Customers are evolving with the market, and it’s up to the businesses to keep up. One of the best ways to understand what customers are thinking is to ask them directly.

Online surveys are the answer. You can gather enough feedback and make an informed decision for your next move. 

Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that online surveys are far from perfect. They have clear advantages, but some drawbacks make the method a bit tricky.

Understanding the pros and cons of online surveys helps understand how they work. Let’s take a look at both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of online surveys

1. High response rates

Generally, online survey creators can expect high response rates. Participants don’t have to spend a lot of time answering simple questions online. Now, if the survey is complicated, it will present issues, but that is a given regardless of whether the questions are asked in person or on the Internet.

2. Low costs

Low costs play a role as well. For those creating surveys, there is no need to spend money on meeting respondents in person.

Instead, businesses utilize various online platforms and create surveys without breaking the bank.

3. Convenience

After receiving a survey, respondents can choose whether to answer it right away or not. They are not restricted.

On the other hand, if the survey happens outside of a virtual world, the respondents have to be present at a particular locale at a particular hour, answering an interviewer.

4. Accessibility

Online surveys are accessible from different devices. You can use a smartphone or a computer depending on your preference.

Sure, you still need an internet connection, but even slow Wi-Fi is usually enough since online surveys are not that demanding resource-wise.

Since respondents can access online surveys on virtually any device, they have fewer restrictions to worry about. This, in turn, means more convenience and satisfaction, which translates into higher response rates.

5. Flexibility

Designing surveys doesn’t have to be complicated, though some surveys might require that from now on.

The available technology (design tools) streamlines the process. Creating an online survey from scratch is not too much of a hassle. You can add questions, answer choices, and other details. 

The layout is another aspect to consider, but if you are going for simplicity, there are bound to be plenty of templates available online for free. And if not, you can always ask a graphic designer to put something together quickly.

From a survey creator’s perspective, making one from scratch and then adjusting it depending on what you need is a significant benefit.

6. Honest feedback

Some respondents are less likely to provide honest feedback if they have an interviewer in front of them.

The anxiety of answering to someone directly is understandable, particularly if the conversation is about more delicate matters.

Interviewers are also known to influence respondents sometimes, and it’s something survey creators want to avoid. As much honest feedback is the end goal for survey creators.

7. Anonymity

Submitting a response for an online survey is straightforward and anonymous. Creators aim to ensure the safety and privacy of respondents as these are legal requirements for most cases.

Anonymity means that respondents don’t have to worry about somebody else finding out about their responses. If they want to express their opinion and provide feedback, they can do so anonymously via an online survey.

8. Maximum reach

Online surveys enable maximum reach. If you were to organize a live in-person survey, you’d have to limit yourself to a specific area and timeframe.

Meanwhile, you can put up a survey online and have it there for as long as you want. However, the maximum reach part comes from the fact that you can share them with people from different parts of the world and receive their answers.

9. Quick data analysis

Online survey tools often come with analytics that let you submit the data and get instant results. Or, if such a feature is not available from the get-go, it’s still much easier to collect digital data for processing than collecting written survey results.

There is no need to spend hours going through the results. Instead, a more modern approach of submitting the information to AI and letting it do the work is much more convenient and attractive.

Disadvantages of online surveys

1. Survey fraud

Survey fraud is arguably the most significant disadvantage. There are plenty of people who take such surveys for fun, submitting random answers and skewing final results. 

Jeopardizing a survey could also be something a competitor might consider. If they find out about one, they may purposely feed wrong information to encourage competition to make the wrong move.

2. Missing certain demographics

Not everyone has internet access. As such, your online survey may fail to reach some demographics, like older people who are not tech-savvy.

If the purpose of a survey is to target such a specific demographic, online surveys might not be the answer.

3. Response bias

Response bias comes from different factors, such as unfamiliarity with the topic. If too many people respond with their personal biases, the results will hardly offer any value.

Survey creators have to be careful about how they approach survey questions. The goal is to keep the survey engaging enough to avoid response bias.

4. Fatigue

Survey fatigue is an actual thing. Some people get tired of responding to multiple surveys in a short period of time. Thus, when they receive another want, they want to be done with it as soon as they can. 

A survey should not be too long so it reduces the odds of respondents ignoring it or submitting random responses due to survey fatigue.

5. Missing answers

Some surveys might be missing answers. If a respondent is in a rush, the odds are that they will skip some questions completely. 

Surveys with too many unanswered questions affect ultimate results. Discarding an incomplete survey feels like a waste, but if it skews the results, keeping such a survey makes little sense.

6. Language barriers

Reaching as many people from different backgrounds comes with a problem of language barriers. 

Even simple questions in English could be too complicated and misinterpreted by somebody who is not a native English speaker.

Would it ever make sense to consider translating a survey to as many languages as possible? Perhaps, but if so, avoid using auto translators because the questions might make even less sense if they were translated with an auto tool.

7. Unclear questions

Some survey topics are too complicated. If the targeted audience fails to make sense, expect to see results that offer little value.

For example, it makes little sense to ask Android users if they know how to increase disk space on Mac or ask MacBook users how to increase storage space on an Android device. The questions have to align with the targeted demographic.

8. Abandonment

Abandoned surveys are also problematic. A respondent doesn’t finish the survey because it’s too long, and they lose interest. Or, they might start one and get disrupted by something. 

Technical problems like internet connection loss lead to abandoned surveys as well.

9. Lack of personalization

Online surveys don’t have a personal interviewer. Some people find it easier to go through the survey when they receive clear questions from someone they see in person.

While online surveys enable maximum reach, they miss the personalization aspect.

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