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Market Research Surveys

In the not so distant past, most companies offered products and services based on their best estimates of customer needs. This method was scattershot at best, and it was difficult to tell with any certainty what customers really wanted or needed. Today, market research has taken much of the guesswork out of marketing and development. Using surveys, companies can now save valuable time and resources by pinpointing a target population's needs and wants; they are then able to adjust their product offerings and marketing plans accordingly.

Understanding customer behavior is the basis of a good marketing strategy. Market research allows companies to question customers and potential customers on their tastes, habits, and preferences, and then use the resulting data to make informed marketing decisions.

In fact, market research has become a necessary component of any marketing effort. Even businesses that required little marketing in the past, such as utilities, must now vie with rival companies in many parts of the country and commonly use market research to stay ahead of the competition.

Market research also allows companies to personalize their services based on a respondent's stated preferences. It is increasingly common for companies to offer particular products, discounts, and offers that match their individual customer's profiles.

Market Surveys Methods

Web-based research is by far the fastest growing marketing survey method, partly because it is fast and relatively inexpensive, but also because response rates tend to be higher. It is estimated that two thirds of all households have answering machines, and many people screen their calls to avoid talking to solicitors. Also, when people are contacted on the telephone, nearly half refuse to participate in the survey. Mail surveys encounter a similar problem, with over a third of Americans refusing to fill out the most recent census, even though law requires it. Online respondents, on the other hand, usually agree to be surveyed beforehand, and they can fill out surveys at their leisure, leading to very high response rates.

One problem with conducting web-based market research is that only about a third of all households currently access the Internet from their homes. By contrast, 95% of all households in the United States have telephones and nearly everyone receives snail mail. Nonetheless, with more people entering cyberspace everyday, the demographics of online users are, in many ways, very similar to the general population.

Another potential problem with web-based marketing surveys is the ever-increasing amount of spam (unsolicited junk mail) cluttering up America's email boxes. Recipients may receive a dozen or more spam messages in their email boxes every day, and other, more legitimate messages can sometimes be mistaken for spam. If a survey is mistaken for junk email, response rates will most certainly suffer. Therefore, it is extremely important that a survey's subject line clearly articulates both its source and its purpose.

Despite these problems, web-based market research is on the rise. Recent studies have shown that, as web surveys have increased, the more traditional telephone and mail surveys have decreased, with about half of all companies now relying on web surveys as their sole survey method. Because of this reliance on web surveys, households that are wired to the Internet may end up with an inordinate amount of input on marketplace issues. However, as more American households become "wired", this lopsidedness should even out, and web surveys will better reflect the population as a whole.

Incentives and Response Rate

Low response rates have been a growing problem for survey organizations. One way to increase response rate in a marketing survey is to offer recipients incentives for their participation. Incentives can be as small as a discount coupon or large as a cash payment of five to fifteen dollars, depending on the type of survey and the target population. Commonly respondents are offered entry into a sweepstakes or points that can be redeemed for prizes. Cash incentives can be problematic, and if you are considering using them, please refer to the related article.

Incentives not only entice people to respond to marketing surveys, they can also help establish a reliable population for future surveys. When offering incentives, it is important to establish conditions, such completing the entire survey and providing necessary demographic information.