What are you waiting for? Survey on the spot instead of through e-mail

Note: this article was originally published as a guest post on wired.com

Paper surveys have probably been around since papyrus. We’ve always been interested to know what others were thinking, right? We’ve all seen the surveyors at the grocery store, armed with clipboard, pen and paper form, intercepting folks lugging bags out to their cars to ask about products and services. In-home surveys came via parcel post, in over-stuffed envelopes with any manner of surveys, from private businesses to the city collecting opinions about new urbanization plans.

As PCs became more popular, so did online surveys. But while they improved ease of distribution compare to paper, email surveys still left a lot of qualitative room for improvement. People are busy when they’re online at work, and doing any number of things on their home computer that have nothing to do with waiting to take a survey. Alas, harried shoppers, people sorting their mail and over-worked employees are not ideal survey candidates. After all, the more reasons you give them to avoid your survey the less likely you are to get valuable feedback—if you get any feedback at all.

Email surveys aren’t keeping up with the times

When email surveys don’t automatically land in a recipient’s junk mail folder, they’re often ushered there by the very person it was intended for—hardly the interaction the surveyor intended. It’s no wonder that email response rates are off the wrong end of the charts these days, and getting further afield. When responses do come in, the value of the information is limited. Why? Because of the lag between the interaction with the brand and the customer actually answering the survey. The business has to collect the email address, get the email to the right department or outside resource to add to the database, and then work it into the survey stream. If the email address is an accurate one, and if the survey doesn’t land in the trash, an email survey often lingers for days before the recipient gets around to answering it.

This lag works against the collection of time-sensitive consumer insights like wanting details of a customer’s experience to a car dealership or a bed-and-breakfast. Or soliciting the nuances of a meal or event. The value of the insights, and the details consumers can recall decreases as the time between their experience and answering your survey increases. It’s logical, but for too long has sufficed as the norm. Clearly, email surveys’ role in collecting viable, valuable consumer feedback to inform marketing and other functions is limited at best. At worst, it’s a waste of time and money. It’s time for a new norm.

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Use people’s mobile devices to ask them about your brand—while they’re experiencing your brand

Fewer and fewer people leave their homes without a smartphone or tablet these days. Which means these powerful, familiar computers accompany them down the store aisles, into car dealerships, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and events too. A modern, convenient mobile survey, quiz or contest during this experience can feel like a natural part of the experience itself. Without even an app to install, mobile surveys and quizzes use familiar swiping, keyboarding and taking photos that consumers do countless times a day with their mobiles. And deliver once hard-to-collect, in-the-moment insights—in real time.

Consumer research has for too long been too serious. It needn’t be. With mobile surveys, you can collect invaluable insights by engaging your audience with a fun challenge, quirky quiz, contest or simply the prospect of publicity. You don’t need their email or cell phone number, just a provocative proposition.

How to learn from customers, prospects or attendees as they experience your brand:

Make it easy for them to use their mobile to scan a QR code or enter a URL:

  • Printed on packaging and or POP signs
  • Projected onto a screen during seminars or conferences
  • Printed on event signs, tickets or program materials
  • Included inside packaging on directions or warranty/registration information

Compel them to give their input by:

  • Using hosts at events to invite attendees to take your survey
  • Telling respondents they’ll be entered into a prize drawing
  • Making the invitation and quiz informal, fun and entertaining
  • Letting people know they’ll learn their score at the end
  • Promise a coupon or gift for completed quiz (a great way to collect additional contact info)
  • Installing a tablet or PC on a kiosk and ask your customers to take your survey

Make the survey or quiz fun, not boring like most email surveys:

  • Keep it short. People will quit or will get bored after 7 questions
  • Incorporate photos and videos into your questions
  • Encourage respondents to take personal photos of your product in their homes
  • Brand your survey with your company logo, background image and colors
  • Use emoticons or other graphics instead of a numerical scale to indicate satisfaction

Customers don’t mind sharing opinions if doing so is convenient and potentially rewarding

Many studies confirm that customers are willing to tell about their experiences with brands. This willingness shouldn’t come at a price of interrupting work or diverting them from tasks they’re already engaged in. And if you think the information you seek is valuable—and in-the-moment information certainly is—happily reward those who respond. Rewards can come in the form of valuable coupons or discounts, free products and even their appearance with your product or at your event on your Facebook or Pinterest pages.

The days of passive, days-later email surveys that most people couldn’t be bothered with are over. Using the mobile devices nearly everyone has, you can engage and learn from your customers and prospects as never before.

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Meet the Writers
  • Sofie Nelen

    Digital Marketeer for Survey Anyplace - writing down tips and thoughts to unbore the common survey with a focus on marketing.

  • Stefan Debois

    As the CEO of Survey Anyplace, Stefan focuses on how to get the best results from the tool - preferably backed with real-life data.

  • Nigel Lindemann

    As a Digital Marketeer at Survey Anyplace, Nigel likes to share conventional and less conventional tips and tricks.

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