Have a question you want insight into? A survey can get you the answer! While surveys have long been a popular way to gather research, today’s online survey tools have made surveying more popular than ever.
Surveys offer researchers quantitative and qualitative data that can be studied and analyzed, and provide companies with insight into various aspects of their business. So, let’s take a look at the benefits of online surveys (which far outweigh the negatives, which we’ll also cover).
The Popularity of Online Surveys
The majority of surveys used to be conducted in-person or via telephone or mail. While these methods of surveying are still employed, the majority of today’s surveys have gone digital since just about everyone is online these days. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of surveys being conducted over the internet has increased dramatically in the last 10 years due to the relatively low cost of conducting web surveys in comparison with other methods. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys and programs each year, and that’s just one of the largest online surveys. Today, companies frequently use email surveys, pop-up surveys, and other forms of questionnaires to collect customer feedback.
12 Advantages of Online Surveys
What makes online surveys so popular? We’ve put together a list of reasons they’re being heavily utilized, and to be fair, we’ve also included a couple of reasons why another form of surveying may be in your best interest.
The time it takes for someone to complete an online survey is, on average, about two-thirds shorter than that of other research methods. Since online surveys are being taken automatically, there’s no need to wait for paper questionnaires to come back or for a phone interviewer to compile their findings. With web-based surveys, response time is almost instant.
2. More Accurate
The margin of error is greatly reduced with online surveys because participants enter their responses directly into a web survey. Some traditional methods rely on the attentiveness of interviewers to enter all details correctly, and naturally, human error can creep in whenever a person has to perform a repetitive task. When it comes down to it, web surveys are usually more accurate. Since respondents record their own answers, there is no opportunity for an interviewer to misinterpret a response.
3. Easily Stylized
An online survey is a chance to brand yourself and leave an impression on participants. Your survey can be styled to match your business website with customized backgrounds, logos, images, fonts, and more. You’ll want to be sure that your online survey company supports responsive design, like SurveyLegend, so that mobile device users have a good experience as well.
4. Easy To Use for Participants
Today’s consumers hate unsolicited phone calls. They also don’t like junk mail and likely don’t have time for a face-to-face interview. That’s why online surveys are so great! With an online survey, participants can pick a moment that suits them best and the time needed to complete the survey is much shorter. Questions that are not relevant to a particular participant can be skipped automatically using SurveyLegend Skip Logic.
5. More Honest
When a survey participant is speaking with a live interviewer, they may not be totally honest with their responses; they may outright lie. An online survey is easily made anonymous or confidential, not collecting the name or other easily identifiable information about the respondent. This makes many participants feel more comfortable, and more likely to answer questions honestly.
6. More Flexible
The order of the questions in an online survey can be changed, or questions can be skipped altogether, depending on the answer to a previous question to tailor the survey to each participant as he or she proceeds. Online surveys are also flexible. Unlike paper surveys, which have to be reprinted if/when errors arise, web-based surveys can be easily modified with just a few keystrokes. Similarly, they can be altered according to the demographics of the population being questioned, making it easier for companies to target specific audiences without having to print new survey forms.
Online surveys don’t have the expense of an interviewer for in-person or telephone surveys, the printing and postage required for mail-in surveys, and other costs associated with other means of surveying.
8. Anytime, Anywhere
This is an easy one; with online surveys, participants can take a survey at any time, no matter where they’re at. With a mobile responsive design, they can take a survey on a subway at 3 AM! This means there’s no need to place expensive phone calls or send representatives on long-distance trips.
9. Large Sample Sizes
Online surveys have a greater reach than other types of market research techniques. Too often, companies may make the mistake of assuming a small sampling of people represents the general consensus. Underrepresentation of a portion of the population in polls is largely thought to be a big contributing factor for the surprise outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. With online surveying, thousands of participants are within reach, allowing you to expand your sample size to extract data that matches the attributes of the larger population, getting you more conclusive results.
10. Easy Data Analysis and Reporting
Surveys tend to be standardized, providing quantifiable data that can be easily compiled and analyzed. While qualitative survey research techniques, such as focus groups or phone interviews, may yield some interesting answers, analyzing responses becomes more difficult (and potentially inaccurate). In addition, many online survey programs offer advanced statistical tools that can be used to analyze survey data to determine validity, reliability, and statistical significance.
11. No Interviewer
You’ll find this in the disadvantages, too, but not having an interviewer can also be a plus. An interviewer could cause a survey participant to hide their truth out of embarrassment or fear. Interviewees can also influence responses in some cases by their spoken language or body language, which skews survey results.
12. More Candid Responses
Honesty is important in data collection, otherwise, your analysis – and the action(s) you take due to it – can be skewed. Whereas in-person or telephone surveys can cause a person to “clam up” or be untruthful with their answers, most online surveys offer anonymity, which is more likely to result in people giving their true thoughts and feelings on any given subject.
Three Disadvantages of Online Surveys
There are many benefits of using online surveys for your marketing or company research. However, it wouldn’t be fair to point out a few disadvantages.
1. Online Limitations
Not everyone has internet access. If you’re trying to survey a broad spectrum of people, you may miss out on the thoughts or opinions of older demographics and rural dwellers by using an online survey only. This occurred in 1948 when telephone surveys were used to poll for the presidential election, but researchers failed to recognize that many voters didn’t yet have telephones.
2. Close-Ended Question Limitations
Most surveys have close-ended questions, meaning the respondent has no choice but to select an answer or choose “not applicable” or “other.” While close-ended questions make surveys easy to analyze, they may have a lower validity rate than other types of questions (you can, of course, create surveys with open-ended questions).
3. Non-Response Bias
Survey fraud is probably the heaviest disadvantage of an online survey. There are people who answer online surveys for the sake of getting the incentive (usually in the form of money) after they have completed the survey, not with a desire to contribute to the advancement of the study. Read more in our blog: Different Types of Survey Bias and How to Avoid Them.
4. No Interviewers
While sometimes considered a benefit, the lack of an interviewer can sometimes be a negative aspect of online surveys. That’s because a skilled interview can often coax answers out of a participant that isn’t very forthcoming with their responses. A skilled interviewer also knows how to read body language, and can often tell when a participant is being untruthful as well as adjust questions to make an uncomfortable participant feel more at ease.
There are a number of methods of conducting a survey, it’s just a matter of determining which is right for you and which will garner the most accurate responses based upon the questions being asked. Each of the following can be effective survey methods:
- In-person interviews
- Telephone surveys
- Mail-in surveys
- Kiosk surveys
- Online surveys
You can read more about all five of these types of surveys for research in our blog, 5 Different Types of Survey Methods. SurveyLegend offers a variety of types and styles of surveys, beautifully rendered and pre-designed, and responsive on any size screen, along with real-time analytics that will give you an insane amount of insight.
You can check out some of our survey examples and templates now, or contact us to learn more or to find out how much it costs to conduct a survey (hint: it’s not much, and we’ve got some great deals going on now too!).
Any advantages of online surveys that we missed? What do you like most about web-based surveys? Let us know in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
An online survey is a structured questionnaire that your target audience completes over the internet generally through filling out questions on the web or a software program.
There are five main survey methods: in-person interviews, telephone surveys, mail-in surveys, kiosk surveys, and online surveys.
To conduct an online survey, use an online survey platform such as SurveyLegend.