02 Dec 2014

Surveys: An ABC Guide, part 2

How to produce successful surveys

It may seem obvious, but the first step is always to define the purpose of the survey. What do I wish to know, and why? Which method is best for my target group and queries? How do I then process the information correctly? How do I make maximum use of the results?

It is important to define the aim of the survey – what is it that you really want to know? For example:

  • Market shares
  • Competitors
  • Where and when people buy your product or service
  • How your website is perceived

Then you need to set limits.

  • How much time can the respondent be expected to spend on it?
  • How many people will be included in the survey?
  • What resources do we have available, in terms of both time and cost?
  • What form will the survey take? Postal survey, via a newsletter, on the website or by interviews?
  • Which people will reply to the survey – what is our target population, and how do we reach them?

Digital surveys produce the highest response rates and are usually the most cost-effective. For you, they are an easy and cheap way of reaching your target group, while for the respondents it is an easy and quick way to respond. It is also easy to send out reminders to those who have not responded.

Do you wish to conduct an exploratory survey – i.e. a research survey used to generate basic knowledge about a specific area? For example, if you wish to:

  • Start up a business
  • Develop or start up a new business area
  • Launch a new product

This type of survey should be addressed to a small number of individuals, for example a group of experts. In-depth interviews and group discussions are two techniques that can be used.

A descriptive survey is used to establish facts and circumstances, for example:

  • The size of the market
  • Market shares
  • Consumer habits
  • People’s views and ratings

Usually, the purpose of the survey is an analytical one; perhaps you may wish to conduct a correlation analysis or test a pronounced hypothesis: for example, the correlation between market shares and geographical presence, and a test as to whether or not the difference is ‘statistically significant’.

Other concepts to be aware of.

Qualitative surveys

What image do your customers have of your company? What needs do your customers have that you can meet? Qualitative surveys address your target group directly and are usually conducted via group discussions or in-depth interviews. You can gain a detailed insight into the thoughts and approach of the target group to a certain area. The method is also used to interpret and analyse data that is difficult to express in figures – for example, a usability test on an intranet or website.

Quantitative surveys

Here, a large number of individuals are questioned and the results can easily be compiled in numerical and statistical form. The responses are not as nuanced or precise as is the case with personal interviews.

Explanatory surveys

How various factors are linked – for example, how the size of a company determines the selection of a supplier.

Desk surveys/Secondary data

Build on data that already exists, for example Internet statistics.




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