Post Categories: November 2016

Expert Viewpoints: Survey Best Practices—Eliciting Targeted Insights

kristenBairdBy Kristen Baird, Senior Director of Insights & Analytics

Consumer surveys are a mainstay of the retail industry. Retailers and CPG companies use them to solicit consumer feedback on products and services, define areas for improvement, quantify performance and more. At Interactions, we utilize surveys to gain insights that allow us to provide our retailer and vendor partners with strategic solutions. Surveys remain an important tool even in the age of Big Data, because they can validate data and fine-tune strategic decision making. Ultimately, if you want to know what the consumer thinks—your best bet is to ask them.

But not all surveys are created equal. Whether a retailer or brand develops their own surveys or works with a company like Interactions, there are a few best practices to follow to ensure surveys provide actionable insights and tell retailers and brands what they really want to know.

For starters, retailers and brands have to be very clear on what their goals and objectives for their surveys are. At Interactions, we encourage our retailer and brand partners to carefully consider how they’ll use the responses they receive. For example, a survey will look very different if a retailer or brand simply wants to quantify consumers’ satisfaction levels versus finding out what satisfies/dissatisfies consumers in order to determine areas for improvement.

Identifying the target audience is also key. Retailers and brands need to determine whether they want to hear from a sample of all customers, or just those of a specific age or gender or some other qualifier. Clearly defining the audience—and screening out those who don’t fit the criteria—is critical to ensuring the integrity of the survey data and that the responses received are relevant to the original objective.

How the survey is going to be conducted is also an important consideration. When we conduct in-store consumer intercept surveys for clients, we recommend using fewer questions—three to five is usually a good number. Too many and shoppers won’t want to participate. For a more in-depth surveys, delivery via email may be a better choice, as it gives the respondent the proper environment and time to complete.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that individual survey questions should always be aligned to the retailer’s or brand’s goals and objectives. This is opposed to asking a question simply because the answer would be interesting to know, which can detract from results. A good practice when developing questions is to consider how the question will be answered—does this fit into the data collection? Will the answer achieve objectives/goals? Also, when determining whether to use an open-ended or closed question, keep in mind while open-ended questions can provide more context, they may be difficult to interpret and analyze. For this reason, closed questions (with response options provided) are usually more effective.

Well planned and well-crafted consumer surveys can deliver invaluable insights to consumers’ needs, wants, preferences, behaviors and opinions. Combining this information with insights gleaned from shopper loyalty data, Mystery Shopping and similar tools can have a powerful impact on retailers’ and brands’ ability to not only make strategic business decisions that have a positive effect on their bottom lines, but also to better connect with consumers in a more targeted and meaningful way.