Complementing Online Surveys with Offline Interviews

Face-to-face interviews are a very different beast from self-completion surveys. We’ve gone into detail before about the best uses for each here and here. Unsurprisingly for an industry-leading provider of multichannel survey software, we concluded each post with a solution of ‘combining both is best’. And it really is. But how?

For market research firms running major studies seeking general opinions from a larger population, it can make a lot of sense to use offline interviewing as a complimentary secondary channel to the primary online channel. What do we mean by that? Well online is often the cheaper option, and a far easier way to get a survey out to a lot of respondents quickly. But to vary your sample and expand on your insights, adding a face-to-face interviewing component can make a big difference.

Here are a few reasons to complement online survey projects with offline interviews, and the methodology required:

Sample variance

There are some people who won’t complete online surveys when they receive them in their inbox. They don’t have the interest, or the time, or their spam filter keeps them from seeing the invitations in the first place. There is also still a portion of the population who don’t have regular online access.

A portion of people who are unreachable online can be reached in the real world via face-to-face interviews. Complementing your online surveys with face-to-face interviews expands your sample size, and can improve sample representativeness.

Quantitative data depth

You’ve gotten responses from your online survey, and the results indicate that shoppers most often buy a specific product on weekends at the mall. Your results have now given you a timeframe and location to conduct face-to-face interviews, aiming to better understand an average shopper’s mindset at a key purchase time.

Asking further questions in a face-to-face, interviewer-led setting adds a whole new dimension of data which complements the existing online survey results.

On-site, in-the-moment feedback

Take a look at our case study for C2 business events. Online surveys formed the core of the feedback collection process. But on-location mobile interviews helped gather a more raw and in-the-moment emotional response, when hindsight and fading memory have little to no effect on their responses.

Get more well-rounded insights by balancing the standard post-event feedback with some in-the-moment emotional feedback.

Sample follow-ups

Depending on the study, and the rights that your sample/panel has offered, it’s possible to follow up with specific sample segments via face-to-face interviews after the online study is completed. The online survey can ask questions that help segment the respondents into relevant sub-groups based on demographics or behaviors. Following up with a specific sub-group based on their online responses helps complement the overall study results.

If you have a solid panel of respondents who have granted permission to follow up in-person, interviewing the same respondents who have completed the online survey can give you a richer set of insights from individual sample.

Offline Face-to-Face Interviewing

In much of North America, market researchers aren’t using face-to-face interviewing enough. Could this be because they’re seeing it as an either/or when comparing it to online surveys? Because it’s so much more when used as an ‘and’.

For the short-term, it seems clear that market researchers will continue focusing most of their studies on online surveys. But those who can find a way to complement those results with face-to-face interviews will greatly enhance the insights. Embrace the enormous potential of a truly multimode study.

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