Conducting surveys online - advantages and disadvantages
The widespread distribution of online media has made market research possible even where there used to be no access. Today, surveys of target groups, customers and employees have long since become part of everyday business – and have become more convenient, faster and more efficient in many respects thanks to online support. Surveys using the Internet have become the most popular survey method.
Less effort - more output
For a company, conducting an online survey means designing and programming an online questionnaire using suitable software. The recipient is then invited to participate directly by SMS, e-mail, QR code or on a corresponding website and can complete and submit the questionnaire online in his or her browser. This means that labour-intensive steps such as printing, postal dispatch, handwritten completion, return, manual data entry etc. are no longer necessary. In contrast to this, an online version also has a very large reach, the software-assisted evaluation in real time and generally requires much less time, money and personnel.
The advantages of an online survey
The numerous advantages of an online survey over a paper, telephone or face-to-face survey are obvious:
- Time saved for the company: Once the content of a survey has been created, it can quickly be implemented, displayed, evaluated and presented on a computer.
- Time saved for the recipient: The addressee only has to spend the pure response time on the survey.
- Cost reduction: Since there is no need for printing and dispatch or manual data transfer and evaluation, you save time, money and personnel costs.
- Potentially worldwide circle of recipients: Due to the automation, target groups of any size can be addressed; even the implementation of different selectable language versions is easily possible.
- No transmission errors: Thanks to the automatic evaluation of the survey results, there is no “human weakness” through which errors can sneak in during data entry.
- Results in real time: The scope of the survey and its (interim) results are available to authorised persons anytime and anywhere. This does not only allow for the identification of initial trends, but also for the timely and possibly necessary adaptation of questions or the group of recipients.
- High data quality: On the one hand, control scripts are used to prevent the recipient from ignoring questions; on the other hand, more open and honest answers can be expected, as the addressee conducts the survey without a personal interviewer being present, who could exert an influence – albeit not intended – on the addressee.
- High level of acceptance: An online survey enjoys a high level of acceptance thanks to several characteristics: Thus, the addressee can decide for himself/herself when to conduct the survey and how much time he/she wishes to spend on it; his/her anonymity is guaranteed; participation is voluntary; an Internet survey is more transparent than an offline survey.
- Free design: There are virtually no limits to the content and visual design. In addition to the use of all question types, multimedia elements such as image, film and sound files as well as help menus can be integrated.
- Filtering and randomisation: The wide range of design options also includes program-controlled, individually adaptable filter guidance; in other words, the user is only shown the questions and possible answers that are relevant to him/her. The order of the questions and the answer categories can also be randomized in order to prevent undesired context effects or answer distortions.
The disadvantages of an online survey
The disadvantages of an online surveyOf course, the lack of a concrete counterpart in the interview situation also involves some disadvantages. For example, an online survey – similar to a paper questionnaire sent by standard mail – does not allow one hundred per cent verification of who ultimately completed it. This type of anonymity of the recipient may also result in an online questionnaire being processed several times by the same person. However, this can be resolved if you address the user personally by e-mail and provide a link that is only valid once. Since there is no interviewer supervising the survey directly, the level of commitment invested in answering the questions can only be verified to a limited extent. However, a good indication is the automatically transmitted time spent on completing the questionnaire: if the questionnaire was completed faster than average, it can be assumed that the answers are not necessarily reliable. Finally, there is the question of the accessibility of the target group. Not (yet) all addressees can be reached online – for instance, employees in the production department of a company often do not yet have Internet access at their workplaces. In such a context, a hybrid survey is the most appropriate option.
Strong response rate
The disadvantages of an online survey without physical contact to an interviewee are often outweighed by their manifold advantages. First and foremost, the high efficiency in terms of time, effort and costs as well as the virtually limitless spreadability support the use of an online survey. And last but not least, in many cases, such a survey guarantees a higher response rate than other survey methods.
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