Understanding the 3 Main Types of Survey Research & Putting Them to Use

Understanding the 3 Main Types of Survey Research & Putting Them to Use

Surveys establish a powerful primary source of market research. There are three main types of survey research; understanding these will not merely organize your survey studies, but help you form them from the onset of your research campaign.

It is crucial to be proficient in these types of survey research, as surveys should never be used as lone tools. A survey is a vehicle for granting insights, as part of a larger market research or other research campaigns. 

Understanding the three types of survey research will help you learn aspects within these forms that you were either not aware of or were not well-versed in.

This article explores the three main types of survey research and teaches you when to best implement each form of research. 

Putting the Types of Survey Research into Perspective 

With the presence of online surveys and other market research methods such as focus groups, there are ever-growing survey research methods. Before you choose a method, it is critical to decide on the type of survey research you need to conduct.

The type of survey research points to the kind of study you are going to apply in your campaign and all of its implications. The survey research type essentially hosts the research methods, which house the actual surveys. As such, the research type is one of the highest levels of the process, so consider it as a starting point in your research campaign.

Remember, that while there are various research types, the three presented in this article delineate the main types used in survey research. Researchers can apply these types to other research techniques (such as focus groups, interviews, etc.), but they are best suited for surveys.

Descriptive Research

The first main type of survey research is descriptive research. This type is centered on describing, as its name suggests, a topic of study. This can be a population, an occurrence or a phenomenon. 

Descriptive research is often the first type of research applied around a research issue, because it paints a picture of a topic, rather than investigating why it exists to begin with. 

The Key Aspects of Descriptive Research

The following provides the key attributes of descriptive research, so as to provide a full understanding of it.

  1. Makes up the majority of online survey methods.
  2. Concentrates on the what, when, where and how questions, rather than the why.
  3. Lays out the particulars surrounding a research topic, but not its origin.
  4. Handles quantitative studies.
  5. Deemed conclusive due to its quantitative data.
  6. Provides data that provides statistical inferences on a target population.
  7. Preplanned and highly structured.
  8. Aims to define an occurrence, attitude or opinions of the studied population.
  9. Measures the significance of the results and formulates trends.
  10. Can be used in cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys.

Survey Examples of Descriptive Research 

There are various types of surveys to use for descriptive research. In fact, you can apply virtually all of them if they meet the above requirements. Here are the major ones:

  1. Descriptive surveys: These gather data about different subjects. They are set to find how different conditions can be gained by the subjects and the extent thereof. Ex: determining how qualified applicants are to a job are via a survey checking for this.
  2. Descriptive-normative surveys: Much like descriptive surveys, but the results of the survey are compared with a norm. 
  3. Descriptive analysis surveys: This survey describes a phenomenon via an analysis that divides the subject into 2 parts. Ex: analyzing employees with the same job role across geolocations. 
  4. Correlative Survey: This determines whether the relationship between 2 variables is either positive or negative; sometimes it can be used to find neutrality. For example, if A and B have negative, positive or no correlation.

Exploratory Research 

Exploratory research is predicated on unearthing ideas and insights rather than amassing statistics. Also unlike descriptive research, exploratory research is not conclusive. This is because this research is conducted to obtain a better understanding of an existing phenomenon, one that has either not been studied thoroughly or is lacking some information.

Exploratory research is most apt to use at the beginning of a research campaign. In business, this kind of research is necessary for identifying issues within a company, opportunities for growth, adopting new procedures and deciding on which issues require statistical research, i.e., descriptive research. 

The Key Aspects of Exploratory Research

Also called interpretative research or grounded theory approach, the following provides the key attributes of exploratory research, including how it differs from descriptive research. 

  1. Uses exploratory questions, which are intended to probe subjects in a qualitative manner.
  2. Provides quality information that can uncover other unknown issues or solutions.
  3. Is not meant to provide data that is statistically measurable. 
  4. Used to get a familiarity with an existing problem by understanding its specifics.
  5. Starts with a general idea with the outcomes of the research being used to find related issues with the research subject.
  6. Typically exists within open-ended questions.  
  7. Its process varies based on the new insights researchers gain and how they choose to go about them.
  8. Usually asks for the what, how and most distinctively, the why.
  9. Due to the absence of past research on the subject, exploratory research is time-consuming,
  10. Not structured and flexible.

Examples of Exploratory Research

Since exploratory research is not structured and often scattered, it can exist within a multitude of survey types. For example, it can be used in an employee feedback survey, a cross-sectional survey and virtually any other that allows you to ask questions on the why and employs open-ended questions. 

Here are a few other ways to conduct exploratory research:

  1. Case studies: They help researchers analyze existing cases that deal with a similar phenomenon. This method often involves secondary research, unless your business or organization has case studies on a similar topic. Perhaps one of your competitors offers one as well. With case studies, the researcher needs to study all the variables in the case study in relation to their own. 
  2. Field Observations: This method is best suited for researchers who deal with their subjects in physical environments, for example, those studying customers in a store or patients in a clinic. It can also be applied by studying digital behaviors using a session replay tool. 
  3. Focus Groups: This involves a group of people, typically 6-10 coming together and speaking with the researcher, as opposed to having a one on one conversation with the researcher. Participants are chosen to provide insights on the topic of study and express it with other members of the focus group, while the researcher observes and acts as a moderator. 
  4. Interviews: Interviews can be conducted in person or over the phone. Researchers have the option of interviewing their target market, their overall target population, or subject matter experts. The latter will provide significant and professional-grade insights, the kind that non-experts typically can’t offer. 

Causal Research

The final type of survey research is causal research, which, much like descriptive research is structured, preplanned and draws quantitative insights. Also called explanatory research, causal research aims to discover whether there is any causality between the relationships of variables. 

As such, focuses primarily on cause-and-effect relationships. In this regard, it stands in opposition with descriptive research, which is far broader. Causal research has only two objects:

  • Understand which variable are the cause and which are the effect
  • Decipher the workings of the relationship between the causal variables, including how they will hammer out the effect.

The Key Aspects of Causal Research

The following provides the key traits of causal research, including how it differs from descriptive and exploratory research. 

  1. Considered conclusive research due to its structured design, preplanning and quantitative nature. 
  2. Its two objectives make this research type more scientific than exploratory and descriptive research. 
  3. Focuses on observing the variations in variables suspected as causing the changes in other variables.
  4. Measure changes in both the suspected causal variables and the ones they affect.
  5. Variables suspected of being causal are isolated and tested to meet the aforesaid two objectives.
  6. This experimentation shows researchers whether it is worth investing in a variable or to get rid of it.
    1. For example, an advertisement or a sales promotion
  7. Requires setting objectives, preplanning parameters, and identifying potential causal variables and affected variables to reduce researcher bias. 
  8. Requires accounting for all the possible causal factors that may be affecting the supposed affected variable, i.e., there can’t be any outside (non-accounted) variables.
  9. All confounding variables that can affect the results have to be kept consistent and controlled to make sure no hidden variable is in any way influencing the relationship between two variables. 
  10. To deem a cause and effect relationship, the cause would have needed to precede the effect.  

Examples of Causal Research

Causal research depends on the most scientific method out of the three types of survey research. Given that it requires experimentation, a vast amount of surveys can be conducted on the variables to determine if they are causal, non-causal or the ones being affected.

Here are a few examples of use causal research

  1. Product testing: Particularly useful if it’s a new product to test market demand and sales capacity. 
  2. Advertising Improvements: Researchers can study buying behaviors to see if there is any causality between ads and how much people buy or if the advertised products reach higher sales. The outcomes of this research can help marketers tweak their ad campaigns, discard them altogether or even consider product updates.
  3. Increase customer retention: This can be conducted in different manners, such as via in-store experimentations, via digital shopping or through different surveys. These experiments will help you understand what current customers prefer and what repels them. 
  4. Community Needs: Local governments can conduct the community survey to discover opinions surrounding community issues. For example, researchers can test whether certain local laws, transportation availability and authorizations are well or poorly received and if they correlate with certain happenings.

Deciding on Which of the Types of Research to Conduct

Market researchers and marketers often have several aspects of their discipline that would benefit off of conducting these three types of survey research. What’s most empowering about these types of survey research is that they are not limited to surveys alone.

Instead, they bolster the idea that surveys should not be used as lone tools. Rather, survey research powers an abundance of other market research methods and campaigns. As such, researchers should set aside surveys after they’ve decided on high-level campaigns and their needs.

As such, consider the core of what you need to study. Can your survey be applied to a macro-application? For example, in the business sector, this can be marketing, branding, advertising, etc.

Next, does your study require a methodical approach? For example, does it need to focus on one period of time among one population? If so, you will need to conduct a cross-sectional survey. 

Or does it require to be conducted over some period of time? This will require implementing a longitudinal study. Once you figure out these components, you should move on to choosing the type of survey research you’re going to conduct. However, you can also decide on this before you choose one of the methodical methods. 

Whichever route you decide to take, you’ll need a strong online survey provider, as this does, after all, involve surveys. The correct online survey platform will set your research up for success.  

Frequently asked questions

Why is it important to understand the types of survey research?

The type of survey research informs the kind of study you’ll be conducting. It becomes the backbone of your campaign and all its implications. Basically, the types of survey research host their designated research methods, which house the surveys. Therefore, the types of survey research you decide on are at the highest level of the research process and act as your starting point.

What is exploratory research?

Exploratory research is the most preliminary form of research, establishing the foundation of a research process. focuses on unearthing ideas and insights rather than gathering statistics. It’s not a conclusive form of research-- rather, it is conducted to bolster understanding of a specific phenomenon. It is typically the first form of research, setting the foundation for a research campaign.

What is descriptive research?

Descriptive research focuses on describing a topic of study like a population, an occurrence or a phenomenon. It is performed early on in the overall research process, as it paints an overall picture of a topic, while extracting the key details that you wouldn’t find with exploratory research alone.

What is a cross-sectional survey?

A cross-sectional survey is a survey used to gather research about a particular population at a specific point in time. It is considered to be the snapshot of a studied population.

What is causal research?

Causal research is typically performed in the latter stages of the entire research process, following correlational or descriptive research. It is conducted to find the causality between variables. It involves more than merely observing, as it relies on experiments and the manipulation of variables

How can you decide which types of survey research to conduct?

Take a look at the core of what you need to study. Are you trying to focus on one period of time among a population? Does your survey research need to be conducted over a period of time? Questions like these will lead you to the right research type.

How to Build Effective Survey Studies for Valuable Market Research 

How to Build Effective Survey Studies for Valuable Market Research 

Survey research is an invaluable approach to primary research for any market research campaign. Effective survey studies allow you to observe virtually any topic as it relates to your target market, including a specific segment of your target market. 

But with so many types of survey research campaigns and survey studies, it can be challenging to decide on how to pursue and form a survey study. After all, the goal with any data collection campaign is to extract data that is as accurate and reliable for your research needs. 

This article expounds on how to build effective surveys from the ground up so you can proceed with your survey research with knowledge and ease of mind.

Finding the Macro-Application for Survey Studies

Every survey needs a purpose. Say you have a burning curiosity about your customer base. When tackling survey research, connect this curiosity to a more general-purpose for your business or institution (if you are a market researcher outside the business sphere). 

Surveys can be applied to a vast number of macro-applications, i.e., the applications dealing with some category in the business or research sectors. First, find the most important topics (or said curiosities) that you would like to see your survey address. Then, categorize them in one of the following macro-applications:

  1. General Marketing: Marketing involves all the activities needed to promote a business. Marketing market research exists to help businesses gauge their campaign efficacy and better understand their customers. If you choose this application, consider how you can gain insights more deeply by choosing a subdiscipline within marketing. 
  2. Advertising: Deploying sponsored messages to grow demand and elicit purchases, advertising is used to influence customer behavior. This involves prompting existing customers to make further purchases or acquire new customers. Surveys can be used to see which advertising messages are the most resonant and which ads spawn the most interest. Researchers can ask questions centered on comparing full ads, or parts of an ad such as the imagery, a video snippet or the copy. 
  3. Branding: This discipline involves creating a reputation, an image and a set of associations around a brand. Branding helps brands differentiate themselves from one another, along with establishing a style that a company is easily remembered by. Businesses can tie their surveys to branding by creating surveys to test new logos, slogans, a unique value proposition, content ideas (for example, if a company that sells electronics seeks to attach lifestyle content to its branding) and more. 
  4. Market Segmentation: This macro-application refers to studying customers closely by dividing a target market into smaller segments. After all, a target market includes all the customers most likely to buy from a particular business, but it is not solely defined by one group. At their core, business surveys are designed to understand customers to a T. With this said, researchers can form personal questions about their target market’s habits, lifestyles, preferences and more to distill them into several segments. From there, marketers can adopt different marketing campaigns for each segment. 
  5. PR: Public Relations, or PR, as it is commonly referred to, aims to control the distribution and spread of information about a company (or individual) and the public. Its goal is to control the narrative of a business or organization to gain positive public perception. Surveys can help on this front in that researchers can design questions on how well respondents know a business and their general thoughts on its operations, products, experiences, performance, etc. Researchers can also test out press release ideas and pitches through these surveys. 

Turning to Secondary Research

After filtering your curiosities and questions into a specific macro-application, you need to find all the available information surrounding this application as it relates to your survey subject. This means, before setting up your survey, researchers ought to turn to secondary research. 

This is because you wouldn’t want to forego key data already conducted and made available. If you do, you’ll ask redundant questions, wasting both time, money and your survey on matters you could have found from secondary sources. 

There are various secondary resources available online. These include webzines, trade publications, news sites and statistics websites. Additionally, research departments in universities launch their results online, which is especially if they cover your sector. You will need to visit these but the ones that study your particular industry and niche. MarketResearch.com is an efficient secondary source, as it covers timely reports across a gamut of industries. 

Scrutinizing your competitors' digital properties is also a useful way to understand your target market, as it is shared (otherwise they wouldn’t be your competitors). B2B businesses in particular often publish reports on their industry, which often covers customer insights. 

Researchers should collate and carefully organize the key and auxiliary findings they’ve gathered. To do this, creating a document to store all the information is necessary. The insights in the document will help in putting together surveys. 

Preparing Preliminary Questions

After you’ve chosen a macro-application and gathered secondary information on it in relation to your industry and target market, you can advance to the preliminary question stage.

In this stage of building effective surveys, you should revisit some of the original curiosities and questions you wished to inquire of your target market. The most practical way to move forward is to cross-reference these original questions with the document of secondary research information. 

Here is what to consider when doing so:

  • Does any of the information you’ve found from conducting secondary research answer any of your original inquiries? If so, you won’t need to use the same questions in your surveys, unless you would like to extend the information from those questions. Perhaps the information you gathered answers only part of your question, or only about one segment of your target market.
  • In these cases, it is apt to use the original question in your survey planning as a preliminary question. You can also evolve questions to make them veer in a slightly different, but not altogether different direction. 
  • Continue cross-referencing until you’ve gathered at least 10 questions you would like to see answered by your target market. 
  • Do any of them intertwine or focus on a similar topic? If so, consider grouping questions together, to determine if they’ll require being used in one or multiple surveys. 
  • When you’ve put together your preliminary questions, it’s time to contemplate the kind of study you’ll need to employ.

Choosing a Methodical Form of Survey Studies 

Survey research entails much more than simply launching surveys through an online survey provider and waiting for results to pile in. Rather, it requires a more methodical approach, one with a particular timeframe and pipeline.  

There are several forms of survey studies that are time-dependent. The following explains them:

  1. Retrospective Studies: Also called historical research, a retrospective study gathers data on occurrences that have already happened. As such, respondents discuss their past opinions, happenings and other memories in these surveys. 
  2. Cross-Sectional Studies: A study in which research that gathers research about a targeted population at one fixed point in time. This type of survey research method is known as being a snapshot of a studied population.
  3. Longitudinal Studies: A study that gathers data on the same set of respondents over a period of time. This kind of research grants researchers the ability to closely examine the trajectories of their subjects over time (weeks to decades).
  4. Prospective Studies: A longitudinal cohort survey study that gathers data from similar respondents with a few dissimilar factors to determine how those factors affect a particular outcome. 

Identifying the Correct Survey Research Method

After choosing the most suitable time-based survey study method, you need to identify another research method to carry out your survey studies. This kind of method deals primarily with the observational style and type of analysis you’ll need to conduct from your survey studies. 

There are many different forms of survey research in this regard. The following lists the chief three such methods.


  1. Descriptive Research: This form of survey research is planned in advance and designed to extract data that can then be used for making statistical inferences on a target market. Aa such, it is considered conclusive and requires conducting quantitative survey studies.

  2. Exploratory Research: This kind of survey study is critical for the marketing and strategy aspects of a business. As opposed to gathering quantitative research, it focuses on discovering new ideas and insights, especially those pertaining to a target market and industry demands. In online surveys, exploratory research is often conducted via open-ended questions. This research method is qualitative, seeking to further grow a business and define company goals.
  3. Causal Research: Also quantitative and planned beforehand like descriptive research, this form is therefore deemed conclusive. Casual research seeks to discover the cause and effect between variables. It isn’t a form of observational research, as descriptive research is, however, as it sets to determine causal relationships via experimenting. 

Opting for the Proper Survey Type for Your Survey Studies

When you have a steady strategy of the research methods your survey studies will apply, it’s time to adopt the proper survey type(s) for your survey study needs. Various survey types can be applied to different survey research methods.

In this regard, you can opt for survey types with your chosen research methods in a mix and match fashion. This is because different survey types are flexible; they have the potential to satisfy a bevy of research methods, including both time-based and analysis-based methods. The deciding factor for the survey types you implement is dependent on the subject of your study.

The following lists the different types of surveys to use in your studies. Several have their own sub-types of surveys.

  1. Customer Satisfaction Surveys: 
      1. Gauge customer satisfaction with products, services, experiences & more.
      2. Includes the following subtypes: Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) surveys, Customer Effort Score (CES), Visual RAtings surveys and custom surveys.
  2. Event Evaluation Surveys:
      1. Evaluate the experience and performance of participants in an event within the eyes of attendees.
      2. Can exist in print form (distributed at the event) or in online surveys.
  3. Brand Awareness Surveys:
      1. Measure how well your target market knows about your brand, along with providing opinions on its key features (logos, reputation, efficiency,etc.)
      2. Ideal for branding campaigns and before employing survey studies on advertising.
  4. Lead Generation Surveys:
      1. Purposed to gain contact information from your target market and reveal the types of individuals who make up your target market.
      2. Great for market segmentation and early research (before other survey types).
  5. Job Satisfaction Surveys:
      1. Used to understand how members of your target market feel about their jobs, a critical force in their identities and whether they can afford your product/service. 
      2. Helps you learn which respondents are more satisfied with work/ income, thereby revealing which segment is more likely to spend.
  6. Employee Feedback Surveys:
      1. Used in businesses for internal purposes surrounding their own employees.
      2. Helps understand current pain points, successful and poor management styles, best HR incentives and how to improve processes and communication.
  7. Consumer Loyalty Surveys:
    1. Calculates how many and if members of your target market are loyal to your brand and your competitors.
    2. Helps brands reap customer loyalty.

Crafting the Questions for Survey Studies

Once you’ve chosen the most fitting survey types to use in your studies, you can finally move on to the survey itself. A sturdy online survey platform will allow you to get creative, granular and analytical with your survey production.

First, create a specific list of demographics and behavioral characteristics you will need to examine in your survey studies. Preset these requirements in the screening section of your survey tool. You should set quotas to assure you’re obtaining the appropriate respondents in your survey. 

Next, consolidate your preliminary questions with the new ones you’ve come up with while identifying the correct research methods. These oftentimes influence the kinds of questions you’ll need to ask. This also requires organization, as certain questions will belong on different surveys.

If you’re struggling to form relevant and useful questions, read our guide on writing survey questions. When you’ve come up with questions, considering adding layers to your survey. For example, a particular answer that one respondent answers with may require a different follow-up question than that which another respondent answers with.

Sometimes, this requires creating different question paths for different types of answers. You can achieve this by applying advanced skip logic into your survey. Your online survey tool of choice should allow you to add media files (images, GIFs, video snippets) to make your survey more engaging.

Remember to keep your surveys so as to avoid survey attrition. Now that you’ve come up with the questionnaire questions, review your entire survey. Make sure you’re asking the questions that will help flesh out your survey studies.

Once you do that, you’re ready to launch your survey.

Other Considerations for Survey Studies 

There are several things you need to consider for your survey studies, most of which are dependent on the online survey platform you use. These involve ease of use, respondent capacity, publisher networks (where the surveys will be deployed) and many more user experience (UX) capabilities. 

For example, in the aforementioned survey types section, there are dozens of surveys you can form for both research and business purposes. It is key to use a platform that can provide structures and elements for all, or at least for the kinds you need. 

As for ease of use, assess the difficulty in using an online survey tool. A strong survey platform allows you to make a survey in three easy steps. When you thoroughly vet a survey platform, you can objectively decide which is best for your survey studies. 

Frequently asked questions

What is survey research?

Survey research is the process of performing research through the use of surveys. After the survey data is collected from respondents, it is analyzed in order to draw conclusions about the topic at hand.

What are some of the macro applications of surveys?

Surveys can be used to understand many broad aspects of business or research including general marketing, advertising, branding, market segmentation, and public relations.

What is secondary research?

Secondary research is the process of gathering information that has already been conducted and is made available for collecting and studying.

What is descriptive survey research?

Descriptive research is conducted to explain the characteristics of a sampling pool or a study of an issue. It is a form of survey research that is performed by conducting quantitative surveys in order to extract data that can be used to make statistical inferences.

What is exploratory survey research?

Exploratory research is the earliest form of research conducted around a subject. It is used in order to identify new ideas and insights, particularly about a problem not clearly defined for further studies, such as descriptive research. It is done by conducting qualitative studies in order to gain new information about the subject.

Building Effective Prospective Studies with Online Surveys

Building Effective Prospective Studies with Online Surveys

Prospective studies are a powerful form of research to understand how the behaviors, attitudes, feelings, and/or physical attributes of a population develop over time. 

Particularly, researchers and marketers are using prospective studies to understand outcomes more broadly. For example, perhaps a brand needs to study how a customer or customer segment developed a certain habit, whether it is favorable or unfavorable to the business.

While researchers typically have a primary objective in conducting prospective studies, the data that is collected over time may reveal factors that were not considered when outlining the study’s original objectives.

Given the large amount of data that is gathered over time, prospective studies are a treasure trove of information for researchers. While it takes time and patience to collect the data, the results of a prospective study may yield completely new or unexpected insights.

Defining Prospective Studies

Once the territory of public health researchers, prospective studies have entered a wider area of study due to the application of survey research.

Prospective studies can help understand the factors that influence anything from consumer loyalty to employee retention to customer churn.

In prospective studies, data is gathered from individuals over a period of time. The data is then analyzed with the objective of identifying associations between variables. Traditionally, prospective studies have been most strongly associated with the fields of public health and medicine.

Prospective studies fall into the broader category of cohort studies, which are used to determine how often a phenomenon occurs within a specified population. Retrospective studies are another type of cohort study but differ from prospective studies in that they investigate an outcome that occurred in the past.

In research studies, the term “cohort” refers to a group of people who share common characteristics, which help define them as part of the sample group. The defining characteristic can be:

  • demographic in nature, i.e., age or location 
  • behavioral i.e. where consumers purchase a product or how they use a certain digital property )
  • psychographic, i.e., values, opinions and inclinations.

A unique aspect of prospective studies is that researchers fully plan and design the study, recruit participants, and collect initial information before any of the participants develop remarkable outcomes. Researchers must watch and wait for outcomes to develop before they draw any conclusions.  

Prospective studies were previously cumbersome to conduct due to the need to follow a group of people and collect data over longer periods of time, but the use of prospective surveys has made this type of longitudinal research more accessible to a wider variety of organizations.

Examples of Prospective Studies

Some of the most famous prospective studies have been conducted within the field of medicine. The outcomes of the studies mentioned below have helped solidify our understanding of how certain factors influence our overall health. 

  • The Framingham Heart Study is an ongoing study that started in 1948 with an original cohort of 5,209 healthy individuals located in the town of Framingham, MA. With the objective of identifying major cardiovascular disease risk factors, this study has fundamentally changed our understanding of cardiovascular health.

  • The Nurse’s Health Study refers to two of the largest investigations into the risk factors that contribute to chronic disease in women. The studies began in 1976 and have followed a total of 280,000+ participants over three generations.  

While prospective studies are particularly useful in following medical developments, they are also used to reveal deep and sometimes unexpected insights in business subsectors and other verticals. Here are some examples of scenarios in which businesses can apply prospective studies:

  • Researchers want to understand how early exposure to social media influences the feelings and attitudes of young adults. They plan a 10-year study to follow a cohort of children who are 9-11 years old at the outset of the study.
  • A large company decides to investigate the link between certain hiring practices and long-term employee retention. This is done by following new hires over a period of 5 years, or until they leave the company. 
  • A large online retailer plans a study to understand how buying behavior changes with age. Their prospective study will follow a large sample of 20 - 30-year-old customers for a period of 20 years.
  • A SaaS company wants to understand how consumer loyalty changes over time. They decide to conduct a prospective study that follows anyone who signs up for their software subscription during 2021.
  • A global beverage company wants to understand how health and lifestyle choices influence customer behavior. They decide to conduct a prospective study following a cohort of Millenials over 10 years to better understand their decision-making process. 

Use of Surveys in Prospective Studies

Since prospective studies are often conducted over a long period of time, an important aspect of planning a prospective study is to determine how to collect and organize data during the study. In the past, the enormity of this challenge was one of the reasons why prospective studies were rarely undertaken outside of the public health sector.

The advent of online survey platforms has made it easier to conduct prospective studies and analyze the resulting data. After establishing the cohort, researchers can easily design and distribute surveys at predetermined intervals and allow the respondents to complete the surveys within an allotted period of time. 

In comparison to older methods of data collection, such as phone or in-person interviews, online surveys provide a flexible and cost-effective way to interact with the cohort where and when it suits them best.

In addition, data collection is seamless, with data being automatically compiled with each survey iteration. Whereas prospective studies previously required a team that was well-versed in survey data collection and analysis, online surveys have made it possible for marketers to use prospective studies without needing to engage an outside company. 

The Pros and Cons of Using Surveys in Prospective Studies

While surveys are a relatively easy way to collect data from a cohort, especially over a longer period of time, there are pros and cons to consider before choosing to use this method. 

Prospective surveys are typically more cost-effective than conducting in-person phone interviews over a period of time. You may also experience a higher survey response rate by allowing the respondents to complete the survey when and where it is convenient for them.

If you decide to use an online survey platform to conduct prospective surveys, you will benefit from the ability to more easily complete, export, organize, and analyze data. This is an important consideration if you think about the large volume of data that will be collected over several months, years, or decades.

Since prospective studies are often conducted over a long period of time, the cost of data collection may be a barrier for certain organizations. The use of online surveys can help minimize this cost by reducing the need to hire specialized personnel to design the study and gather feedback.

On the other hand, there are some benefits to conducting interviews or performing physical exams. During the repeated interactions with the interviewer, the respondent may come to form a relationship that helps them feel more comfortable about answering the questions. This may allow for more honest or unexpected responses, which may not occur with the use of a survey.

Similarly, the design of a survey can greatly affect the results. With a limited set of responses, there is less flexibility to uncover unexpected or new responses. This can be avoided by including open-ended questions or text entry fields to submit additional information. 

Gaining Deeper Understanding with Prospective Studies

Thanks to online survey platforms, it is possible for more organizations to benefit from the ability to gather data from their respondents over a period of time. If you are looking for a way to gain a deeper understanding of how certain factors influence the thoughts and behaviors of your customers over time, consider conducting a prospective study. 

There is no denying that prospective studies take a great deal of effort to plan and manage, but the results of this type of study can lead to completely new insights and understanding of your target market

This allows you to innovate on your offerings, personalize your customer experience (CX) and foster stronger marketing efforts, all of which will help scale your business. 

Frequently asked questions

What is a prospective study?

A prospective study is a longitudinal cohort study that studies a group of similar respondents with only a few differing factors to determine how these factors affect an outcome or outcomes.

What is a cohort study?

A cohort study is used to gather information about a group of people who share common, defining characteristics (i.e. a cohort) over a period of time.

What is longitudinal research?

Longitudinal research is a type of research that is performed over a period of time to understand the relationship between the same variables in an observed population. The period of time ranges from several weeks to years to decades.

What are the benefits of using surveys in a prospective study?

Surveys are a cost-effective way to collect information in a prospective study, in which data collection costs tend to be higher due to the longer period of study They also encourage a higher survey response rate and allow researchers to easily compile and analyze the huge amount of data that is collected during the study.

What are some disadvantages of using surveys to collect data in a prospective study?

Surveys do not allow the participants to form a connection or relationship with the researcher, which can be beneficial because it may result in deeper, more honest insights. They also do not allow for physical examination, for example by a doctor or nurse, which can provide additional data to support the study.

How to Conduct Market Segmentation with Survey Research

How to Conduct Market Segmentation with Survey Research

market segmentation

In the world of an ever-increasing need to be customer-centric, conducting market segmentation is an absolute necessity. That is largely because customer experience (CX) has set the stage for business success. 

86% of consumers have said they would pay more for a better customer experience and 89% said they would stop doing business with a brand that delivers a poor CX.

However, despite these stark outlooks, only 1% of brands consistently meet these expectations, according to consumers. Clearly, there is much work to be done on the customer experience and customer-centricity fronts.

To create optimal customer experiences, brands must profoundly understand their target market. Although this may seem to be a demanding feat, market segmentation provides the missing pieces to the puzzle. 

Although it exists as a separate discipline from survey research, when you pair market segmentation with survey research, your brand is armed with a wealth of knowledge on how to properly cater to your customers' needs. 

This article will explore how to do market segmentation in survey research.

What is Market Segmentation?

Market segmentation is a sub-discipline within marketing, in which you divide your brand’s broader target audience into smaller segments or subsets, based on various criteria such as demographics, behaviors, needs, opinions, interests, and other standards to better categorize your target market. 

The better you understand your segmented audience, the more effectively you can target your consumers for various business needs, such as product development, sales, brand awareness and most importantly, customer retention.

For example, market segmentation allows you to understand how to improve your advertising based on segments such as low vs middle income, men vs women, those who enjoy online shopping vs those who don’t.

The Benefits of Market Segmentation

This practice offers more benefits than the ones listed above. The contributions of each of these benefits weed out unproductive marketing practices, thereby saving you time and money. Here is a list of the several advantages of market segmentation.

    1. Gather pain points on specific segments. These pain points are not present within the entirety of your target market, proving the need to segment it. When you segment your consumers, you’ll understand each of their issues on a more intimate level, allowing you to resolve them faster (and know of their existence).
    2. Convey stronger marketing messages. This practice allows you to avoid coming across as too vague and impersonal. Instead, by understanding your different segments, you’ll be able to create more specific and personalized messages, the kind that speak better to certain groups.
    3. Avoid making the mistakes of your competitors. Your competitors aren’t going to admit their shortfalls at any time, unless they were able to bounce back ten times stronger. As such, you can use market segmentation to understand how particular marketing, offerings or experiences fell short among particular customer segments.
    4. Pique the interest of high-quality prospects. Well-targeted messages will lure in the most likely segments to increase sales in your target market. These are the consumers who don’t merely click on your ads, but actually make purchases
    5. Gain a larger reach by using the right channels. Segmentation helps you uncover the best digital (and other types) of channels through which to market to your segments. Some segments may prefer content, others may attend events, while others are heavy social media consumers. Understanding these preferences and being able to assign them to certain segments is key. You wouldn’t want to spend resources on a seldom-used channel by your segments.
    6. Identify niche markets. Finding particular segments is known as niche marketing, meaning that your product/service is not necessarily niche, but certain segments of your target market form their own niches. Segmentation enables you to market to these niche audiences, so that you can create new products/services for your underserved segments.
    7. Accumulate brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is ever important, as it is a pillar of a profitable business; it virtually guarantees that your target market will continue buying from your brand and think of your brand first when they need something from your industry.  market segmentation

How to do Market Segmentation

Before you begin on survey research, which is a crucial stage in market segmentation, you need to carry out the segmentation process at its basic levels. This means understanding all the major steps that make up this practice.

The following steps provide an overview of how to do market segmentation. Note that this article covers segmenting your market by four types in the following section.

  1. Study your market. Conduct market research via secondary resources and the market research survey. What you should seek:
    1. What’s the market demand for your product/service? Is it large or too small (niche)?
    2. How does your brand fit into your overall market?
  2. Find the proper type of segmentation. Market segmentation is conducted through 5 categories of study: demographic, psychographic, geographic and behavioral  (explained in the next section). Choose which your brand needs to study the most; you don’t need to focus on just one. Instead, you can do market segmentation with a few or even all of these criteria.
  3. Continue doing market research. When you settle on which type of segmentation you are going to conduct, you’ll need to perform it via market research. You can do so by conducting more secondary research and implementing primary research as well. For the latter, focus on questions that relate to the above categories. You should create more personalized ones as you come to grips with your segments.
  4. Categorize and develop your customer segments. Gather all your research based on which of the 5 types of segmentation you use, and all the secondary and primary research you garnered. Group customer types into their various commonalities, as part of the 5 methods. Group them into segments and personas.
  5. Create new marketing strategies accordingly. Test them out on your newly found customer segments. This is not only beneficial for general marketing purposes but can lead to finding new personas within your segments. 

The 5 Types of Market Segmentation

The previous section presented a general rundown of the market segmentation process. The core of this process, as its name implies, is the segmenting portion, i.e., step two. This is because market segmentation is divided into 5 sorts. These classifications will help you understand you to better market to and serve your segmented customer base.  

Demographic Segmentation:

This segmentation type creates groupings of customers based on their demographics. These include categories such as gender, age, education, race, ethnicity, occupation, income level et al. Demographics is the most prominent and widely-used type of segmentation. Many products have been developed simply based on and for particular demographics.

Geographic Segmentation

This type of segmentation focuses on locations such as countries, territories, states, counties, cities, zip codes and others. Although it can exist as a demographic category, it is also regarded as its own type of segmentation. This segmentation is critical for marketing, as customers within different geographical regions have their own sets of needs, preferences and limitations. 

This segmentation is also of great use to market research, especially specific types, such as real estate market research or quantitative research, when you need to make generalizations on segments in particular locations.

Behavioral Segmentation:

This divides markets by behaviors and behavioral patterns. The focus is on actions such as consumer purchases, loyalty, lifestyle, usage of products/services in your industry, device preferences and brand interactions. Conducting this segmentation will inform you on how the different subsets in your target market behave in relation to your brand and your industry at large. 

These behaviors are crucial to know so that you can create a more tailored marketing approach and better user experiences. That is because this segmentation allows you to glean how your customers make purchases and by how much. 

Psychographic segmentation:

market segmentation

This categorizes people based on the psychologically driven aspects of behaviors. As such, the target market is divided on the basis of certain opinions, values, personalities and inclinations. Psychographic segmentation is the type of classification that not only allows you to assign segments to groups of people, but to pick their brains.

That is because you can create surveys centered on each of these segments to understand the intentions and feelings of a particular consumer group. This segmentation is especially useful in qualitative research, as it helps you pinpoint trends in opinions and uncover the causes behind actions. 

Firmographic Segmentation

Comparable to demographic segmentation, this kind factors in demographics, except the kind that zero in on organizations. As such, this segmentation method would study aspects such as company industry, type, size and employee count, among others. 

This is useful for a number of market research campaigns. You can use it to aid competitive analysis along with understanding your consumers from the perspective of their employment. Most of all, this segmentation is crucial for B2B businesses as it helps you discover how to market to other companies. You would certainly need to know how to divide this customer base into smaller markets.

Using Survey Research for Market Segmentation

Market segmentation is a clever practice for market research and marketing purposes. This is because it allows you to narrow your focus in advertising, social media and other marketing campaigns, to a smaller group of people who are nonetheless a part of your target market, the consumer group most likely to buy from you.

This methodology should therefore remind you that you should not merely focus on broad campaigns when addressing your target market. You should keep in mind that this market tends to be wide-ranging, thus has its own subsets that differ from one another.

In addition, survey research, as laid out in several above examples, is key to deploy when conducting market segmentation. But it is also crucial to employ after conducting market segmentation, as surveys allow you to dig deeper into the minds of your consumers. 

Market segmentation (led primarily by survey research), like other marketing activities, must be acted upon. For example, if you were able to segment your target market into several categories, how will you know how to give them precisely what they need? Survey research will help you find out, not to mention help you avoid unproductive marketing campaigns. 

Frequently asked questions

What is market segmentation?

Market segmentation is the process of dividing a brand’s audience into smaller groups (segments) based on more narrowly defined characteristics of the group.

What is the purpose of market segmentation?

Market segmentation is performed to help a company better understand its customers or potential customers by focusing on the varying needs of each specific segment.

What are some of the applications of market segmentation?

Market segmentation can be used to understand the needs of each segment in order to improve products or services, create more effective marketing campaigns, identify new markets, encourage brand loyalty, explore the competition, and expand the reach of marketing channels.

What is demographic segmentation?

Demographic segmentation is used to create market segments based upon the demographics of existing or potential customers.

What is geographic segmentation?

Geographic segmentation is used to create market segments based upon location. The location size may be small (e.g. neighborhood or specific zip code) or large (e.g. state or country).

How Market Research Can Build Consumer Loyalty

How Market Research Can Build Consumer Loyalty

consumer loyalty

Consumer loyalty is the principal objective of any business, a purpose more that should be more sought after than sales alone. This is because consumer loyalty is the main driver behind repeat sales.

This end cannot be reached overnight and to the surprise of many brands, it cannot be reached simply with a quality product. Instead, it takes several factors to build consumer loyalty. 

This article explores consumer loyalty, why it is crucial, how it can benefit your business and mainly, how market research can help you achieve it. 

Defining Consumer Loyalty

Consumer loyalty can be defined in several ways, some are more specific than others. While it may sound self-explanatory, for the purposes of market research, this concept is specifically defined as: the measure of a customer’s likelihood to patronize a business repeatedly. 

As the name suggests, this phenomenon stems from a feeling of loyalty to a brand, the kind that chiefly results from product satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and a good customer experience (CX). However, there are many other aspects that play a role in consumer loyalty.

These can be difficult to obtain as brands cannot fulfill all of their customers’ wishes. They certainly cannot achieve this feat if they do not know all of their customers’ pains, needs and concerns.

This is where market research comes into play. You can conduct market research in a number of ways. 

What Brands Gain from Consumer Loyalty

The goal of consumer loyalty is crucial to obtain and not just for the evident reasons. There are key facts on consumer loyalty that bear statistical importance. As such, brands need to approach this topic seriously.

Firstly, customer Loyalty is the main contribution to customer retention. A mere 5% increase in retention raises profits by 25-95%. This is not only because retained customers make repeat purchases, but also because repeat customers spend more money.

Consumer loyalty breeds brand ambassadors, and 83% of consumers will recommend a brand they are loyal to.

Aside from these statics of customer loyalty gains, you ought to know how customer acquisition — the act of gaining new customers measures up to customer loyalty. While acquiring new customers is key to business growth, customer loyalty still reigns supreme in comparison. This is because:

How to Build Customer Loyalty with Market Research

Market research is an umbrella term that covers various methodologies to determine the success of a new product or service through researching one’s target market, competitors and the general state of an industry.

By examining your target market, i.e., customer base, you can learn about its preferences, needs and pain points. Tapping into the minds of your target market will allow you to serve them best, whether it is through new products, product upgrades, online experiences or general CX (customer experience). 

Market research involves using primary and secondary research, that is, self-conducted research and research that has already been conducted and made available, respectively. The following delineates the attributes that foster customer loyalty, along with how market research can build them up.

  1. Usability: Customers need to be reassured of the usability of your products/services. Understanding the ease of use of your offerings is thus crucial to creating customer loyalty. Primary research such as focus groups and surveys reveal the degree of your business’s usability, paving the way for understanding what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Trust: If customers don’t trust your brand for any reason, they will not return for future transactions. To test how you fare with your customers, conducting customer satisfaction surveys, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys and other customer loyalty surveys. To get a sense of how customers generally view brands in your niche, you can use secondary research like statistics sites, industry reports and blogs in your industry.
  3. Customer Service: A key part of UX, customer service involves any touchpoint in which customers interact with company representatives. This includes leads speaking with sales representatives over the phone, a customer relying on a cashier or sales associate for help in-store, chatting with a rep via a site’s chat or getting phone support. You can use secondary research to get an overview of customer service in your industry via industry sites. You can also conduct secondary research on your competitors for ideas on how to boost your own customer service.
  4. Personalization: Greeting customers by their names on your digital properties is no longer a potent personalization method. Instead, customers are looking for more targeted efforts to show that their unique needs and desires are being met. As such, brands should avoid taking generic approaches in customer messaging and journeys. Instead, brands can use secondary research to see what segments in their target market desire. In order to conduct market segmentation, you are going to need to use surveys. Additionally, to understand your customers at a deeper level, you’ll also need to implement surveys.
  5. Social Media Presence: Social media has allowed brands to create more intimate relationships with customers. Creating social content can pique the interest of existing customers, prompting them to return to your brand at least to browse your social content. This can relieve them of boredom or curiosity, while keeping your brand on their minds. Primary research such as surveys can help you test your social media strategy to see what type of messaging and topics yield the most positive reactions. 

Best Practices to Nurture Customer Loyalty

Developing customer loyalty requires market research and after you’ve gathered a substantial amount of it, it’s time to implement some best practices. You can experiment with the following options to see which tactic works best for growing customer loyalty.

  1. Loyalty rewards programs: an oldie but a goody, this type of program helps both to attract customers and to keep the customers buying from you. This program, like its name implies, rewards your customers for being customers. For example, you can implement a point-based system based on the number of purchases customers make, which will reward customers with a discount, credit or some other benefit when a certain amount of points is reached.consumer loyalty
  2. Optimize your digital user experience (UX): We live in the digital age, where many purchases are done online. But it doesn’t end, as window shopping is also done in an online format. Many shoppers browse websites to get a sense of your offerings, so you should ensure your best offers are on display, along with seamless website experiences. Avoid long page load times, messy navigation or time-consuming check-outs.
  3. Communicate with targeted solutions: Show your customers that you’ve been paying attention by only massaging them with targeted solutions. For example, if they frequent your business for one type of need, focus on those such products. Give suggestions on past purchases and cater to their whims. You can achieve the latter by scrutinizing your customers directly, by way of questionnaires.
  4. Innovate your products: Product development can be laborious and pricey, but it is well worth it when it comes to customer loyalty. With competition left and right on the internet and in brick-and-mortar shops, consumers will look to brands that provide the best product experiences. As such, you should research your top competitors to see how they’re improving their products. You should also inquire from customers directly, what they would like to see improve from your products/services.
  5. Hire employees who care: Since customer service is dependent on interactions with employees, you ought to hire carefully by vetting your job applicants. You should also place etiquette and politeness as top qualities for any consumer-facing role. But aside from hiring the best talent, you ought to keep your talent happy. Implementing employee satisfaction surveys will help measure how satisfied your employees are on the job. Employee happiness is sure to relay over to customer interactions.

Market Research: The Constant Giver 

Since market research is concerned with staying in the know constantly on your market, customers and competitors, it is thereby a perennial tool for various business needs. As such, it is more than just a tool, as it entails using various sources of data.

Continually performing market research through both secondary and primary means will ensure you’re ahead of the curve, especially when it concerns consumer loyalty. Let’s face it, no matter how well you improve your product, service and customer experience, you are not a mind reader.

Consumers change their minds and can be swayed by competition instantly, especially in our increasingly digital world of information (think advertisements) overload. Surveys are thereby a vigorous instrument to measure customer satisfaction, calculate glitches, reveal frustrations and much more. You can uncover virtually any aspect of the customer experience through survey research, therefore empowering your business and stimulating customer loyalty. 

Frequently asked questions

How is consumer loyalty defined?

Consumer loyalty is a measure of how likely it is that a customer will purchase from a business again. When individuals feel loyal to a brand, they are more likely to purchase from it repeatedly.

What are the benefits of consumer loyalty?

Companies that are able to increase consumer loyalty will see an increase in their profits. This is not just from repeated purchases, but also because customers are likely to spend more on subsequent purchases. In addition, the cost of marketing to and acquiring new customers is greater than the cost of retaining current customers.

How can market research help improve consumer loyalty?

Market research provides companies with a greater understanding of their target market and existing customers. By gaining a deeper view into their needs, preferences, and frustrations, the company can improve their products and overall experience, which in turn makes it more likely that they will purchase from the company again.

How does customer service contribute to consumer loyalty?

When customers get the support they need before, during, and after their purchase, they are more likely to consider their interaction with your brand in a positive light. They are more likely to purchase from the brand again, even if they were not happy with their initial purchase.

How does the digital user experience influence consumer loyalty?

With a great number of purchases made online, it is vital that the online experience is flawless. A well-designed website that loads quickly and offers in-site support is more likely to encourage return visits.

Survey Research Methods: A Deep Dive

Survey Research Methods: A Deep Dive

Although survey research methods are just one tactic under the enveloping market research field of study, they too are administered in a number of ways. 

That is because much like market research, there is no single or universal technique when it comes to survey research. Instead, there are various survey research methods, those that only pertain to the survey aspect of market research.

Survey research methods include different sets of classifications, from types of surveys, to data organization and more. It is key to become familiar with all of them to determine which is most suitable for your market research needs. 

This article will navigate all the nuances that pertain to survey research methods.

Surveys for Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Market research relies on both primary and secondary research; surveys fall under the former and have several classifications. The first major one conveys the duality within survey research methods: that of quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative research surveys: 

Quantitative research involves gathering quantitative, or numerical data. Surveys amass this data by asking questions that quantify attitudes, opinions, feelings and behaviors. The point of this kind of survey research method is to form generalizations. 

Quantitative research surveys therefore use a larger sample size in order to crunch numbers on different issues and variables. This survey research method is highly dependent on using and creating mathematical and statistical data. 

These surveys use this data to identify patterns in a target market, find averages, make predictions and test relationships.

Essentially, this survey research method uses respondents to understand the “what” and “how much” of a studied subject.

Qualitative research surveys:

Qualitative research zeroes in on experiences, ideas and opinions, instead of focusing on statistical or quantitative results. Instead, this survey research method seeks to holistically interpret an issue, occurrence or phenomenon.

As such, qualitative research seeks to perceive an issue in more depth, find the cause of an occurrence, create inferences, find solutions to problems and uncover trends.

This research method is centered around the “what” and even more so, the “why” of a research subject. 

Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research uses a smaller sample size for a deeper understanding of causes, motivations and sentiment. 

This kind of survey research method uses open-ended and exploratory questions in natural environments, in which respondents freely discuss their opinions to help researchers identify the “why” behind an issue.

Understanding the “why” is then used to make decisions on how to resolve the issue or how to improve on an existing productive situation.

Survey Panels Vs Random Sampling

The second main classification of survey research methods is categorized via the sampling pool. There are two main types of sampling pools, i.e., the type of respondents that take part in a survey. 

Market Research Panel: 

A market research panel is a pre-recruited group of survey respondents who have agreed to take part in online surveys. This method is most commonly employed by market research panel companies, which require the panelists to share personal information about themselves. 

This includes the information you’d find at the screener section of a survey tool such as demographics, but can also include behavioral data. The panel can be used for more than one survey; this way is convenient for market researchers who require long-term survey campaigns such as longitudinal surveys

Random Sampling Pool:

A random sampling pool is a group of survey respondents who have not been recruited to take part in a survey. Instead, this method involves, as the name suggests, a random group of participants. They take a survey once they reach a publisher’s website or app, which is triggered by an online survey tool. As such, they take a survey due to their being real-time users on a site or app in which the survey has been launched.

Any business can take this automated approach, which does not require seeking out participants manually, as a market research panel would. Although the pool of respondents has been gathered randomly, the qualifying participants are not random.

This is because the survey software used to launch this survey includes screening questions and demographic requirements that respondents must meet to take the survey. As such, researchers still get the exact kind of participants they seek to survey. This survey research method includes probability and non-probability sampling.

Survey Research Methods Based on Campaign Type & Macro Applications

Survey research methods can be further divided based on the type of macro application (or discipline) you need the data for. They can also be categorized into different campaign types, which can fall under the macro applications, or exist as their own application.  

You should understand these purposes before you choose the proper survey type for your research needs. Here are the major campaigns and applications to base your survey method on:

  • Marketing: A broad term that includes a wide variety of processes to raise awareness and demand in your company, promote it and understand your target market.
  • Advertising: One of the key practices in marketing, advertising refers to communication using overtly sponsored messages to promote or sell a product or service. 
  • Branding: The development of a brand’s reputation and image, along with increasing the recognition of your company. 
  • Market Segmentation: Facilitates targeting those most likely to be satisfied customers of your company or content. It involves splitting your target market up into smaller groups of people with similar characteristics. 
  • Competitor Analysis: It is the process of identifying and assessing your competitors based on their strategies to unearth their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand.
  • Employee Satisfaction: The degree to which employees are content and fulfilled with their jobs, including their schedule, work environment and banter with fellow employees.
  • Customer Satisfaction: The measurement of how happy customers are with a company's products, services, experiences and interactions.

Types of Surveys

Finally, we arrive at the types of surveys, the most granular aspect of survey market research methods, that is, unless you delve further by looking into survey questions. 

These surveys are classified as belonging to either quantitative or qualitative methods, along with their best application type. As for the latter classification, you ought to know that these surveys are not necessarily limited to these applications. 

Rather, they are most apt for the named applications and campaigns, but due to the versatile nature of surveys, the following can be used in other applications, including those not mentioned in this article.

  1. Cross-sectional surveys: Gather data to make inferences about a population at some point in time. 
    1. Used to provide snapshots of the populations they survey.
    2. Drawn from a few specific variables to narrow down a unique and smaller population.
    3. Method: Quantitative surveys
    4. Best used for: advertising, market segmentation, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, branding
  1. Longitudinal Surveys: Study variables over longer periods of time. (Weeks to decades)
    1. Require more dedication from respondents and researchers, including time and money. In this regard, a larger pool of participants is used and studied for much longer.
    2. Like cross-sectional surveys, these are also observational and study the exact sample pool for the length of the study.
    3. Method: Primarily qualitative, but can be quantitative
    4. Best used for: marketing, competitor analysis, market segmentation
  2. Retrospective Surveys: Merge aspects of both cross-sectional and longitudinal survey methods. 
    1. Observe changes that occur over a longer period of time, but are facilitated just once. 
    2. Thus, responders discuss occurrences, attitudes and feelings from the past. 
    3. Method: Qualitative and quantitative surveys
    4. Best used for: Marketing, branding, competitor analysis

Going Beyond Survey Research Methods

Understanding the various survey research methods are crucial to forming the most fitting market research campaign for your brand. However, it doesn’t end here. With innovations in the market research field, other survey methods and sub-methods are going to emerge.

Moreover, after you’ve found the best survey research method(s) for your company, you’ll need to conduct the proper survey data analysis

As such, you’ll need to analyze your surveys, and this can be done in a number of formats. Some are going to be more visual than others. 

After all, conducting surveys is one thing, but understanding the surveys is the centerpiece of any research campaign.

Frequently asked questions

What is a quantitative research survey?

A quantitative research survey is one in which all responses can be assigned a numerical value so that results can be easily analyzed. They are used to quantify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to make generalizations about the target market.

What is a qualitative research survey?

A qualitative research survey is used to gain a deeper understanding of the ideas, opinions, or experiences of a group of people. This type of survey uses open-ended questions that allow respondents to discuss their opinions freely.

What is a market research panel?

A market research panel is a group of individuals who have been selected to participate in a series of surveys over a specific period of time.

What is a random sampling pool?

A random sampling pool is a group of individuals who have been selected at random to participate in a survey. In an online survey tool, a sample pool is derived via automation.

What is a longitudinal survey?

A longitudinal survey is one that studies a group of individuals over a period of time, which can range from weeks to decades.

The 3 Major Types of Survey Research Methods

The 3 Major Types of Survey Research Methods

Within the ever-evolving and accelerating market research space, there is a litany of surveys making the rounds. Businesses are scrapping to get all the necessary consumer insights into their hands, and this is a fitting approach to satisfy any target market.

That’s because surveys allow you to gain an edge within your niche and outperform your competitors. While nothing is guaranteed, researchers and marketers have long been turning to surveys to observe the minds of their customers and potential customers.

Before perusing through the aforementioned litany of surveys, you ought to know about the different types of survey methods. That’s because there’s no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to survey research. 

Business needs vary, as do their industries, customers and campaigns. Let’s navigate the three most salient types of survey methods.

Survey Research — Beyond Distribution Type

In survey research, there are four types of distribution methods — but we won’t be covering those too much in depth. That is because they are widely known and seen. It’s virtually impossible for you or your business to not have heard of them in a limited capacity at the very least.

However, for the purpose of organizing the in-depth survey methods we discuss later into the deployment types, we’ll briefly mention them here. The four different types of survey deployment methods are:

  1. Paper surveys
    1. Written questionnaires
    2. Mail-in surveys
    3. Newspaper surveys
  2. Online surveys
    1. Online forms
    2. Proprietary surveys (on brand sites)
    3. Email surveys
    4. In-app surveys
    5. Third-party surveys
  3. Telephonic surveys
    1. Cold calling
    2. Anonymous respondents
  4. One-on-one interviews
    1. In-person and onsite interviews
    2. Less anonymity

All of these survey deployment types can serve both qualitative and quantitative research needs. The ones you choose to incorporate into your market research campaigns is ultimately up to the needs of your business. Some businesses prioritize ease, some prefer quick insights while others prefer cost-savings.

Now that you know survey distribution types, less delve further into specific survey methods.

Cross-Sectional Survey Studies

Cross-sectional surveys concentrate on a very specific point in time and exist as a quick overview of a small population sample. This method is ideal for situations wherein quick answers are needed to gain knowledge on standalone, or single situations. 

This survey method is based on three conditions: 

  1. the distribution of surveys to small samples 
  2. within large populations and 
  3. conducted over a small period of time.

The sample pool is drawn from specific variables, usually, only a few to narrow down a unique and usually small population. The findings are recorded within a short period of time and are studied and archived within that one specific point.

The variables are not manipulated as this type of research method is for observations only. This approach cannot measure causation between certain occurrences (ex. Inactivity and weight); rather, it measures the correlation between occurrences.

Longitudinal Surveys

The antithesis of cross-sectional surveys, longitudinal surveys study variables over a longer period of time. This can be anywhere between weeks and on the far end of the spectrum, decades. 

As such, they require more input in terms of several aspects, including participants, time and money. In this regard, a larger pool of participants is used and studied for much longer.

Similar to cross-sectional research, this method is also observational and studies the exact sample pool for the duration of the study.

Longitudinal surveys come in three main sorts:

  1. Trend surveys: 

    1. Study trends
    2. Observe how participants’ tendencies change over time
    3. Ask the same questions at different points in time
    4. Don’t necessarily study the exact same participants throughout, since the focus is on trends
  2. Panel surveys:

    1. Focus more on people than trends
    2. The same participants are studied throughout the duration of the study
    3. Tend to be more expensive and difficult (tracking & keeping up with the same people for years on end)
  3. Cohort surveys:

    1. Regularly study a group of participants that fall under a specific category
    2. Don’t require the same participants to take part every year
    3. Examples include those born within the same decade, workers of the same industry at the same time, other common life experiences

All three of these kinds of surveys help researchers study how people change and, as longitudinal research, they are also part of correlational research.  Longitudinal surveys help businesses and researchers scrutinize developments and changes.

They allow researchers to assess whether the changes are due to age, life factors or trends.

Retrospective Surveys

This survey method is yet another type based on frequency. It combines aspects of both cross-sectional and longitudinal survey methods. 

Retrospective surveys observe changes that occur over a longer period of time, much like longitudinal surveys. However, like cross-sectional surveys, they are facilitated just once. As such, responders discuss happenings from the past. These include feelings, attitudes, experiences and beliefs.

The findings are thereby longitudinal in nature, but performed in a cross-sectional fashion, ie, without requiring the long amounts of time to collect the data, like in traditionally longitudinal studies.

This scaling back on timing and monetary savings are the major advantages of this type of survey method. However, it does have its fair share of drawbacks, mainly those of memory distortion. For example, memories from the recent past may be vivid or clear enough to provide researchers with accuracy.

But memories of the more remote past, or even those of both the recent and distant past, when compared against one another, may lead to inaccurate answers.

Settling on the Correct Survey Method

Before you conduct any survey research, there are several questions you can stand to ask yourself or your own business. These should help you narrow down the proper survey method and distribution channel for your survey research. 

Here are some questions to consider which method is most suitable for you:

  • Do you need to gather long-term, continuous research or are you looking to gain insights on the current timeframe?
    • This will help you decide between choosing a cross-sectional or longitudinal survey study.
  • If you prefer a long-term study, are you willing to persist in obtaining responses from your sample pool, or do you want to pursue different respondents each time?
  • Would you prefer to survey the same group of respondents in the long term?
  • How often do you need survey responders to take part in your survey research campaign?
  • Are you looking to understand the development of people’s behaviors or trends within your industry?
  • If you don’t need to conduct a survey across a large span of time, do you need to question respondents about the past?
  • Do you need to study a specific category of participants, or can they fall within a more broad category?

As a business, you should cross-reference your responses to these questions with the information above. That way, you can make an educated decision about which survey method and (survey types) are best for your business. 

Frequently asked questions

What are the four methods of survey distribution?

The four survey deployment methods are paper surveys, online surveys, telephonic surveys, and surveys conducted via in-person interviews.

Why are cross-sectional surveys conducted?

Cross-sectional surveys are used to quickly get answers about a specific scenario at a certain point in time. They focus on a small sample size to provide a general overview of a specific scenario or situation.

What is a longitudinal survey?

A longitudinal survey studies a pool of participants over a set period of time. The period of time can range from weeks to many years. It is performed to understand how the respondents change or develop over time.

What are the three types of longitudinal surveys?

The three types of longitudinal surveys are trend surveys, panel surveys, and cohort surveys.

How is a retrospective survey different from a longitudinal survey?

Retrospective surveys are performed to observe changes that occur over time, but they are conducted only one time. The survey is performed to understand how the respondents feel or react to something that happened in the past.