

      Yeah, I think the 99% is a marketing ploy plain and simple. None of these companies release the results or methodology. I take statements like that with a grain of salt.

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