person Guy Potter access_time July 2, 2019
Common Mistakes in Self-Service Research

Businesses thrive on information. To run your business effectively you need data about who your customers are and what they want. You also need to understand market demand, competition, distribution channels and more. It can be hard to know where to start in finding out all this information. However, with the right market research strategy, it can be easier than you think.

Many businesses are turning to self-service research tools to lower costs and streamline their market research. Self-service research has many benefits and in certain circumstances offers the perfect solution. For example, self-service research is the ideal tool if have a tight budget, or when you need to respond quickly to current trends. With self-service tools, you can have results in minutes!

What is self-service research?

Self-service research is all about online surveys which are distributed across the research panels to be filled in by respondents who match your audience criteria. The process of setting up a survey is quick and easy, and you can be getting results in just minutes after the survey is launched.

It allows you to get opinions from existing customers, potential customers and also measure a range of different issues like brand awareness, tracking, reaction to advertising etc. In addition, self-service market research allows you to test concepts quickly and at no risk. The best self-service tools can provide you with rapid, robust and cost-effective insights.

However, there are some pitfalls to using self-service research tools, so it is important to know how to make them work for you. Being aware of the potential mistakes can make your research more effective and save you wasting time and money on research that does not provide the clear results your business needs.

Here are 5 common mistakes made when doing self-service research and some easy ways to avoid them.

1. Failure to consider your key objective

It can seem that any information you receive is helpful when it comes to customer research. However, this is not the case. Unless the information is specifically targeted to your business needs it may not actually help you achieve your goals and objectives.

To overcome this problem, always have a clear idea of the outcomes you want to achieve with your research. Think backwards. Start by working out what information you require and how you plan to use it. Start with your key objective in mind to create a series of questions that will lead to revealing the answers you’re looking for.

2. Trying to achieve too much

It can be tempting, when going to the trouble of undertaking research, to try to get as much information as you possibly can. However, long complicated surveys run the risk of respondents getting bored or frustrated. They may even abandon the research process completely.

A high abandonment rate will lessen the reliability of the information you collect. This may ultimately mean your research turns out to be a waste of time and money.

To overcome this problem, keep your research brief and simple focusing on a few key pieces of information you require. If you are planning a survey, stick to around ten questions and keep them short and to the point.

3. Asking ambiguous or confusing questions

If the questions you ask are open to interpretation, then the results of the survey may not be sufficiently accurate. In addition, respondents are likely to skip questions or abandon the questionnaire entirely if the questions are not clear.

Check that there is no room for interpreting your question in more than one way. Ask a few people to read through the questionnaire and answer the questions. Then ask them for feedback. If they found anything even slightly confusing, then change the wording of the question to make sure it is crystal clear.

4. Asking the wrong type of questions

In general, surveys can ask three types of questions. The simplest are closed questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. These are easy to ask and provide an unambiguous answer. It is also easy to quantify the survey results with this type of question. However, they do not allow for much nuance.

The second type of question is a multiple-choice question or a question that requires an answer on a scale. These types of questions allow you to capture varied and nuanced opinions. However, they still do not allow for customers to make specific points about your business or their needs.

The last type of question is an open-ended question where the respondent is given space to create their own personally worded answer. These types of questions provide lots of information, but the data can be hard to quantify, and this can make it difficult to use.

Again, think about the outcome you are looking for. Make sure you ask the right sort of questions for the data you need in order to achieve your goals and objectives.

Loaded questions

At the same time, make sure your questions are not loaded or weighted to get the answers you would prefer to hear. There is no point in spending money on a survey only to receive answers which follow your own agenda instead of truthfully reflecting the diversity of opinion in the market.

A referendum on corporal punishment in New Zealand was criticised for containing the following question: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

This question is loaded as it suggests that smacking can be part of good parental correction.

Failing to choose an appropriate demographic

You may think that the more people who respond to your survey the better. And this is true to a point. However, it is important that you target the right people to ensure that your results are relevant.

When planning a survey, you will need to choose the target audience that suits your objectives. Some self-service research tools offer a range of demographics based on criteria such as age, gender, location and many other factors. Again, it helps to consider the results you want to achieve and work backwards to ensure you are getting responses from the appropriate audience.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.