The 5 Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make with Online Market Research Surveys

Thanks to the affordability and available of various online tools, more businesses than ever before are sending out market research surveys so they can better understand their customers and marketplace. However, instead of gleaning actionable intelligence, the vast majority of these businesses are hearing virtual crickets, and seeing virtual tumbleweeds. In other words: most customers aren’t filling out their surveys. What’s the deal?

Well, it’s not that market research surveys delivered through email, over the web, of via mobile device are a bad idea. Rather, it’s that businesses are making one, some or all of the following major errors:

  1. The survey questions are too long and complex.

According to leading nationwide market research firm Communications For Research, the formula for successful online surveys is captured by three words that start with the letter S: short, sweet and simple. This refers to the survey itself, and the specific questions.

  1. There’s a lack of transparency.

It’s vital to tell survey participants right from the beginning what the survey is about, how the information will be used (e.g. to improve customer service, to develop new products, etc.), and how long the survey typically takes.

  1. The wrong customers are being consulted.

Most businesses underestimate how difficult it is to recruit the right participants for their online survey. For example, without resources and networks, it’s almost impossible — at least within an acceptable timeframe and for a feasible cost — to find participants who represent a diverse marketplace mix. This is a key reason why businesses opt to work with a market research agency.

  1. The sample size is too small to be statistically significant.

Since I don’t want to conjure up any bad memories of high school or college statistics classes, I’ll keep this ultra simple: when businesses don’t consult enough participants, the (so-called) insights they glean are invariably going to be inaccurate and unreliable. Statistical significance is driven by sufficient quantity.

  1. There’s no deadline and/or incentive.

Last but not least, online survey response rates vary considerably — and a big reason for non-completes is that participants get busy, or simply forget. Putting a deadline and reminding participants of how valuable their feedback is can help with completion rates. Offering an incentive or entering participants in a contest may also be suitable, depending on the context.

The Bottom Line

Generating valuable market research through online surveys can be a very smart investment — provided, of course, that none of the above errors make an appearance. Keep this in mind and you’ll position your business in front of more customers, and ahead of more competitors!