11 Most Effective Types Of Surveys In 2021

The world would a different place if people knew how to read minds. Since humans don’t have such superpowers, we use different types of survey methods to get information.

A survey is a research technique widely used to collect data from certain people and gain insights into various topics of interest. It can be conducted in numerous different ways based on the number of participants, location, and the study’s aim.

While there are hundreds of tools available in the market, there is no “one size fits all’ approach when it comes to survey research. Businesses need to decide which type of survey suits them best.

Conducting surveys with the right questions and the right platform to administer and track responses can make a substantial difference in determining success or failure. Below, we have listed the most effective types of surveys that could actually help you grow your business.

Both traditional and modern survey methods can be categorized into two groups:

  • Group 1: Based on the deployment
  • Group 2: Based on the frequency of deployment

Let’s elaborate on both of them

Surveys Based On Distribution or Deployment Method

1. Paper Survey

Pros
  • Higher response rate
  • Ideal for long questions
  • Can be utilized in regions with limited internet connectivity
  • Suitable for senior citizens and non-tech-savvy people
Cons
  • Not very cost effective
  • Cannot reach global audience

Paper questionnaires may seem like a thing of the past, but many market researchers still use them. It involves sharing a physical copy of questionnaires with people who may not have access to online versions, websites, emails, mobile apps, or social media platforms.

Paper surveys are mostly used in areas with limited internet connectivity. Organizations try to reach the maximum number of people from the sample audience. Also, many senior citizens and non-tech-savvy people prefer to answer a paper-based customer survey.

Although all government agencies have digitized their systems, sometimes, a few compliances require physical documentation. In those cases, they need to print the questionnaire to collect data.

Perhaps the major advantage of paper questionnaires is that they generate much higher responses than other types of surveys. It can be branded and customized, giving questionnaires a personal touch.

Furthermore, many people believe that paper surveys are more anonymous than web surveys, which leads to more honest responses.

2. Online Survey

Pros
  • Easy to set up
  • Cost-effective
  • Researchers can leverage data collection and automation technologies
  • Surveys can be tailored to each participant
Cons
  • Participants are less likely to answer every question in a long survey
  • Poorly chosen distribution channels can lead to biased responses

Online survey is the most popular way of collecting data, in which a set of questions is sent out to a sample audience, and the members of this sample respond to the questions over the World Wide Web. The audience could receive the survey via multiple online mediums such as social media, email, URL, QR code, or embedded over a website.

Most companies use online surveys to get feedback about newly-launched products or services and get insights into the changing marketing dynamics. The data gathered from respondents is stored in a database, which can be easily retrieved and processed. The company then thoroughly analyzes the responses to make informed decisions.

Creating online surveys is now easier than ever. You don’t need any programming or technical skills. There are plenty of tools available in the market that will help you build compelling surveys from scratch.

Since everything (design, development, distribution, and data collection and analysis) happens on the internet, online surveys are highly flexible and cost-effective options.

3. Phone Survey

Pros
  • Quick data processing and handling
  • Cost-effective
  • Have a personal touch
  • Often the only way to reach B2B audiences
Cons
  • Limited range of times available to collect responses
  • Questions need to be short and precise for easy comprehension

Phone surveys are extensively used in specific types of research, such as market surveys. Recent advances in electronic technology, particularly computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) systems, have enabled professional market research companies to collect response data easily.

CATI systems capture data from respondents and allow interviewers to enter responses quickly into databases for further analysis. Studies have shown that responses in telephone interviewing are as valid as data collected by other survey methods.

Depending on the objective of the research project, telephonic interviews for market research can be subdivided into three groups:

  • Structure telephone interviews are generally used to collect quantitative data. They are shorter and contain closed-ended questions.
  • Semi-structured telephone interviews gather both qualitative and quantitative data. They contain a mixture of open and closed-ended questions.
  • In-depth telephone interviews are relatively longer in length. They primarily contain open-ended questions to collect qualitative data.

These surveys work best when included with a few open-ended questions. However, a decision of whether such surveys are suitable for collecting data depends on four main parameters:

  1. The topic under investigation
  2. Whether complex or sensitive issues are being explored
  3. Whether visual aids are required to explain the scenario
  4. The depth of responses sought

Researchers conducting the telephone survey also need to be aware of certain limitations, such as the limited range of times available to collect responses and the potential expense of long distances. If planned well, these surveys can be very successful.

4. Face-to-Face Survey

Pros
  • Accurate screening
  • Flexibility to probe deeper
  • Capture verbal and non-verbal cues
  • Capture emotions and behaviors
Cons
  • Expensive and time-consuming
  • Sample size is limited to the size of the interviewing staff

A face-to-face survey is used when a specific target population is involved. The purpose of conducting such surveys is to gather in-depth information and explore the responses as much as possible.

These surveys, quite similar to personal interviews, are preferred for a couple of advantages. For example, interviewers cannot only probe the answers of the respondents but also observe their behaviors. They can read respondents’ body language, which indicates the level of discomfort or enthusiasm associated with the questions.

The quality of data gathered depends a lot on the ability of the interviewer to ask questions and perceive responses. So it important to hire an experienced, non-biased interviewing staff.

The interview can be conducted individually or as a group. Both are very effective, but their major disadvantage is cost. The company needs to hire people to conduct such surveys, which means there will be personnel costs.

Surveys Based On The Frequency Of Deployment

5. Cross-Sectional Surveys

Pros
  • Captures a specific moment in time
  • Allows you to collect data from a large pool of subjects
  • Inexpensive and fast
  • Prompts further study
Cons
  • Cannot establish cause-and-effect relationships
  • Cannot be used to determine long-term trends

Cross-sectional surveys are observational research that gather data from many different individuals at a single point in time. These surveys are designed to observe variables without influencing them. Participants are selected based on specific variables of interest.

A cross-sectional survey is conducted to describe characteristics that exist in a population group, but not to determine the cause-and-effect relationships between variables.

Although the survey can be repeated periodically, the participants involved at one point in time are not intentionally sampled again. Respondents are selected randomly in every subsequent survey.

Researchers in medicine, epidemiology, psychology, economics and other social sciences utilize cross-sectional studies in their work. For example, epidemiologists interested in the latest prevalence of a disease in a particular region might use a cross-sectional survey to collect and analyze the relevant information.

6. Longitudinal Survey

Pros
  • Enables repeated observations of the same individual over time
  • Can provide a wealth of information on a topic
  • Allows researchers to get insights into cause-and-effect relationships
Cons
  • Expensive and time-consuming
  • Participants tends to drop out over time

Unlike cross-sectional studies, longitudinal surveys involve repeated observations of the same variables (such as people) over an extended period of time. They are mostly used in medical research, sociology, psychology, economics, and epidemiology.

Longitudinal surveys can be retrospective or prospective. Both are cohorts, which means they involve a group of individuals who share defining characteristics, such as birthplace or college degree.

  • Retrospective survey: involves collecting data on past events.
  • Prospective survey: involves choosing a group of individuals and following them over time to collect new data.

Retrospective surveys are cheaper and less time-consuming than prospective surveys, but are more prone to measurement error.

For example, in a retrospective survey, research might look at records of cancer patients to see whether they had previously smoked. In a prospective survey, they might collect data of both smokers and non-smokers at regular intervals to see if they develop cancer in the future.

There is no fixed duration for a longitudinal survey, as long as people are repeatedly participating. It can go from as short as a couple of weeks to as long as a few decades. Most cohort longitudinal surveys last between one and three years and involve fewer than 100 participants.

One of the world’s longest longitudinal surveys is the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has been going on for over 8 decades.

Surveys Based On Applications

7. Market Research Survey

Whether you are a small startup or a Fortune 500 company, a market research survey can help you assure the success of your new products or services. It focuses on gathering feedback from a target audience to understand their needs and expectations.

The survey also collects data surrounding a target market, such as pricing trends and competitor metrics. Overall, the purpose of any market survey is:

  • Get critical information about consumers
  • Understand customers inclination towards buying products
  • Improve existing products and services
  • Identify the best pricing structure
  • Make informed business decisions

Market surveys can be conducted through various channels such as in-depth interviews, online surveys, one-on-one meetings, and more.

8. Satisfaction Survey

The satisfaction survey is a quick way for companies to know their customers and their opinions about the products and services. Studies have shown that 86% of customers will pay more for a better brand experience; however, only 1% feel that sellers consistently meet expectations.

Most companies also use these types of surveys internally to gauge whether employees are satisfied and happy with their work environment. Positive feedbacks indicate a higher level of worker motivation and a strong team spirit.

9. Brand Awareness Survey

The brand awareness survey measures how your customers recognize you and how well they know about your product and services. It helps you find out which emotions are evoked among your target audience when your brand is brought up.

The three facets of brand awareness — identity, attributes, and equity — give you a complete picture of your brand, helping you spot the areas that still need improvements. 

These surveys capture key demographic data and several parameters that describe how consumers view your brand. They are usually 2-5 minutes long and contain quick questions like

Where have you heard or seen about our brand recently?

  • Social media
  • Mobile app ads
  • Family, friends, or colleagues
  • I haven’t heard or noticed this brand recently

Have you purchased our product before?

  • Yes
  • No

How was the experience with the product?

  • Extremely favorable
  • Very favorable
  • Favorable
  • Not so favorable
  • Not at all favorable

Do any other brand comes to your mind while using our products?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Please specify

Most giant companies, including Apple and Microsoft, use brand awareness survey to know if they have been successful in reaching the minds of consumers.

10. Evaluation Survey

The evaluation research methodology has become one of the most crucial approaches for companies as they strive to develop products and services. There are surveys designed specifically for product evaluation, course/training evaluation, and event evaluation.

A product evaluation survey, for example, can provide actionable data throughout the product development life cycle. A course evaluation survey can help teachers improve their course design, teaching style, and create more engaging educational courses tailored to students’ needs. An event evaluation survey captures honest and in-the-moment perceptions and opinions from attendees.

Overall, evaluation surveys are a great way to obtain valuable feedback and discover areas that require significant improvement.

11. Lead Generation Survey

Most companies use lead generation surveys to

  • Collect leads via means of gamification and user engagement
  • Build email lists and spread brand awareness
  • Increase sales figure

The survey gathers contextual information about the company’s prospects so that it can optimize interactions with customers accordingly.

Generating leads is now easier than ever, thanks to social media platforms and the online world as a whole. These days, the most common form of lead generation is offering an ebook or a webinar. This is a much more efficient approach to convert your audience into paying customers and generate more sales in the long run.

Read: 13 Best Penetration Testing Tools [Free & Paid]

Frequency Asked Questions

Surveys work best when participants are selected randomly from a target population. However, even when random sampling is used, the outcomes of the survey can have many errors. These errors arise mainly due to:

Biased questions: The wordings of the question can influence the way participants answer the questions.
Interviewer’s role: In face-to-face surveys, respondents often give inaccurate answers to avoid being embarrassed. In such cases, the quality of data gathered depends solely on the ability of the interviewer to ask questions and perceive responses.
No response: Some people are difficult to reach, or they simply refuse to participate in any kind of survey.

What is the cheapest type of survey?

Email questionnaire is the cheapest (or you can say cost-efficient) survey that can be conducted by an individual or an organization. It is also the fastest way to collect and analyze data. However, the biggest problem with such surveys is low response rates – people do not always open and complete questionnaires.

Read: 15 Best Test Data Generation Tools

What is the most expensive survey?

Longitudinal surveys are the most expensive ones. They involve repeated observations of the same variable over an extended period of time. Tracking participants and conducting face-to-face interviews add more expenses.

While most cohort longitudinal surveys complete within a year, some last several decades. 

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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