Thursday, November 27, 2008

Online surveys bore respondents and damage data quality

This is not a 50-plus posting but about one of the main research mechanisms we us to make decisions about the older person's marketing behaviour – the online survey.

For the past 6 months I have signed-up to half a dozen different regular surveys. I wanted to get a feel of how they operate, what questions they ask and what it is like being on the receiving end, rather than my normal position, specifying the questions.

I am not surprised that the article finds declining response rates, poor data quality and respondents becoming bored with the presentation and mechanics of the studies.

The research, upon which the article was based, examined the drop-out rates from over 550 surveys and correlated these with survey length and question formats.

The study also asked a sample of 200 online panellists what bored and frustrated them in online questionnaires. It then compared static HTML questionnaires with those using Flash animation and traditional question formats with more innovative ones, in order to identify alternative question presentations that would engage better with respondents.

The research revealed that if boredom sets in, respondents increase the speed at which they answer questions, leading to fewer responses being given generally, and a loss of data quality due to a combination of increased pattern answering and a shift away from using scale extremities.

Yep, they are describing my reaction.

Two conclusions. Beware paying too much attention to these studies. Secondly, when building one research studies, realise that there is a low attention-span human answering the questions – like me. Dick Stroud

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