Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Surveys

Over the past decade, the use of online methods for market research has skyrocketed.  Due to ever-increasing technological advances, it has become possible for do-it-yourself researchers to design, conduct and analyze their own surveys for literally a fraction of the cost and time it would have taken in the past. 

But are there any drawbacks compared to traditional methods (such as mail, telephone and personal interviewing)?  Today I'll provide a list of several main advantages and disadvantages of conducting market research surveys over the internet.  While the choice of mode is entirely dependent on your specific topic, purpose and goals, internet questionnaires are a great option in many instances.

Advantages
  • Low costs.  Due to drastically lower overhead, collecting data does not have to cost you thousands of dollars.
  • Automation and real-time access.  Respondents input their own data, and it is automatically stored electronically.  Analysis thus becomes easier and can be streamlined, and is available immediately.
  • Less time.  Rapid deployment and return times are possible with online surveys that cannot be attained by traditional methods.  If you have bad contact information for some respondents, you'll know it almost right after you've sent out your surveys.
  • Convenience for respondents.  They can answer questions on their schedule, at their pace, and can even start a survey at one time, stop, and complete it later.
  • Design flexibility.  Surveys can be programmed even if they are very complex.  Intricate skip patterns and logic can be employed seamlessly.  You can also require that respondents provide only one response to single-choice questions, which cuts down on error.
  • No interviewer.  Respondents may be more willing to share personal information because they're not disclosing it directly to another person.  Interviewers can also influence responses in some cases.
Disadvantages
  • Limited sampling and respondent availability.  Certain populations are less likely to have internet access and to respond to online questionnaires.  It is also harder to draw probability samples based on e-mail addresses or website visitations. 
  • Possible cooperation problems.  Although online surveys in many fields can attain response rates equal to or slightly higher than that of traditional modes, internet users today are constantly bombarded by messages and can easily delete your advances.
  • No interviewer.  A lack of a trained interviewer to clarify and probe can possibly lead to less reliable data.
Though the list is not exhaustive, you can see that the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks for researchers in most situations, especially for shorter, simpler projects.  Get started creating your own online surveys today with a free trial from Cvent!
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