Market research is essential for small and large businesses to gauge the needs of their audience and determine their demographic. In order to be effective in your research, you need to understand the right way to ask questions and interpret the results.
Minimize Open-Ended Survey Questions
Using open-ended questions on surveys seems like a good strategy to collect qualitative data, without complicated or expensive qualitative methods, such as focus groups. However, especially with online surveys, open-ended questions are rarely answered or participants may only include simple answers. When you need qualitative data, it helps to use traditional methods of collecting qualitative data. Interviews and focus groups are more engaging and participants are more likely to give in-depth answers.
If you must ask open-ended questions on a survey, make it a requirement for the participant to input at least a few words before moving on to the next question. Additionally, avoid asking questions that are easily satisfied with one-word answers. For example, asking a participant if they liked a product and to explain their answer is less likely to yield a sufficient answer. It is better to directly ask your participants to explain how they feel about the product.
Include Descriptors For Likert Scales
It is easier on participants to have Likert scales with descriptors than using a traditional numerical rating system. Asking participants to rate how much they liked a product on a scale of one to five is less useful than asking them to rate the same product from "strongly dislike" to "strongly like." Being descriptive in your Likert scales also minimizes the risk of participant error if they forget what the numbers represent. It also minimizes researcher error when coding data for analysis. Descriptors can be easily translated into numerical values for later analysis. You should also be aware that participants tend to answer at extremes on Likert scales or in the middle, which can be a disadvantage of using Likert scales.
Use Better Analytical And Reporting Methods
Results are often reported in the form of percentages or averages because they are the easiest way to analyze results or convey them to the public. Unfortunately, this method can be unintentionally deceptive or just a bad way of reporting certain results. For example, if you determined 80% of your participants liked a product, you should state the number of participants. 80% of five participants versus 500 is much more telling.
In some instances, using percentages and averages are simply not appropriate. Another example would be reporting results of two distinct groups, such as men and women. If you have drastically unequal numbers of men and women, the results cannot be compared. More sophisticated testing methods, such as analysis of variance (ANOVA) are needed to determine if your between-groups variance is significantly different.
Even small surveys done in-house to understand your market require an appropriate understanding of survey creation, analysis, and reporting. Avoiding common pitfalls when collecting or analyzing data will give you a clearer picture of your market and prevent unintentional misrepresentation of your results.
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