Four Ways to Better Sample and More Effective Surveys

When running a survey, properly choosing your sample specifications is important to ensure valuable insights. Sample specifications define such things as who and how many people are to participate in your survey. Sample specifications not only affect your pocketbook, but also the quality of data and insights you get out of your research, so it’s important to get these details right. Be sure to follow these four essential steps:

How many qualified participants do you need?

This refers to the number of people you want to recruit to participate in your survey. This number, also called sample size, is an essential part of running a survey. In a survey, you recruit a sample – a subset – of your population of interest (e.g. car buyers, millennials, U.S. adults, etc.) By recruiting a sample, you are able to infer your findings to your broader population. To do that, your sample has to be large enough. It is common practice in market research to use 200-300 participants as a starting point for determining the sample size for your study. Anytime your research goal involves detecting significant differences between customer segments, your total sample size must be set to accommodate the sample size requirements of each group. For example, if you want to understand gender differences, your sample should include at least 200 females and 200 males. That means a total sample size of 400 participants.

Who is your target audience?

Defining your target audience helps ensure that only the people meeting your desired criteria will take your survey. You may be interested only in opinions from ride-sharing user or moms with newborns and your survey should be set to include only those types of individuals. Basic demographic quotas for your survey sample are also needed. This will ensure representative sampling. You do not want to over or under-represent certain members of the population. Imagine if your survey about smartphone buying habits only included male participants. This would bias the results of your survey. By defining your target audience, you can also determine (i.e. set quotas) the number of males and females needed to participate in your survey. Generally, you want your demographic quotas to match the characteristics of the population you are interested in. If the U.S. population of smartphone owners was 60% female and 40% female, you’d want that same gender mix in your survey sample.

What is your qualifying rate (Incidence Rate)?

What percentage of people in the population will qualify (or meet the desired criteria) for your survey? A survey targeting a hard to reach audience (e.g. business owners) will have a low qualifying rate or incidence. A survey where the audience is easy to reach will have a high qualifying rate. This number is reflected as a percentage.

Practically speaking, qualifying rate is a measurement of how difficult it is to find participants who qualify for the survey. Sample characteristics with a low qualifying rate will cost more than sample with a high qualifying rate. Industry reports or other population statistics (e.g. U.S Census) can help you estimate the qualifying rate. Pew Research Center estimates that 81% of the U.S adult population owns a smartphone. If you were running a survey targeting smartphone users, your qualifying rate among the U.S population would be 81%

What is the length of your survey?

How many minutes will it take someone to successfully complete your full survey? Estimate the average time you believe it will take people to fully complete the survey in one sitting. Pre-testing your survey with a few people is a good way to estimate the time it will take to complete it.

Survey length affects your sample because survey participants are compensated for their time. The longer the survey, the higher the sample costs. Longer surveys also suffer from data quality issues. Research has shown that participants get fatigued, show signs of ‘cheating,’ intentional skipping, and put less attention and thought into your survey the longer it goes on.

Figure 1. FocusVision’s Sample Marketplace includes an easy to complete form for you to specify important sample details for getting quality insights from your survey data

The insights you get from your survey research are only as good as the data that goes into it. This means recruiting the right sample and defining the appropriate criteria for that sample. FocusVision can help get you there. Our latest innovation, Sample Marketplace, provides instant access to online survey sample. After filling out a short form indicating your essential sample specifications, a quote is provided, and you can immediately launch your survey knowing you’ll get the sample you’ll need. At FocusVision, we’re committed to providing technology solutions that help you deliver faster and more valuable insights.

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