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Case Study

Online Surveys versus Traditional Market Research

A hospitality business needed to better understand customer behaviour and preferences in order to shape product and service delivery decisions.

The business wished to compare results with previous surveys it had conducted using traditional methods, but wanted to see if online market research could deliver additional insights.

The research therefore used a combination of face-to-face interviews and, for the first time, web-based surveys.

  Online Hospitality Market Research
The results were surprising. It was clear that far better customer insight could be achieved through online market research than through conventional customer survey methods. Online was also far cheaper.

Specific benefits the hospitality business gained from using online market research methods, including:

Faster Results

From initial concept to final report, the online survey was completed in just under a month. Previous face-to-face work took nearly twice as long to complete.

Significantly Less Expensive

The online survey was completed for less than half the cost of previous face-to-face work (a similar number of interviews were conducted in both surveys).

Interviewing Many People: Practical and Affordable

The per-interview costs were much lower for the online survey (where most of the costs related to the survey design and set-up of the online systems). Although the questionnaire for the face-to-face work was much shorter, it had similar set-up costs and there were much higher costs associated with face-to-face interviews. Extending or repeating the online survey could therefore be done at a fraction of the cost of increasing the scale of the face-to-face work.

Better Customer Insights

Much more personal insights were volunteered by respondents in the online survey than was revealed in the face-to-face interviews. A level of detail and many more "honest" attitudes were revealed by the online survey than had been obtained using traditional market research techniques.

People usually feel they are in their own personal "space" when online. Because they feel more comfortable and are already in a fairly intimate environment online, people are usually more revealing in online surveys compared to traditional research methods. This is particularly true when confidentiality and anonymity is assured.

Better Reach

The online survey was able to cover prospective customers across a wide targeted area, without needing additional interviewers or complicated scheduling of field work.

Better Targeting

It is possible to target people online according to behaviour and interests, not just demographics. The online survey was able to target people interested in activities and entertainment options relevant to the hospitality business. Results were therefore more relevant for online than for traditional methods.

Better Respondent Selection

In comparison with traditional research methods, online it proved much easier to get honest answers to questions. Beyond the practical advantages in qualifying people in or out of the research online, the client felt much more confident that respondents were providing correct demographic and other segment-specific information.

This also boosted confidence that the right people were being asked the right questions, where alternative sets of questions were asked of different types of people within the survey.

Easy to get Verbatim Comments

Whenever respondents "speak" in their own words about a topic greater clarity and deeper insights can be obtained. The online survey was able to incorporate open-ended questions at several points in the interview. This allowed respondents to directly type in their own comments. Often these were extensive, reflecting a high level of engagement with the online survey. It was not practical to have such extensive open ended questions in the face-to-face interviews.

Able to use Multi Media, to ensure Respondents Answer in Context

Online it was possible to include images, links to more information and multi-media resources which put the questions in better context and gave respondents the option to temporarily branch off and quickly clarify any contextual information which they are unsure of.

Verbatim responses taken at multiple points throughout the online survey confirmed that respondents were answering in the correct context and were not vague or confused about different sections of the online research. Traditional research methods were much more prone to either semi-random answers being given, or people quitting the interview through frustration.

More Comprehensive

The online survey was able to have a battery of 70 questions answered with an average survey completion time of under 10 minutes and a low drop-out rate. An online questionnaire was built that used graphics to keep people engaged, was easy to understand, and appeared quick to answer.

It was impractical to ask such a range of questions in a personal interview, and less than half the number of questions were asked in the face-to-face survey.

Fewer Drop-outs

Reflected by very high survey completion rates and extensive ad-hoc comments even at the end of the survey, the online survey proved more engaging to respondents. The face-to-face interviews had to be shorter (fewer questions), since the main dynamic was how long an interviewer could maintain the respondent's interest in the questionnaire.

Greater Relevancy

The online survey was able to branch into sets of slightly different questions according to the answers a person gave in earlier sections of the survey. (A simple example: people who lived with a partner could be asked different questions than people who lived alone.) The face-to-face interviews were limited to skipping irrelevant questions.

No "interviewer effect"

Respondents were more likely to give honest answers online than face-to-face. In the online survey respondents were not exposed to the impact of social interaction with an interviewer. They therefore did not modify their answers or feel concerned about any judgemental attitudes on behalf of the interviewer. In the face-to-face survey, physically attractive interviewers were used in an attempt to encourage people to participate in the survey, which amplified the "interviewer effect".

Avoiding Diminishing Returns on Research Investment
(Results snapshots enabled decisions on survey duration & scale)

The online survey provided access to snapshot results as the survey progressed. This enabled a view to be formed about the consistency of the responses, which in turn enabling decisions to be made about whether to continue interviewing a very large number or people, or whether the conclusions from the work were already apparent. Face-to-face interviews required significant manual data-entry of results and could not provide such immediate access to results, and it was not practical to modify the survey scale in the same way.

Overall, the hospitality business found the online survey gave a level of customer insight that had not previously been available to it. Achieving this at a far lower cost and in under half the time of previous traditional research was also a great advantage.









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