Surveys questionnaires are an effective tool for understanding the opinions and attitudes of those that matter the most: your target audience. However, to get the most insight for your buck, you must design an effective survey questionnaire that asks the right questions in the right way. We provide tips on just that below.
What is a survey questionnaire?
A survey questionnaire is a research tool that collects information about a specific topic by prompting respondents to answer a list of standardized questions. In market research, survey questionnaires help companies collect demographic data and assess consumer needs, preferences, and behaviors.
Typically, survey questionnaires yield quantitative data, which enables C-suite executives to make data-driven decisions. For example, a survey questionnaire may reveal that customers in a specific geographic area are 40 percent less likely to purchase a product. Based on this information, company leadership can adjust advertising and pricing accordingly.
However, survey questionnaires may also yield qualitative data. This is achieved through the use of open-ended questions that require participants to provide written responses. Market researchers can then analyze these responses manually or leverage text analysis tools for further examination.
Regardless of question type, survey questionnaires serve as a reliable instrument for gaining insight into your target audience. This insight can give your brand the edge it needs to outperform competitors and gain market share.
Why use survey questionnaires?
Survey questionnaires can provide highly reliable, accurate, and relevant first-party data that is tailored specifically to your company’s unique objectives. This data can be used to:
Identify customer needs and preferences
Survey questionnaires provide a peek into the consumer psyche, enabling market researchers to gain a deeper understanding of preferences and pain points. This information empowers companies to create products and offer services that cater to consumer needs.
Evaluate marketing campaigns
It can be frustrating to launch a marketing campaign that falls flat. Fortunately, market researchers can use survey questionnaires to assess the effectiveness of advertising before revealing messaging to the world at large. Based on participant feedback, the messaging can be adjusted and refined, ensuring that the big reveal is effective.
Monitor industry trends
Staying up-to-date on the trends that shape consumer opinions and behaviors can be challenging. However, survey questionnaires can help by providing insight into current market preferences.
Test new products and services
Is there a demand for a specific product or service? The best way to answer this question is by asking consumers directly through a survey questionnaire. This market research tool can help companies determine a) how a new offering will be received and b) any adjustments that need to be made before the product or service is released.
The benefits of survey questionnaires
Survey questionnaires are a cost-effective means of gathering data about your target market. Whether your company is a small business or a Fortune 500, this data can be leveraged to inform all aspects of business—from pricing strategies to brand messaging.
Three other benefits of survey questionnaires include:
1. Boosted profits
Survey questionnaires provide a comprehensive understanding of consumer wants and needs. For example, a survey questionnaire may reveal that customers are willing to pay more for a product. Or, a survey questionnaire may reveal that millennial consumers are not responding to brand messaging.
This understanding helps your company make smart, data-driven decisions that safeguard your company from financial losses. Ergo, businesses that utilize data and analytics to make decisions are more likely to achieve higher profitability compared to those that do not.
2. Improved customer experience
Survey questionnaires help businesses gain valuable insights into customers' needs and preferences. This information allows them to customize their products and services to better meet customer expectations.
For example, let’s say a company conducts customer satisfaction surveys at various points in the customer journey. In doing so, the company identifies issues with its e-commerce website. By addressing these problems and improving the customer experience, the business can build stronger relationships and foster greater customer loyalty.
3. Refined product development
Conducting a survey questionnaire before launching a new product is an effective avenue for understanding consumer preferences. Survey questionnaires can uncover possibilities for improvement and innovation, helping companies offer goods that consumers actually want.
Insights garnered from survey questionnaires can also guide the product development process in a way that saves companies valuable time and financial resources.
Types of questions for survey questionnaires
When creating a survey questionnaire, market researchers often overlook the importance of selecting the right type of question. Choosing the appropriate question type can help you collect reliable and accurate information that supports your research goal.
Five question types to be aware of include:
1. Open-ended questions
Open-ended questions are prompts that require detailed, free-form text responses rather than simple 'yes' or 'no' answers. These questions generate qualitative data that can provide valuable insights. The qualitative information obtained can be used as is or converted into quantitative data using techniques like word clouds.
However, there are some drawbacks to using open-ended questions. They can be time-consuming for respondents to answer, which can result in a lower response rate. Additionally, open-ended questions may yield unusable responses, such as emoji or gibberish.
- Allow for rich responses
- Offer three-dimensional data
- Provide insight into the customer journey
- Tedious for respondents to answer
- May yield unusable responses
- Time-consuming to analyze
2. Dichotomous questions
Dichotomous questions are close-ended prompts that only offer two possible answers. Examples include ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ‘true’ or ‘false, ‘fair’ or ‘unfair.’ These questions yield quantitative data that is easy to analyze. Many respondents also prefer these questions because they can be answered quickly.
While dichotomous questions are straightforward, they are not always appropriate. Many times, a participant’s thoughts and opinions cannot be encapsulated in two answer choices. Dichotomous questions may also prompt participants to straight-line (i.e., select answers at random) or otherwise offer disingenuous answers.
- Generate easy-to-analyze data
- Short and simple
- Can be used to screen qualified respondents
- Overly simplistic for some situations
- Encourage straight-lining
- Yield one-dimensional data
3. Single and multiple choice questions
Single and multiple choice questions are types of close-ended questions where respondents choose from a predetermined set of options. With single choice questions, participants can select only one option, while multiple choice questions offer multiple options to choose from.
These question types are popular because they are straightforward and can be answered quickly. They are also mobile-friendly and easy to analyze. However, data yielded by single and multiple choice questions typically lacks the depth afforded by open-ended questions.
- Easy to answer
- Simple to analyze
- Time-consuming to create
- Limited options
- No qualitative data
4. Scale questions
There are two key types of scale questions: rating scale and Likert Scale. Rating scale questions give participants a spectrum of answer choices related to a single topic. For instance, a question may assess customer satisfaction, with 1 indicating ‘very dissatisfied’ and 5 indicating ‘very satisfied.’
Likert Scale questions are very similar to rating scale questions. The key difference is that rating scale questions can have any number of options, while Likert Scale questions are typically limited to five to seven options.
Scale questions are advantageous because they quantify subjective sentiments. However, since the questions aren't always mobile-friendly, answer choices can be truncated on small smartphone screens. These questions are also prone to the error of central tendency, which essentially means that participants tend to select the midpoints of the scale.
- Participants are familiar with scale questions
- Effective means of quantifying emotions
- Susceptible to the error of central tendency
- Subjective answer choices
- Not mobile-friendly
5. Matrix/grid questions
Matrix/grid questions organize multiple choice questions into a grid format, where the questions are presented in the first row and the answer choices are listed as column headers.
By grouping multiple questions, matrix/grid questions create the perception of a single question. This has the advantage of saving space and reducing survey dropout rates.
However, it is important to understand when and how to properly incorporate matrix/grid questions. Since these questions aren’t always compatible with smart devices, misuse could lead to survey dropout.
- Offers perception of a single question
- Highly engaging
- Can be answered quickly
- Not screen-agnostic
- Can be overwhelming
- Encourage straight-lining
- Not mobile-friendly and line errors (respondent may confuse columns and rows)
How to design survey questionnaires that pay off
If you want to design a survey questionnaire that yields high-quality data, consider the four tips below.
1. Speak to your audience
Think about your survey audience and how to communicate effectively with them. To get accurate and representative data, use simple language and avoid jargon and acronyms. Apply visuals and iconography strategically to reduce the load on respondent’s working memory and create visual trigger. Additionally, keep your survey questions short and concise, especially on small screens. This reduces scrolling and ensures that your survey questionnaire is designed for mobile.
2. Ask meaningful questions
Make sure you ask questions that respondents can answer. For instance, if you ask a participant about their satisfaction with your product and they have never used your product before, they will either a) abandon the survey or b) offer a disingenuous answer. That being said, asking irrelevant questions is a sure way to compromise the reliability and accuracy of your datasets.
3. Use a mix of question types
Selecting the appropriate question type is crucial for obtaining reliable data. But it is also important to choose the right mix of question types. For example, if you incorporate too many open-ended questions, you may see an uptick in survey dropout. On the other hand, if you rely too heavily on dichotomous questions, your survey questionnaire may not offer meaningful insights.
4. Keep it short
Survey length is integral to data quality. Why? Because if your survey questionnaire takes too long to complete — any longer than 10 minutes, in most cases — participant engagement will drop. Survey respondents will offer disingenuous answers or give up on the questionnaire altogether.
Write better survey questionnaires with Kantar
As a vanguard of market research, Kantar equips brands with access to more than 170 million research-ready respondents. To safeguard your data, we employ our proprietary anti-fraud technology. Informed by comprehensive research, this software identifies fraudulence through machine learning. As a result, Kantar sees an average of only 6% of data rejected compared to the industry average of 38%.
Additionally, we equip market researchers with the tools needed to design effective survey questionnaires. Our guide on writing open-ended questions, for instance, offers 23 tips for collecting more thoughtful responses.