There are two main schools of thought when it comes to the quality of data collected via online research. One considers the respondents to be at fault, while the other considers the survey itself to be at fault. Whether it's the respondent or the survey, there are some steps you can take to make sure data quality is up to par.
Online surveys are common these days, and technology is making it easier for online platforms to create, disseminate, and obtain results quite faster and cheaper. We must, however, distinguish between how cost-effective they are and how accurate they are in measuring the data we require. It's important to be skeptical of any information that comes from unknown sources.
Creating and administering an online survey used to be a time-consuming task that required familiarity with HTML code, and scripting programs. Online survey research is now much easier and faster thanks to surveying authoring software. However, many of us from various disciplines may be unaware of the drawbacks of online research platforms.
There are advantages to using online survey platforms, they have access to individuals in remote locations, the ability to contact participants who are difficult to reach, and the convenience of automated data collection; however, there are some factors you should consider before using an online survey platform.
1. Survey design
When you design your own survey without the help of experts, there's a big risk you'll end up with a flawed survey. A flawed survey is more likely to happen when the survey's design does not consider and attempt to alleviate potential problems. The best way to avoid the pitfalls of online surveys is to work with qualified experts as they can identify and eliminate potential problems before they even happen. Writing or designing a survey appears to be a simple task, but it is not. Researchers study the intricacies of survey writing for years in school and on the job. Even so, errors in surveys occur, rendering the results useless.
- Questionnaire structure - survey length, themes, arrangement of the questions Nobody wants long surveys or questions that are out of context. It will only confuse the respondent and waste everyone's time. Because some respondents may avoid answering a long and tedious questionnaire, the structure of the questionnaire must be considered. It must be an easy-to-understand, concise, and to-the-point survey to show that the researcher values the respondent's time and effort.
- Questions format - open-ended questions, unclear questions On an online platform, anyone can ask any question they want, but having an agreement or disagreement in a specific area, or open-ended questions, can be difficult to analyze. The survey's credibility suffers when the questions are too open-ended, confusing, or misleading. Open-ended questions are not inherently bad, but they should be avoided in online surveys.
- Purpose of the survey, how it's delivered:
Acquiescence bias is when the respondent agrees with your question even if the statement isn’t true. Typically, survey respondents do not provide biased answers on purpose. A survey's design can produce an unconscious influence over the respondent, which can contribute to biased answers.
For example, if the only options for answering the question "Are you happy with your purchase?" are "yes" and "no," you may experience acquiescence bias. Because there aren't enough levels of nuance for respondents to choose from, they may feel forced to choose between opposing pairs because their true answer isn't a provided option.
Respondent bias can occur in any type of research. Participants in your survey may be interested in your concept or product. Others may be swayed to participate as a result of the information contained in your questionnaire. These issues can lead to inaccurate data collection because they produce an imbalance of respondents who see the process as overly positive or negative. This disadvantage of survey research can be avoided by implementing appropriate pre-screening tools that employ indirect questions to pinpoint this bias.
2. Targeting & Sizing
Companies looking for a particular objective usually rush to prepare questions without thinking about the ideal methodology or target audience. Once again the goal is to ask the right question to the right person while many agencies will focus on answering the questions provided by the customer.
The goal of conducting a survey is to provide high-quality data that will assist people or businesses in making better decisions for their target audience. One of the most important factors to consider when performing a survey is who you will send it to. The success of a campaign absolutely depends on choosing the right people as your respondents.
- Respondents targeting and sizing - choosing the number of respondents, their criteria of qualification (i.e. I want to target people for Mercedes-Benz, how do I choose the right criteria and the right audience size)
Online surveyors use a variety of methods to attract respondents and get them to take a survey. They try to get people's attention, make them click the link, and hopefully take the survey. As is the case with most online research panels, there are concerns regarding the data quality of their respondents. Many of these people will exaggerate their income range or job role just to get more surveys. That's because they get paid based on how many surveys they get. It’s also a pain in the butt when participants also get mixed up with multiple panels, because it can introduce errors, which can make it hard for panels to do good work.
3. Quality control
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement surrounding online research methods. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of tapping into a data set of thousands (and sometimes hundreds of thousands) of respondents in a blink of an eye? However, that same ability has brought a threat to data integrity: bots, speeders, professional respondents, and cheaters.
A small percentage of respondents will be unqualified, uninterested, or fraudulent. If you don't filter these people out, it will at the minimum add unnecessary noise to your data and at worst it may invalidate your survey results.
Countless companies like Apple, LEGO, McDonald's, and Starbucks needlessly lose money due to subpar surveys. Fortunately, your business like them can fight back by avoiding common pitfalls that undermine the value of surveys.
There are a variety of ways to evaluate the quality of data; here we discuss some of the more common ones:
- Respondents quality filtering
Red Herring Questions - A survey with a length greater than 20 minutes will be a bladder buster. Survey takers who go through the survey in less than five minutes cannot provide you with quality and accurate data. Thus, one way to ensure accurate data is to use red herring questions to track people who tend to give inaccurate answers to irrelevant questions to weed out the speeders and cheaters. This will eliminate skewed results from your surveys.
Bots Exclusion - Trolls thrive in online environments. If you’re getting paid per survey, there may be robots gunning to take your money. Pesky bots are polluting surveys, causing malfunctions and delays. Researchers are now implementing a system that tracks the number of responses from actual people and bots. As a result, they can block out bots' responses, which lets them record real data.
IP Location and Online ID Exclusion - Wondering how to combat the scourge of cheating? Actually, IP addresses can be pretty revealing. For example, if the same IP address appears, again and again, that shows that the same person is answering questions — or at least that one family member or workmate is. If you notice this is happening, you can investigate further. Along with an anti-spam flagging system, researchers can now verify whether an IP is blacklisted in any hacker's database.
- Survey improvement
No test phase window -With the help of online panels, it is simple to reach out to everyone. However, having a test phase is an important step before attempting to launch a survey, which is all too often overlooked. You have to examine your respondent's outcome or behavior at the beginning to see if there are any missing parts, technical or design issues that you may have missed.
4. The need for speed
In a culture where time is in the essence, the cycles for getting market research are shrinking and the quality demands are increasing.
The COVID-19 outbreak increased the impact of this evolution, with data becoming quickly expired and industry knowledge obsolete faster. Information and insights are often needed immediately to measure and drive direct actions. Speed is becoming near the top of the priority of organization that needs the most recent data available. They require insights, faster and anywhere to make quick strategic and marketing decisions.
When it comes to gathering consumer insights, the methodologies in use are often (very) biased, costly, and slow. Organizations need to save a lot of time in the research process, further enabling researchers to provide quality insights at the speed of business, which will help make the right calls faster.
Overcoming These Challenges — Conclusion
To ensure that your survey results and the online survey platform you use are of the highest quality, you must ensure that everything from survey design, targeting, and sizing to quality checks is of the highest quality as well. If you omitted some steps, the end result will most likely be worthless, and you will have wasted your time and effort.
This process is not as simple as it appears from the outside. You may not know where you want to take this data collection effort until you sit down to start writing the questions. By incorporating the significant aspects mentioned above, you can begin to find quality experts.
Don't let online survey platforms cloud the constructive feedback you need to grow your business. Contact us today, and we will assist you in reaching higher levels of performance, uncovering hidden opportunities, and making the best strategic decisions.