What to Expect from an Online Survey Tool: The Pros, Cons, Applications & More

What to Expect from an Online Survey Tool: The Pros, Cons, Applications & More

The online survey tool is the foremost tool for gaining customer intelligence for various business and research purposes.

As the digital landscape expands and competition stiffens, businesses are vying for online consumers more than ever. As a matter of fact, there are between 12 million – 24 million ecommerce websites worldwide and these figures continue to rise daily. 

Tapping into the minds of customers is thus a necessity for businesses across verticals. As such, one of the most effective methods to conduct primary research on a target market is via an online survey tool.

This method systematically gathers data from respondents by inciting them to take part in various websites and mobile apps.

The internet in general is a sufficient tool for conducting secondary research. An online survey tool couples the internet as a means of distributing the survey, along with the traditional questionnaire. 

This article explores what researchers and businesses alike can expect from the online survey tool.

Defining the Online Survey Tool

This tool merges the digital space with surveys, as it is a kind of software that allows researchers to form a questionnaire, set rules on respondent qualifications and deploy the full survey across partnering websites and apps.

The survey portion of the tool often incorporates two major components: the screener and the questionnaire. The screener portion allows researchers to set conditions on who to permit to move on to the questionnaire.

It collects demographic information, as market research and virtually all others aim to study particular demographics. It also has a section for screening questions, the answers of which determine whether the respondents are qualified to take part in the survey or not.

Researchers can input any question they wish to receive a particular response. Therefore, this portion allows researchers to take a granular approach to who takes the survey. The questions can delve further into demographics, or ask about psychographic or behavioral matters.

There are several things to look for in an online survey tool. There are also various business applications of this sort of tool. In this way, brands should consider it as more than merely a vehicle for collecting question-based data.

Instead, it can provide valuable feedback on critical business matters, such as for improving marketing efforts, advertising, branding and others. 

Other Key Functions in a Survey Platform

An online survey tool doesn’t simply create and distribute surveys, not if it’s a potent one, that is. A valuable survey platform offers other functions

For example, with so many survey software available, researchers often take a dual or even multi-pronged approach for their survey research. As such, a strong survey tool will allow integrations between survey tools. This can mean acting as the third-party survey distributor of a survey created in another platform.

Another function involves creating multiple paths in a single survey, so that respondents are only channeled to questions best suited towards their answers. This involves using advanced skip logic, which routes respondents to the appropriate question based on the answer they provided. 

For example, if a question asks whether a respondent is familiar with a certain brand, they would need to be moved to a follow-up question about the brand — if they responded with “yes,” but not if they responded with “no.” The latter would require another question that better suits it logically, such as a one about awareness of a different brand. 

A strong online survey will also allow researchers to create multiple audiences within one survey. This entails that each audience type can have completely different demographics and quotas for each demographic. The purpose of using multiple audiences per survey is to gain insight across as wide a target population as possible in one interface.

Some survey campaigns will require researchers to do just that.

How Data Is Stored & Presented

Dovetailing off additional functions, an online survey tool stores data and a robust tool can extract the data into multiple formats. The platform itself serves as a database for all the surveys conducted, along with their collected information.

Some platforms enable researchers to extract survey data into various file types. For example, researchers can export their data as cross-tabs (cross-tabulation). This data presentation format allows users to aggregate data and analyze the relationships between variables. The variables are displayed in a matrix, i.e., in rows and columns in a matrix for researchers to quickly find data in corresponding cells.

There are other formats that online survey tools support can export. These include PDFs, Excel sheets and SPSS. The latter is the statistical analysis and machine learning tool from IBM. 

While these help create a more diverse survey research campaign, it is key to note that not all online survey tools include these kinds of data exports. Some may have fewer options, while others none at all.

Aside from different formats of exported files, the data displayed per each survey can also be viewed in different ways. These include tables, pie charts and column charts. These options grant researchers the ability to choose the visualizations they’re most comfortable with, or those that are best for a particular purpose. For example, presentations may require different displays than a research document. 

A practical survey platform will offer several layouts to view and store data.

The Pros

Online survey tools offer a variety of advantages for market research and research for other sectors, such as medicine, psychology, other sciences and more. Here is a list of all the benefits you can obtain from an online survey tool.

  1. Ease of data collection: The online survey tool you use does all the heavy lifting for you in many ways, including collecting participants from your target market. That means no more worrying about how you’re going to get survey respondents to take your survey.
  2. Access to a wide pool of consumers: This kind of tool (the proper variety) deploys your surveys to a massive network of internet and mobile app users. Since millions of users frequent the web every day, you can rest assured that members of your target market will be exposed to your survey.
  3. Saving time and workload: Face-to-face interviews, focus groups, phone calls and the outdated mail-in surveys take too much effort to execute. Besides being more labor-intensive, these methods will also consume a great deal of time that you could be spending on other market research efforts, such as secondary methods, along with other business matters. Online surveys free up much of the time you would otherwise spend on the above methods. 
  4. Insights into personal and sensitive topics: This does not include things like names, addresses and other identifying information. Rather, an online survey tool emboldens brands to ask more personal questions, the kinds that deal with politics, social issues and matters that are private to respondents. These kinds of questions would be discomfiting for respondents to answer face-to-face and even on the phone. But with online surveys, they are granted the confidentiality to give honest answers, including in-depth answers on sensitive matters (via open-ended questions).
  5. Easy set-up: An online survey tool makes it easy to create a survey and design it precisely to a researcher’s needs. This makes it easy to come up with question types, as this tool offers a variety of them, such as matrix questions, rating scale questions, Likert scale questions, single selection multiple-choice, multiple selection multiple-choice, open-ended questions and more. Additionally, this tool makes it easy to add media files for picture choice questions, or a picture-based question. It should make adding things like skip logic free from friction. 
  6. Projected time to complete the survey: A well-built online survey platform will eliminate the guesswork that comes with having your target audience complete a survey. It grants researchers an estimated completion time, so that you will know the approximate time it takes for all your preset survey quotas to be completed by the intended respondent base. 
  7. No cost-based geographic restrictions: This means you can send your survey across the world uninhibited. If your target market has internet access, then they can take part in your survey. Most survey tools don’t charge extra for deployment to specific geographic areas. A strong survey tool also gives you the option of setting up your survey in various languages. 

The Cons

As with other market research tools, survey platforms aren’t free of flaws. As such, business owners, marketers and researchers should understand the drawbacks present in this kind of research method. The following lists some of the stumbling blocks of using an online survey tool. 

  1. Ingenuine answers: No survey is foolproof. Sometimes, the respondents may become bored or tired when taking a survey. Thus, they provide answers that are not accurate to their real opinions and phenomena that occur around them. There are flatliners, those who answer with the same choice in a multiple-choice question consecutively across many questions. Then there are the self-explanatory rule-breakers, who break survey participation rules by lying. There are several more survey respondents to look out for
  2. Some populations have limited availability: Not all members of your target market have quality internet access. Some market segments, such as those who live in particular geographic areas have restricted internet access. This is evident in rural parts of the USA and poorer regions across the world. This can be especially difficult if you run a nonprofit and would like to learn more about a needy population. 
  3. Responses are not always representative of a population: Surveys provide valuable insights, but this data is not always representative of a targeted population. Sometimes, this will require running multiple surveys, or increasing quotas. Also, since certain consumers change their minds, a survey tool will not catch this unless there are follow-up surveys sent to the exact same users who took an initial survey. You will need to pay attention to the margin of error to avoid unrepresentative opinions. 
  4. Repeated survey requests may annoy respondents: Depending on the publisher site or app that the survey is deployed in, and the survey tool itself, there may be repeated requests to take the survey. This is bound to irritate users, which carries the risk of their ignoring the survey, or at worst, leaving the site.

When to Use an Online Survey Tool in the Market Research Process

Researchers can employ this kind of tool at virtually any point in their research process. When conducting market research, it is best to begin with sources of information already made available, aka, secondary research. This will guide your business on the happenings, trends and innovations within your sector and niche.

Moreover, you can use secondary sources to study your direct and close competitors. This includes looking at statistics websites, along with blogs, news sites, forums and others that report and cater to your industry. It is also apt to study the websites of your competitors to see how their products, service and experiences compare with yours.

After you’ve gathered a suitable amount of secondary data, you can make certain inferences on your particular marketing plans or other business goals. At this point, you’ll find some unanswered matters arising, at which point you can generate specific questions you need from your target market. This is where the survey process begins.

During this point, it would be useful to design surveys for specific campaigns and aligning the surveys with the needs of a specific campaign. 

The Verdict on the Online Survey Tool

Survey research requires surveys, as its name implies. An online survey tool is the most powerful source of primary information, because it allows researchers to ask any questions and get answers relatively quickly from their most sought-after target audience. 

This tool supplies all the privacy a respondent needs to confidently and truthfully answer much-needed research questions. Researchers can rejoice in having their surveys distributed across a massive network of online publishers where their surveys will iterate until all the quotas are met and the preset survey amount is completed

Also, since customers spend much of their time online anyway, why not approach them in their natural digital environment? Thus, despite any flaws or slight difficulties the researchers may encounter, our verdict is that an online survey tool is of the essence for a research campaign. 

Frequently asked questions

What is an online survey tool?

An online survey tool is a type of SaaS, defined as a platform that allows surveys to be created, distributed, and analyzed completely within its providing survey platform.

What are some of the extra functions included in a strong online survey platform?

Survey platforms differentiate themselves by offering additional functionality such as distribution on third-party sites or apps, advanced skip logic, the ability to create multiple audiences, and advanced data analysis tools.

What are cross-tabs?

Cross-tabs, or cross-tabulation, is a way of organizing data that allows the user to analyze and understand the relationship between variables.

What export formats should you look for when assessing an online survey tool?

Good online survey tools will offer the ability to export data in a variety of formats including, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, CSV, and SPSS.

What are some benefits of using an online survey tool?

There are many benefits associated with online survey tools including ease of creation, distribution and data collection, access to a wide variety of participants, and lower cost than other methods of survey distribution.


How to Use the New Carry Forward Feature for an Enhanced Survey Experience

How to Use the New Carry Forward Feature for an Enhanced Survey Experience

As the heart of any survey, the questionnaire must be contrived carefully so that you receive the responses most necessary for your survey research. Creating the questions themselves can be difficult, especially if you choose to create question paths. 

Pollfish is thus thrilled to present a new feature to make building the questions a much easier task: Carry Forward. This new attribute provides advanced piping capabilities to optimize your questionnaire experience. 

The Purpose of the Carry Forward Feature

As a refresher, piping is a functionality that allows users to place, aka, “pipe,” a part of a question or answer into a subsequent question or answer. 

In the Pollfish platform, piping works by taking the answer(s) from the sender question and inserting them to the receiver question. 

In the first piping iteration, researchers were able to funnel answer choices from one question to another based on respondents’ selections. The following question would carry forward answers from previously piped answers. 

The new Carry Forward feature carries (no pun intended) the function of enriching the question-building experience, as it allows you to pipe questions on more question and answer types, along with other capabilities.

This new feature helps researchers design specific questions that are more relevant to the respondent’s behavior, and more useful to their research

It functions on both selected and unselected answers. It also can be used with:

  • Matrix questions
  • Ranking questions
  • Single selection questions
  • Multiple selection questions

Laying Out the Carry Forward Capabilities

Multiple Selection Questions

Along with carrying forward selected answers, this feature allows researchers to carry forward all the answers that the respondent did not select. 

In the case of a multiple selection question, for example, the feature can carry forward the unselected answers into the receiver question. 

Due to this, when a responder selects all the answers and proceeds, there will be no answer to carry forward, as there are no remaining unselected answers. For this precise reason, the Pollfish platform has developed a validation which exists as a dialogue box. 

This pop-up allows the researcher to know that the Carry Forward feature cannot support this case, as it only works if at least one answer is unselected. This is due to the condition that unselected answers cannot be carried forward if all the answers have been selected.

Advanced Logic

This can be used in tandem with advanced logic, allowing you to augment your survey with multiple layers. 

Enabling advanced logic (ADL) can trigger questions without forwarded answers. For example, when Carry Forward is enabled but a respondent skipped the sender question, the respondent will then be routed to a question without Carry Forward answers

Pollfish has also added front end validation that disables the researchers from proceeding with the previous structure. 

Sender questions with either the “None of the above” or “Other” option must be structured correctly, that is, with multiple selection questions. If these aren’t added to the proper question, there will be pop-up error messages.

Carry Forward Answers that Contain Media

If the Carry Forward answer type is the same or similar to the source (question) type, such as: 

  • single to single, 
  • multiple to multiple, 
  • single to multiple, etc.,

then the platform will carry forward the media files together with the answers.

In other cases, such as different types between sender & receiver questions, there are certain conditions and rules that dictate how Carry Forward will work.

How to maneuver Carry Forward answers which contain media:

  • If the Carry Forward answer type is the same or similar (single, multiple) to the source type ? the media will be carried forward.
  • If the Carry Forward answer type doesn’t support media then:
    • The text will be carried forward if the source answer contains both text and media. 
    • Carry Forward will not be supported if the source answer contains only media. 

How to Add Carry Forward to Your Questionnaire

In order to add the Carry Forward feature, you’ll need to enter the questionnaire portion of the survey first (after completing the audience section). You’ll also need to have your questions and answers in mind. 

You can add Carry Forward when you begin the questionnaire, as you’ll need at least two questions to use this feature, the sender and receiver question. You can also implement it to an existing questionnaire. 

  1. Find the Carry Forward option at the left panel of the questionnaire.
  2. Find a sender and a receiver question you wish to apply the CF feature to. This can be in any order. For example, you can use Question 1 as the sender question and Question 2 as the receiver question. 
  3. Enable this via the receiver question and select “Carry Forward” and then the selected or unselected answers from a previous question (the sender question). 

What Carry Forward Supports Vs. What It Does Not Support

There are certain conditions that need to be met in order to apply the Carry Forward function. There are certain circumstances in which your questions will not be able to implement Carry Forward. 

What it supports:

  1. Carry Forward can be used with single/ multiple/ ranking/ matrix questions when they are designed as receiver questions.
    1. When you carry forward a matrix question, there’s an additional option to narrow the choices based on selected columns, unselected columns, rows for selected columns, rows for unselected columns, and columns for specific rows.
  2. It is supported by single, multiple, open-ended, numeric, ranking, matrix, slider and OE when they are set up as sender questions.
  3. The researcher can carry forward all the questions that the respondent didn’t select. 
  4. There is simultaneous support of advanced logic and Carry Forward.
  5. It supports Order/ Shuffle answers for funneling questions. 

What it doesn’t support:

  1. Carry Forward cannot be used with description questions, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys and visual ratings surveys.
  2. It does not support screening questions and therefore cannot be used in them.
  3. It does not support the option of “Group and Randomize.”

Note: Closing off, you should know that responses that are carried forward will be treated the same as other answer choices on the results page.

We suggest you preview your survey design before submitting the survey itself. Try it out!


Diving into the Consumer Survey

Diving into the Consumer Survey

A consumer survey is an essential tool for business owners who want a broader understanding of consumer attitudes, desires, and interests before launching a new product, feature, or service. 

With the advent of online survey platforms, consumer surveys have become much easier to deploy. In comparison to traditional methods of face-to-face interviews or paper questionnaires, online surveys are more cost-effective and less time-consuming to conduct. 

It is now easier for any entrepreneur to launch a consumer survey to understand customer sentiment around a new product or service. This article provides an overview of consumer surveys and suggestions on how to get started. 

What Is a Consumer Survey?

Consumer surveys are an increasingly common method of consumer research.  Surveys can be broadly and easily distributed, leading to a higher response rate than other market research methods. With the capability of gathering large sample pools, it is easier to identify trends and patterns among consumers through an online consumer survey. 

Consumer surveys are used in two different ways:

  • To determine consumer interest in new products, features, or services
  • To understand satisfaction with existing products or services 

Depending on the purpose of your research, a consumer survey could be distributed to existing customers or to a group of people who have no experience with your company but fall within your target market. 

For established businesses, consumer surveys are a great way to understand how existing customers use your product or service, while gauging their interest in potential new features or services. 

For entrepreneurs or investors, consumer surveys can help you understand the desires or aversions towards your business idea. Taking the time to perform a consumer survey can help you understand if your idea will succeed or flop. 

Complete Enumeration vs. Sample Survey 

Before you begin planning your survey, you will need to consider which consumer survey method will best serve your purposes. 

  • Complete enumeration method: With this method, you will need to contact nearly all potential buyers or existing users of your product. A major benefit of this consumer survey method is that it eliminates sampling bias since the entire population is included in the results. Complete enumeration can be challenging in situations where the survey population is large and/or distributed across a wide geographic area.
  • Sample survey method: As the name implies, this method involves distributing surveys to a sample of your population and drawing conclusions based on their responses. In comparison with the enumeration method, this type of survey is easier to conduct and more cost-effective; however, you must scrutinize the results to ensure that sampling bias is not skewing your interpretation. 

Consumer Survey Types

There are three primary ways to conduct a consumer survey. These methods describe the mode of gathering information from consumers. Each has its own set of pros and cons. 

Telephone Surveys

Before the advent of online surveys, telephone surveys were a fundamental component of market research. 

Phone surveys allow you to gain more detailed responses to open-ended questions, as opposed to written surveys, in which open-ended questions are likely to be omitted, given their more laborious and time-consuming nature. 

On the other hand, it may be difficult to get respondents to complete your survey, resulting in a lower response rate.  The skill of the interviewer and level of interest in the topic will help determine whether the respondent will agree to complete the survey or not. 

Written Surveys

Written surveys can be successful when researchers have an effective mode of distribution that gets the surveys into the hands of an interested audience. Just like online surveys, written surveys must be thoughtfully designed to encourage a satisfactory response rate.

Written surveys are often used to obtain information about more sensitive topics. A benefit of written surveys is that they can be completed at a time convenient for the respondent, which may be more suitable if you are researching a sensitive topic.

Conversely, without anyone encouraging the completion of the survey, the response rate of mail-in surveys are lower than that of telephone or online surveys. Many business owners will hire a company to conduct their written survey to ensure they get a large enough sample size. 

Online Surveys

With the innovation of reliable online survey platforms, online surveys are now the most commonly used type of consumer research surveys. Online surveys can be distributed in a variety of ways, including via website, email, social media, or in-app. 

The benefits of online surveys are numerous. This type of survey can be:

  • Distributed to a wide audience in every part of the world.
  • Designed with skip-logic to route respondents to relevant questions only based on their previous answers.
  • Customized with user-friendly UX elements such as graphics, larger text, and call-outs to generate higher response rates.
  • Deployed by the business owner via the online survey platform without needing to engage a third party.

The results of an online survey are viewed in a specialized dashboard, making it easy to review, filter, and download survey data. A potent online survey platform will also grant you the capability of viewing the data in various formats, such as through graphs, charts, and cross-tabs. Online surveys are cost-effective, so you can conduct several surveys as part of your broader consumer research project. 

Wrapping Things Up on Consumer Surveys

Consumer surveys are incredibly useful tools for conducting market research. Most importantly, these surveys give you firsthand insight into customer experience, a critical business aspect that can make or break your brand. 

In fact, 84% of customers feel that their customer experience is just as important as a company’s products and services. Measuring customer experience goes hand in hand with measuring customer satisfaction, another key aspect of the business. 

Since you will likely need to deploy a variety of surveys, consider using a professional survey platform that will make it easier to review a large volume of data over time. In addition, survey platforms like Pollfish can help you get your survey in front of the right audience, ensuring that your data analysis will accurately shape the future of your business.  

Frequently asked questions

What is a consumer survey?

A consumer survey is a type of survey used in consumer research to understand consumer interest in a new product, feature, or service, or to understand consumer satisfaction with an existing product, feature, or service.

What is the complete enumeration method?

Complete enumeration is a method in which a survey is distributed to nearly every customer of a product or service. Complete enumeration eliminates sampling bias since an entire population participates in the survey.

What is the sample survey method?

The sample survey method involves distributing a survey to a smaller portion of the population, with the aim of accurately representing the overall population. Care must be taken to avoid sampling bias in order to ensure accurate results.

What is a telephone survey?

A telephone survey is one in which participants answer survey questions via phone. This type of survey was more popular before the widespread use of online surveys.

What are some benefits of an online survey?

Online surveys are easy to distribute to the target audience, regardless of geographic location, can provide a better response rate, and can yield more interesting results through the use of skip-logic to send respondents to more relevant questions.


Incorporating Multiple Audiences into Your Survey

Incorporating Multiple Audiences into Your Survey

Have you ever needed to create multiple audiences under one sampling pool for your survey research? Now you can, with the new Multiple Audience feature in the Pollfish dashboard. 

This feature creates a hyper-targeted audience landscape, allowing you to select various demographics, mobile usage and geolocation criteria — for multiple audience groups. Previously, the platform allowed researchers to select these criteria, but for one audience group only. 

The Purpose of the Multiple Audience Feature

With this new feature, you will be able to create separate audiences in one survey and achieve any targeting combination you desire

Essentially, the feature allows you to apply quotas within the quotas and conditions within conditions. You can also use minimum quotas, in which only a percentage of an audience gets assigned a quota (which you select), while the rest does not and will therefore receive random response types.

This will allow you to achieve a hyper-granular approach to targeting your sampling pool, aka, the survey respondent audience. 

Laying Out the Components of the Multiples Audience Feature

The feature includes separate audience blocks that can be customized as you so choose. Each block represents an audience group, i.e., Audience 1, Audience 2, etc. There is no limit to the number of audience blocks you can create, so long as they don’t exceed the total amount of survey completes.  

The blocks also present a wide variety of audience category selections. As with the previous single-audience capability, this one allows you to create quotas for each type of demographic, geolocation and mobile usage selection, along with a maximum of 3 screening questions. This is known as layered demographics conditions, which are also called interlocking quotas. 

Prior to the update, researchers were able to apply separate quotas to each targeting variable (non-interlocking quotas, or overlapping quotas). For example: in a sample pool of 1,000 respondents, the requirements may be: 500 (50%) men and 500 (50%) women, 500 (50%) young people and 500 (50%) older people. In this instance of non-interlocking quotas, you risk a pool of 500 young men and 500 older women.

Interlocking quotas can avoid this, in which a quota is defined by more than one variable. The interlocking percentage involves multiple variables, for example, household income, gender and age. 

In reference to the aforesaid example, you can define a target size for each combination of variables. That means you can mandate 250 young men (50% x 50%) 250 young women, 250 older men and 250 older women. This assures that not only will you get respondents of every variable, but that they are collected evenly (if you so choose with your assigned quotas). 

Each audience, regardless of how different will have the same language, as they are each part of one survey, i.e., one sampling pool. 

The Pollfish platform will calculate the CPI and feasibility of the survey by taking into account all the conditions of each audience. 

How to Create Multiple Audiences

To create multiple audiences and use their various features, follow these steps. Keep in mind that, while they give complete direction in using all the new feature’s functionalities, your survey may go in a different direction. As such, you may not have to follow all the steps enumerated below if you don’t need certain functions and additions.

  1. Create a new survey.
    1. You will be taken to the “audience” interface.
  2. Begin by choosing the number of completes — the maximum number of respondents in the first audience. 
    1. The total completes on the top left will reflect how much completes you have by adding up the completes in each audience block.
  3. Start with the age and gender criteria. Select the subcategories your survey is targeting. Add quotas to each subcategory (male or female, or within the age ranges).
  4. Next, move onto the screening questions portion and add three questions that pertain most to your survey (a maximum of 3 per survey, meaning a maximum of 3 no matter how many audiences you add).
  5. Decide which criteria to use for this particular audience, as you can choose various subcategories under demographics, geolocation, mobile usage and even advertising ID.
    1. By enabling this criterion, all responses of the survey will be accompanied by the respondent’s advertising ID (in an Excel sheet export).
  6. Once you decide which criteria to use, apply quotas. You may add more or less completes to Audience 1, just make sure you don’t use up the total completes.
  7. After setting up your first audience, click on the + icon on the bottom of the Audience 1 block. 
    1. This will open up a new audience group, aka, block.
  8. Follow steps 2-6 for your next audience selections.
    1. Follow step 7 should you wish to add more audiences.
  9. Review the entire audience section. Check the total completes to ensure you’re going to enlist the correct amount or respondents in the platform.
    1. Also, make sure the audience blocks are all feasible. 
    2. If a block is not feasible, adjust the targeting design of the audience related to a ''not feasible''  estimation to make it feasible. You can expand the targeting, remove quotas or filters.
  10. You’re all set with Multiple Audiences and the audience section at large; you can now move on to the questionnaire. 

This new feature will allow you to hyper-target your survey to befit a wide variety of segments in your target market, or any of your subject of interest. 


What to Look for in Online Survey Tools

What to Look for in Online Survey Tools

Online survey tools are invaluable for market research. In today’s digital world, these are the chief drivers of primary market research, as they allow you to obtain your own results.

Many brands don’t have market researchers on board; thus they don’t have the means to perform self-conducting research. As such, surveys are a vehicle of ease into primary research.

By their very nature, online surveys allow brands to explore the minds of their consumers and prospects.

But choosing the correct online survey tool can be a feat, as there is a slew of survey software available. Navigating the muddy waters of the internet, in which you’ll be constantly inundated with ads, social mentions and other promotional content, can make it difficult to steer you in the right direction.

That’s because all survey platforms will claim to provide the best experience and results for your business. But is any of it true? Don’t learn the hard way; instead, read this article on what to specifically look for in online survey tools for all of your needs.

Macro Applications for Online Survey Tools

Understanding the utility of survey software involves understanding all of the disciplines and campaigns it can be applied to.

Hence, before we delve into the individual capabilities you should seek in a survey platform, you should consider some of their more high-level applications.

Not every survey platform you come across will be able to provide the same value across these areas, so you ought to consider the functionalities of the survey platform you choose. But before that, let’s examine the macro applications your survey tool should aid you in.

  • Branding: Branding involves developing a reputation and an image, along with increasing the recognition of your company. A survey should help you in the following for branding:
    • Seeing the reception of content, whether it’s visuals or messaging
    • Finding the images to use for a campaign (including placement of logos)
    • Testing your unique value proposition
    • Testing a slogan
    • Identifying brand awareness levels
  • Marketing: Marketing is an umbrella term that involves all the processes of raising interest in your brand and promoting it, including advertising, distribution methods and sales. A survey should help you in the following for marketing:
    • Determining the state of your industry and niche
    • Identifying your target market
    • Applying market segmentation to your target market
    • Seeing if there is a demand for your product or service
    • Doing an analysis of your competitors
    • Unearthing the attitudes around issues you can later use in your messaging
    • Finding the shopping habits of your consumers
  • Advertising: Advertising is a form of communication that uses overtly sponsored messages to promote or sell a product or service and is one of the main disciplines within marketing. A survey should help you in the following for advertising:
    • Forming the bedrock of an ad campaign based on consumers’ opinions
    • Figuring out which topical subjects are too touchy to include in the ads
    • Finding ideas for individual ads
    • Narrowing the most consumed advertising mediums from your target market
    • Testing the efficiency of ads
  • Site Traffic/Visitation: Gaining site traffic is a critical campaign in itself. So how would completing a survey — which can be seen as a chore — help on this front?
    • When surveys are tailored correctly towards your target market, site visitors will enjoy taking them
    • Surveys with images and interactive elements will create engaging experiences
    • Users may feel appreciated for taking your survey if you offer thank you emails, incentives, etc.
    • Surveys that deal with topical issues may reel in user interest when visiting your site

Features that Make Market Research Easy

A survey tool needs to be useful for market research. A key part of marketing, this kind of software should have the following:

  1. Multiple categories for demographics: this will help you reach your target market more precisely and accurately.
  2. Adding quotas to any of the demographics to reach your desired amount.
  3. Multiple sub-categories of demographics to reach your segmented personas.
  4. Various language options to apply to different countries and speakers.
  5. The addition of at least 3 screening questions.

What to Look for in the Survey’s Environment

The environment of the survey has to be vast and easily made visible to any demographic of respondents. In addition, it should be able to be widely distributed automatically. Here are the features to look for, for the most fitting survey environment.

  1. Software with a vast network of publishers: preferably popular websites and mobile apps.
  2. A wide pool of users associated with the publisher channels.
  3. An easy to detect element (button) to reach the survey.
  4. The capability of being supported by over a hundred countries for global reach.
  5. An easy to integrate API or coding.

Individual Survey Capabilities

These specific features are the micro aspects of the applications to look for in your survey platform. They are immensely important, as they largely involve unique capabilities that distinguish one platform from another. Additionally, these capabilities can be put in use for the aforementioned macro applications (advertising, etc). The following lists individual features you should seek out in your survey provider:

  1. Configuring question types in a number of ways (multiple-selection, single selection, open-ended, ratings, stars, etc.)
  2. Adding media to your questions (images, GIFs, videos)
  3. Adding predefined answers to save you time.
  4. Utilizing advanced skip logic so that participants are only moved to questions that pertain to their previous answer, i.e., are relevant to them.
  5. An estimated completion time for all quotas to be met/ for the survey to conclude.
  6. Handling a large pool of survey participants (reaching into the thousands).

Simplifying the Process & What Else to Look For

It is understandable that the above lists seem rather intimidating in terms of finding in an online survey tool. Moreover, you may find a survey software that you feel comfortable using due to the ease of the interface, one that does that necessarily tick off all the capabilities in this article.

This is okay, as the needs of your business will differ from that of others. However, if you want to amass as many as these features and utilities as possible, here’s a few tricks to simplify the process:

  • Look for the specific features (not the macro applications) in a survey platform by checking its website and social channels.
  • Watch demos if need be.
  • If you don’t get all the specifications you’re looking for, contact the survey provider
  • Or.... just use Pollfish!

Luckily, the Pollfish online survey tool allows for all the macro applications so that your surveys can help your market research, marketing, branding and all other campaigns as needed.

The platform provides all the features and capabilities listed in this article. But there’s more!

We also offer 24/7 customer support from a dedicated team of product experts, so you never feel like you’re going at it alone.

Frequently asked questions

What is an online survey?

An online survey is a survey that is deployed and taken over the internet. Results are gathered and stored in an online database so the researcher can easily review the data.

What features of online surveys are used to support market research?

Some features of online surveys that are used to support market research are well-defined demographic categories, demographic quotes, sub-categories within demographics, the ability to change languages within the survey, and the option to include screening questions.

What are some of the applications of online surveys?

Online surveys can be used to support various aspects of market research, as well as branding, marketing, advertising, and site traffic research initiatives.

What is skip logic?

Skip logic is a feature of surveys that lets you send respondents to a specific question based on the answer to a previous question.

What question types do online survey platforms offer?

A good survey platform will offer the ability to include multiple-choice, scaled, and open-ended questions. In addition, there should be formatting options to include media, graphics, and emoticons in the survey questions or responses.


How To Conduct A Survey That You Can Trust In 6 Steps

How To Conduct A Survey That You Can Trust In 6 Steps

Conducting surveys on your customers is one of the most effective ways to collect invaluable data and answer questions that are important to you. 

Surveys let you uncover hidden growth opportunities, reveal public opinion, gain deep insights into customer behavior, and even get extra media coverage when prominent publications cite your research. 

As an added bonus, merely the act of conducting a survey can boost customer retention and revenue, as HBR study shows: “The customers we surveyed were more than three times as likely to have opened new accounts, were less than half as likely to have defected, and were more profitable than the customers who hadn’t been surveyed.”

If you want to get meaningful results that you can act on, you need to survey the right people in the right manner. Otherwise, you risk collecting unneeded data and biases.

We’ve prepared this 6-step guide to help you to design, conduct, and organize an effective survey in no time. Let’s dive in. 

Steps to Conduct a Survey

  • Step 1: Write Down Your Research Goals
  • Step 2: Design Your Questionnaire
  • Step 3: Define Your Target Audience
  • Step 4: Distribute Your Survey
  • Step 5. Organize Survey Responses
  • Step 6. Analyze and Present Survey Results

Step 1: Write Down Your Research Goal

Every successful survey has a purpose. 

Are you trying to find out why you are losing customers? Do you want to know if your policies are effective? Are you figuring out what to do in the current market?

Understanding your survey’s main goal both improves its quality and reduces the time you’ll spend on executing your research.

In case you struggle to pinpoint your exact goal, write down a list of all the questions and issues your market research campaign needs and prioritize the most important ones. 

The following questions will help you understand your survey goal:

  • Do you understand who comprises your target market?
  • Do you need to segment your target market further?
  • Do you already have any existing data that you can use? 
  • Do you need data to improve an existing product or launch another?
  • What resources do you have to perform the survey?
  • What actions are you going to take after the survey is complete?
  • After you have figured out the main goal of your research, you can design your questionnaire.

Step 2: Design Your Questionnaire

The quality of a questionnaire is where the majority of surveys fall short. Experiments suggest that sensitive or vague opinion questions increase the potential of error by up to 30%Put simply, your survey is as good as your questionnaire is. 

Make sure your questions are clear and don’t contain jargon or uncommon abbreviations:

Poor example: Do you think VR is going to take off in the next 5 years?

Better example: Do you think virtual reality (VR) is going to take off in the next 5 years?

Another example of a weak questionnaire are leading questions that are structured to induce a certain response: 

Poor example: Do you agree that this is a great movie?
Better example: What do you think of this movie?

Take some time to learn how to write clear, unbiased, and effective survey questions to get the best results out of your research. 

Step 3: Define Your Target Audience

There are two main concerns when it comes to surveying participants: who should I survey and how many participants do I need.

Let’s clarify both. 

Who should I survey?

Surveying the right people makes all the difference. 

Suppose you want to learn if iPhone users are happy with the recent product updates. By surveying random iPhone users, you may notice that the majority of responses are somewhat neutral. But if you target specifically the Gen Z generation, you might learn that the younger demographic is worried about having to buy extra accessories.  

The more defined your target audience criteria are, the more accurate and deep your survey insights will be. Make sure to brainstorm what target audience will give you the most accurate insights and help you fulfill your survey goal.

How many participants do I need? 

When doctors want to examine your blood, they don’t drain all of it - they just need to take a small sample. It’s the same with surveys: a small sample of participants can accurately represent the opinions of a larger group. 

If there are 5,000 people in your company and you want to know how well the latest HR policy was received, you don’t need to survey all 5,000. In fact, surveying just 146 employees will be enough. 

Thus,  if you want to learn what all American high schoolers think about the recent TikTok ban, you don’t need to ask all 76 million of them. Surveying between 200 and 600 respondents will give you a sufficient amount of opinions to draw from.

For the majority of studies, 200 to 400 respondents will be enough to represent the opinion of a particular population.

If you want to calculate how many participants you need to get scientifically accurate survey results, feel free to use our sample size calculator

Step 4: Distribute Your Survey

Choosing who you want to survey is as important as how and where you will find your participants.

Let’s continue the example with surveying Gen Z iPhone users. Suppose you moderate a local school Facebook group and decide to post your survey there. Even if you get a large number of responses, the results may not accurately affect this demographic. 

This is because in this case, you don't pick survey participants randomly, instead, you survey only those who joined the local school Facebook group that you conveniently happen to moderate. This is called convenience sampling, since the majority of survey participants unintentionally live in one area. The survey didn’t account for Gen Z users from other areas with different average household incomes. 

To ensure you get the most accurate survey results, use a survey platform that can help you reach your targeted demographics more precisely. In short, avoid convenience sampling.

Here are a few common ways to distribute your surveys: 

  • Email. You can distribute your survey by email, especially if you have access to an established email list. The two main drawbacks of email surveys are that it’s harder to set specific target audience parameters and email response rates are generally low.
  • Social media: if you survey people via social media channels, although beware that sometimes social media groups attract people with shared interests that may not represent the opinion of your target audience or the general public.
  • Online Survey platforms: survey platforms such as Pollfish allow you to target specific audiences, control the number of participants, reach all quotas and easily organize your survey results. 

Besides these prominent survey channels, there are other survey solutions you can use; make sure to select the one most pertinent to your market research needs.

Step 5: Organize Survey Responses

After you’ve gathered your responses, you’ll need to organize the data before starting your analysis.

Here are the steps to prepare your data for analysis:

  • Clean. Sometimes people fill the survey twice by mistake. Although Pollfish survey technology prevents duplicate responses altogether, if you’re conducting a survey on your own, make sure to clean duplicates and “funny” answers before you proceed to organize your data.
  • Organize. Group survey answers that are similar to each other and try finding patterns that allow you to structure your data.

  • Visualize. Try finding ways of visualizing survey responses using graphs, charts and images. Visualized data is easier to analyze and refer to, especially if you want to share survey results with other people.


Step 6. Analyze and Present Survey Results

The data you collected during your survey can be presented and analyzed in many different ways, so make sure to go back to your survey goal that we covered in Step 1. 

Analyzing survey results and writing a report often go hand in hand, so it’s a good practice to go back and forth between the two until you fully narrow down your findings. 

Here are some questions that will help you write a better report: 

  • Did you achieve your survey goals?
  • How can you organize your findings into cohesive narratives?
  • What are the main insights that you gathered?
  • How can you use the collected data in the future?
  • Are there other ways this data can be interpreted? 

If you are presenting a report to others, remember that different audiences may be interested in different aspects of your survey.

In case your audience is primarily business stakeholders, then the main focus should be concrete customer preferences or aversions, along with actionable suggestions.

If you are presenting a survey to other researchers, they will be more interested in the technical aspects of your survey such as target audience, sample size, and data analysis method.  

Making Every Survey Count

Every business has a slew of questions about its industry, competitors and customers. . The challenge is twofold:  finding a survey solution to easily distribute our questions to the right audience, and creating a survey with the proper questions. Following our  six steps will help you conduct meaningful and unbiased surveys to answer your most pressing questions.

Good luck!

Frequently asked questions

What is the first step in planning a successful survey?

Before writing questions or recruiting participants, you should establish the goals of your survey. By understanding goals, you can ensure your survey stays focused and will answer your most important questions.

Why are surveys used?

Surveys are one of the best ways to gather information about your customers or target audience. As opposed to simply researching an industry or trend, surveys let you ask specific questions to the people who matter most to your business.

Why is it important to define the target audience for your survey?

A more defined audience will lead to deeper, more relevant insights. A carefully defined audience provides more accurate results and ensures the goals of your survey are met.

How can online surveys be distributed?

Online surveys can be distributed via email, social media, or a professional survey platform.

How many people should take an online survey?

The number of respondents needed will vary from one survey to the next. The important part is that the sample size accurately represents the target audience. For most studies, a sample size of 200 - 400 is a good goal.