How to Survey Customers Offline

In the age of social distancing, is it possible to survey customers offline? The COVID-19 crisis has pushed the bulk of market research practices online during the year 2020.

Research clients, firms, and participants alike have been understandably wary of the idea of in-person studies. 

As a result, virtual methodologies like online surveys, online focus groups, and video interviews became the default.

But what if you are still better off collecting your data offline? 


Reasons to Survey Customers Offline

There are multiple reasons why foregoing an online element may be a better fit for your study. 

Perhaps your target audience does not have reliable access to the internet such as rural residents. Your target participants may also be less tech-savvy, belonging to the oldest age groups. 

Customer samples are sometimes also limited to traditional contact information like mailing addresses or telephone numbers.

As the world evolves during the pandemic, research studies with these limitations still need to be executed. Below are five noteworthy methodologies that can be conducted offline.

Still on the fence? Read our experts’ takes on whether in-person market research is a good or bad idea during COVID-19.


Offline Survey Option #1: Mail Surveys

An age-old approach to market research is the mail survey. These are questionnaires mailed to respondents with the intention of being filled out and returned to the researchers.

To make these studies successful, it is imperative that the questions are simple and quick. Respondents moving from question to question won’t have the patience for complex logic or lengthy text. 

Some of the downsides to consider with mail surveys are the extra time needed for surveys to be delivered and returned as well as the manual data entry for analysis.

That said, mail surveys may be convenient when something else like a product or letter is already being shipped to a customer. Just be sure to include prepaid postage for the returned survey.


Offline Survey Option #2: Phone Surveys

Another option for offline data collection is a telephone survey. These surveys may take advantage of a computer to guide the interviewer and input data (also known as CATI), but they can be conducted without the internet.

An interviewer typically dials a phone number matched to a respondent and walks them through the survey. 

The main drawback of telephone surveys is the number of resources needed to dial numbers and administer the survey.

However, with a live person, there is an opportunity for the interviewer to clarify minor instances of confusion and add a personal touch.

Responses to open-ended questions may also be more detailed than within an online survey.


Offline Survey Option #3: Intercept Surveys

If the best (or only) way to reach your target audience is at specific locations, intercept surveys may be the most suitable option.

Intercepts involve an interviewer holding a tablet programmed with an online survey or paper surveys. These interviewers walk up to potential respondents and ask them to take the survey at a designated location.

Intercepts also have the ability to connect to an online survey link, but they work just as well with a downloaded version of the survey on a tablet, saving data locally to the device. 

Extra precautions are necessary to protect both respondents and the interviewer for intercept surveys during COVID-19.

The interviewer must be sure to follow the latest health guidelines such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and sanitizing the survey materials.

Another consideration with these studies is the need for a reliable interviewer who is available to survey the location for several hours at a time.


Offline Survey Option #4: In-depth Interviews (IDIs)

For a qualitative study, in-depth interviews (IDIs) may be completed in a couple of different ways without being online.

A moderator spends between 30 minutes to an hour and a half having a comprehensive discussion with a participant one-on-one.

One approach would be in-person, either at a research facility or another convenient location for the participant.

Again, COVID-19 guidelines are a must if the study goes in this direction. The interviewer and participant may sit across from one another, separated by at least 6 feet of space. 

The other offline option here is via telephone.

This is not to be confused with a phone survey, where most questions are closed-ended and meant to measure data.

Phone in-depth interviews are detailed research discussions where the participant and interviewer agree to meet on a call at a specified time.


Offline Survey Option #5: Focus Groups

Last but not least, focus groups are a well-known form of offline market research. A standard in-person focus group will consist of a moderator and 4 to 12 participants.

The moderator leads a discussion about various topics for 60 minutes to 2 hours. Information may be collected from observers’ notes, participant activity materials, or audio/video recordings of the sessions. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, it is important to take safety measures like spacing out participants, requiring masks, limiting physical activities, and sanitizing surfaces.

Briefly screening participants for COVID-19 symptoms or any recent contact with the illness is also worthwhile.

A good focus group facility should be able to adapt to the challenges that come with in-person focus groups during these uncertain times.


Looking to survey customers offline? Contact Drive Research.

Drive Research is a national market research company. Our experts are familiar with all the best offline research methods you have at your disposal.

Interested in learning more about our market research services? Reach out through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology. 

Learn more about Tim, here.


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