Many novices in the market research realm will gravitate towards the free survey tools available online. We don't blame them. When an organization wants to obtain quick feedback from customers or an event, oftentimes a free survey tool will provide them the basic set up in order make it happen. If the organization conducts market research infrequently it may not be in the best interest to shell out budget for an expensive online survey tool which may go unused.
Several benefits exist to using a third-party market research company for your online survey efforts. These companies have access to advanced tools and capabilities which your organization cannot access freely online. In addition to leveraging this advanced software for your project, using a third-party consultant ensures the market research has dedicated the right amount of time and expertise to the topic for your team.
Wondering what the added capabilities would be if you go with a professional online survey company? Here are some of the benefits and capabilities these advanced survey platforms can offer you, regardless of whether you conduct your market research in-house or you farm out.
Capability 1: Advanced routing
Routing is a basic term in market research which means to skip or jump participants to appropriate questions based on prior responses. Since the premise of Voice of Customer (VoC) and market research is to better listen to your audience, routing in your survey is a must-have or you stand the chance of frustrating your respondents. This can have lingering effects on your brand, let alone your response rate.
Routing supports a better user experience (UX) for the survey taker. Let's say the first question in your survey asks if you have visited store ABC in the past month and you answer "no." Routing would dictate you should skip question 2 which asks "how many times have you visited the store in the past month?" Since you mentioned in a prior question you never visited, this question should not be shown to you on your online survey. It's easy to understand how a lack of routing and logic built-into a survey may cause frustration and drop-out.
More sophisticated platforms allow the user to go well-beyond basic routing tactics. Skip patterns can be built to route based on a number of selections (e.g., respondent chose more than 2 selections), a select series of responses (e.g., respondent selected choice A, C or E), and other more complicated patterns. This will not be offered in a free tool.
Capability 2: Page randomization
The free editions of survey tools offer randomization of answer choices but many do not offer the more advanced routing capabilities such as page or question randomization. Sequence bias is a true concern in market research so as a survey writer you always need to be conscious of the order in which you display items. It's best practice to inverse order or randomize questions and answer choices which are not structured in a series. For instance, it would not make sense to randomize age categories (18 to 21, 35 to 39, 25 to 29, 75 or older) but it would make sense to randomize "favorite kinds of food." First-shown criteria in a list often obtain higher selection rates on surveys.
Capability 3: Piping
Supporting the idea that online surveys need to do a better job of "listening" to response feedback, the advantages of piping resemble those of advanced routing. Piping is different from routing in that it takes responses from a prior question and auto-fills the response into a follow-up question.
For instance let' say the survey asks an open-end, "what word or phrase do you associate with Company ABC?", to which the respondent replies "customer service." Piping would allow the next question to say, "You stated you associate customer service with Company ABC, how would you rate it using a scale of 1 to 10 with "10" being very positive and "1" being very negative?" Piping makes the survey more engaging for the respondent and keeps them focused.
Capability 4: Real-time data
In most free platforms, the only user privy to the survey data is the person with the login and passcode. In these scenarios, "real-time" data is a process of downloading a survey file into Excel or sending out a few graphs by email, knowing the minute you send it's already out-of-date if more data has been received. Some more advanced survey tools like those used at Drive Research allow for passcode protected links to be sent to clients to view the data in an online dashboard in real-time. Not only that but our clients can log-in and filter the data based on location, date, and other criteria in our survey making the process very interactive and engaging. This also encourages transparency and trust in results.
Capability 5: Branding
This is a simple advantage to using a paid survey tool. Many of the free platforms force you to use their logo and branding when administering a survey. This essentially means free advertising for the survey host. A basic advantage of having an in-house or paid survey software subscription is the ability to remove the brand the host and brand the survey accordingly so it looks like it was built by your company.
Capability 6: Unlimited survey completes
If your organization wants to conduct an extensive study, you will be limited with a free tool. These online websites offer up to ~100 completes before entering a paid model. Some of the more advanced platforms offer larger-scale pay-to-play models or, best case scenario: unlimited survey completes with an unlimited number of surveys. At Drive Research we always say some data is better than no data at all, but 100 completes can prove limiting especially if you are looking for stronger statistical reliability.
If you want more than a basic survey tool, your organization does not have to break the bank. One option is working with a market research who already has a survey platform purchased to conduct surveys. If you prefer to do in-house, don't think you need a cutting-edge platform with all the bells and whistles. Several options exist on the market which offer all of these benefits above for an affordable yearly subscription fee. We feel cutting edge survey platforms are often not worth the cost for the market research company. The additional value a company gains is not worth the significant cost, a cost that is trickled down to clients through project costs.
Drive Research is an online survey company located in Syracuse, NY. Interested in learning more about the online survey capabilities Drive Research can offer your organization. Contact us at [email protected] or by calling 315-303-2040.