Exploring Survey Methods: Survey Software vs. Paper Surveys

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Survey Software vs. Paper Surveys: Pros and Cons Exponential regression
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To thrive in a competitive marketplace, you need to evaluate its needs, demands, and expectations. And the best way to do so is by gathering consumer information. 

From the survey’s inception, face-to-face interviews or paper surveys were the primary data collection method. With the advent of technology, survey software has brought forward a more convenient, efficient, and accessible way of gathering feedback. 

This brings us to the debate – survey software vs. paper surveys. 

Choosing the appropriate survey method is crucial for research success and ensuring reliable and valid data collection. The decision between survey software and paper surveys depends on various factors, which we’ll explore in our blog. 

What are paper surveys?

As the name suggests, it involves the use of physical surveys or questionnaires to collect data from respondents. You can either mail the questionnaire or use it for in-person surveys. Respondents fill out the survey form by hand, and the analysis is conducted by manually entering data into the system. 

What are the uses of paper surveys?

Here are some of the ways you can use paper surveys. 

  1. Offline data collection: Paper surveys are suitable when your research requires you to gather data from regions where an internet connection is not readily available. 
  2. In-person interviews: In-store surveys often involve the use of paper questionnaires as it allows them to gather feedback immediately after the interaction. 
  3. Traditional research: Some respondents may still be set in traditional ways and may prefer paper surveys over their alternative. 

What is survey software?

Alternative to paper surveys, survey software is designed to modernize research by enabling you to design surveys, collect feedback, and analyze data digitally in one platform. 

Paper surveys → Online surveys and Mobile-Offline

Telephone surveys → CATI and IVR

Platforms like Voxco allow you to combine these modes and gather data by leveraging the internet and digital world. 

Technological advancement has also made it easy for respondents to access and complete the surveys using a mobile device on their preferred channel at their convenience. 

What are the uses of survey software?

Here are some ways leaders across the world use survey software: 

  1. Market research: The platform allows businesses to gather information about a new market, customer preferences, evolving market trends and more quickly and efficiently. 
  2. Customer research: Online surveys enable you to gauge customer experiences at moments that matter. 
  3. Social studies: From political polling to healthcare studies, survey platforms empower you to conduct large-scale research with agility and adapt to the changing needs of the research quickly. 

Survey software vs. paper surveys - Pros & cons

Before discussing the differences between the two, let’s look into the advantages and disadvantages of both survey methods. 

Pros and cons of paper surveys

Pros – 

  • Paper surveys are familiar to most respondents which makes them feel confident and comfortable in participating. 
  • Not everyone is digitally literate or has access to the internet, making paper surveys a more efficient method to reach a broader demographic. 
  • No technical skills are required to participate and complete the survey, reducing the barriers to survey participation. 

Cons – 

  • The data is collected via paper surveys which means you have to manually enter it into a computer for analysis. 
  • Handwritten responses can be difficult to comprehend, leading to errors and inconsistencies. 
  • The entire process of distributing, collecting, and entering data is manual, which can be time-consuming and error-prone. 

Pros and cons of survey software

Pros – 

  • Online surveys are accessible to a global audience, providing a vast and diverse reach for businesses and mitigating language barriers for participants. 
  • Responses are automatically recorded and prepped for analysis, reducing the risk associated with manual data entry. 
  • Survey software is more cost-effective than paper surveys. You can run every step of a research campaign from one single platform, saving time and resources. 

Cons – 

  • Technical issues like poor internet connectivity or device compatibility may hinder participation. 
  • For many researchers, there may be a learning curve before they can efficiently use the platform. 

Additional read: The Importance of Survey Software in the Age of Data

See how easily you can create, test, distribute, and design the surveys.

  • 100+ question types
  • Advanced logic 
  • White-label
  • Auto-translations in 100+ languages

Survey software vs. paper surveys - comparative differences

Businesses have shifted from using paper surveys to survey software for ease, speed, and accessibility. For some organizations, it might still be a difficult transition. Here, we’ll identify some key differences between the two survey methods. 

1. Accessibility & convenience:

Paper surveys → 

To gather data using a paper survey is a long process. You either require in-person distribution or post it our for respondents, then wait for days to receive the questionnaire back. This delays the process which makes it less accessible and even less convenient for respondents. 

Survey software→ 

In contrast, you can share online surveys over the respondent’s preferred channel or leverage any other mode as per the target audience’s preference to gather data immediately. The internet and integration of multiple modes make it widely accessible and enable respondents to complete surveys at their convenience. 

2. Speed:

Paper surveys → 

As mentioned before, paper surveys are notorious for their time-consuming process. You’ll be left with outdated trends when it takes you to distribute the surveys and for respondents to complete and mail them back to you. 

Furthermore, a long survey means you will spend more time scanning and organizing data. 

Survey software → 

With a comprehensive survey platform, you need to invest a little time in your research. You can design surveys, distribute them via online channels, and automate data gathering and analysis. 

The rapid survey distribution enables your respondents to respond immediately, leading to automatic data analysis. Moreover, sophisticated tools like Voxco offer real-time analysis, empowering you to track the progress of your online surveys. 

3. Survey design:

Paper surveys → 

Space, versatility, and relevancy are some major limitations of paper surveys. While you can accommodate multiple-choice/single-choice, grid, or list questions, you can’t use responsive question types like drop-down, slider, or rating. 

Additionally, a long questionnaire means using too many papers which makes it costly. This also leads to the issue of relevancy because you can’t apply logic features in a paper survey. Respondents will have to read through every question irrelevant to their experience to answer the relevant question. 

Survey software → 

Online surveys, on the other hand, thrive when it comes to space, versatility, and relevancy. You can use multiple interactive question types in your survey, all the while keeping it user-friendly. Additionally, advanced logic features not only hide irrelevant questions from respondents but also reduce the length of the survey. 

For example, a platform like Voxco offers 100+ question types and advanced skip logic and branching features to help you deliver an excellent survey experience. 

4. Data accuracy and integrity: 

Paper surveys → 

Data accuracy and integrity in paper surveys can be challenging. The process of manually entering the data can introduce errors like misinterpretation of handwritten responses. Furthermore, data validation and analysis may take longer as it involves manually ensuring the accuracy of the collected data. 

Additionally, in terms of data security, paper surveys are at risk of being lost, damaged, or accessed by unauthorized individuals. 

Survey software → 

Online surveys offer advantages when it comes to data accuracy and integrity. The platform allows you to automatically record the data, reducing the risk of errors during data entry. This also allows for easier validation, enhancing data quality. 

Moreover, regarding data security, the survey platform is designed to protect respondent privacy. Encryption, access controls, and compliance with the highest data standards keep data more secure. 

Download our guide to see what features your platform must have.

In this guide, you’ll discover: 

  • The risks and benefits of adopting new survey software.
  • What features to look out for when you’re making a purchase decision?
  • A definitive checklist to compare platforms.

Survey software vs. paper surveys: Factors to consider

Now that we have explored the differences between the two survey methods let’s dive into the factors to consider, highlighting how each method aligns with the following considerations. 

1. Survey objective: 

Paper surveys → 

Suitable for traditional research when physical questionnaires or forms may be preferred. 

Online surveys → 

Ideal for market research, social research, and customer feedback that requires a large and diverse pool of participants. 

2. Target audience:

Paper surveys → 

Suitable for populations with limited internet connectivity and more accessible to older demographics. 

Online surveys → 

Widely accessible for people with intent connectivity and efficient mode to reach a global and diverse population. 

3. Data analysis requirements:

Paper surveys → 

Data entry, validation, and processing may be time-consuming. This can impact the speed of data analysis and lead to limited real-time data access, delaying decision-making. 

Online surveys → 

Streamlines data collection, cleaning, and analysis, offering real-time insights for quicker decision-making. 

Conclusion

In the ongoing evolution of survey methods, paper surveys vs. survey software have their strengths and weaknesses. Carefully assess the factors and pros and cons, you can make an confident decision that minimizes drawbacks and ensures the success of your data collection. 

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