Multi-channel Survey Software
survey software with setup on a Windows PC

Technological Change in Survey Market Research

Software technology has been constantly evolving since its inception in the seventies, so companies using these technologies must constantly adjust to changes that occur year after year, not only at the level of functionality and graphical interfaces, but at the level of hardware infrastructure, software and communications technology required, with implications in investments in hardware, software, training and technical support. Market research companies that apply surveys do not escape from this reality, today they are users hundreds of applications of all kinds in order to maintain its operational continuity, these include desktop productivity tools such as Word, Excel and Power Point, as well as core tools that support the processes of data collection, data validation, processing and analysis. Tools for questionnaire modeling, tools for data cleaning and quality control, software tools for open-text-classification, statistical software for frequency analysis and cross-tabulation, specialized tools for clustering, multivariate data analysis and market segmentation (QUALTRICS, SAS, R, SPSS), advanced general-purpose statistical software for multiple regression, ANOVA and other statistical predictive and data mining tools such us (STATA, R PROJECT, SPSS, SAS, KNIME).

Online surveys. Can results be projected to the overall population?

One of the changes that market research firms have witnessed in the last 20 years has been the replacement of paper questionnaires by online surveys. This has implications for the methodology used, the expected margins of error and the interpretation of the results obtained, which to some extent may or may not be projected to the overall population. In spite of the fact that Internet penetration has advanced intensively worldwide, and with a certain lag in poor countries, we still have penetration ranges per country that vary from 30% (Haiti) to 90% (Canada). In addition to the penetration variable, it is true that people with a higher level of education and/or purchasing power make more intense use of the Internet and social networks. Thus, any study or survey that is conducted 100% online carries a certain margin of error and a slight social bias that excludes at best 10% and at worst 70% of the population. This means that in order to reduce the error and bias in a survey, researchers must combine diferent methods including paper surveys (PAPI), offline surveys on mobile phones (CAPI), self-applied online surveys (CAWI) and telefohone surveys (CAPI).

Online surveys (CAWI self-administered) vs. face-to-face interview (CAPI method)

Another of the variables introduced by Internet technology in the market research industry has been the elimination of the field surveyor, who formerly went from house to house to collect data on paper forms, this technique being replaced by self-applied surveys. Although the first technique (CAPI or Paper) is more intrusive than the self-applied method, both methods could yield different and contradictory results, but with greater credibility for the one applied by means of a pollster and paper. The reason is that, since the online survey is voluntary, the subject could easily decide whether or not to answer the survey, depending on his interest in the object of the study, his availability and the "mood" of the moment, while in surveys applied with pollsters, we have some leeway to persuade the respondent and "encourage" him to answer, thus achieving much more assertive results and less biased by his personal interest, mood and availability. There are currently more than 1,000 companies providing online survey software as a service (SaaS) (View capture-survey software), being the leader in this software category SurveyMonkey (USA), followed by QuestionPro (India-USA). However, it is important to note that not all applications of online surveys conducted by users of these platforms are done on random and probability samples, but are mostly used for small, non-probability named studies, such as organizational climate, human resources and customer satisfaction studies.

The return of the Face-to-face survey, powered by new software and hardware

Thus, the gap left by the paper survey with field surveyor has been totally replaced by surveys with surveyors and mobile devices (CAPI Offline), which has been an efficient and reliable replacement with high impact on data quality and processing times, as well as faster analysis of results. The CAPI offline survey, despite being currently the most reliable way to research the market with probabilistic samples, which can be projectable to the general population, brings with new challenges of technical, organizational and economic order that force market research firms to prepare themselves to face the new scenarios. In past decades, many survey market research companies experimented with various software and hardware to implement the CAPI offline survey, however the experiences were painful with failures and problems of all kinds, mostly caused by the lack of technological maturity of the mobile devices, we refer to the decade of the late 90s and early millennium, where Android had not yet established itself as a de facto operating system, and users were using primitive equipment called "PDA" ( Personal Digital Assistant), although they also experienced pocket PCs and Palm devices with proprietary operating systems such as Symbian created by Microsoft.

Defining the capture method to be used in a Survey, the algorithm

  • Do we have physical access to the respondent?
  •  ☞ Yes:
  •       The place is dangerous?:
  •          ☞ Yes: PAPI survey, paper and pencil with interviewer in the field.
  •          ☛ No:
  •             Is data network service available?
  •                ☞ Yes: CAWI-online survey applied with field interviewer.
  •                ☛ No: CAPI-offline survey applied with field interviewer.
  •  ☛  No:
  •       Do we have the person's phone number?:
  •          ☞ Yes: CATI survey with telephone pollster.
  •          ☛ No:
  •             Do we have Email, Skype, WhatsApp or FB of the person?:
  •                ☞ Yes: Online-self-applied survey.
  •                ☛ No: Select another respondent.

Softwares that combine all data collection methods for multi-channel surveys

Although the online survey has established itself as the most popular method of data collection, market research companies today require access to software that allows them to model the questionnaire just once, and then be able to apply it by selecting any capture method, either through questionnaires to be filled out on paper (PAPI), self-applied online surveys (CAWI), offline surveys to be applied by field survey agents (CAPI), surveys to be filled out in a centralized locations either be indoord or outdoors, either online, offline or stand-alone (KIOSK), etc. The following is a selection of the best multichannel survey software tools that we have researched. Most of these software tools have been developed for Windows to support paper surveys more easily, however, all of them are "Web-enabled", which allows them to also generate online surveys and include telephone interviews (CATI) on the Web, CATI Offline and CATI Stand Alone. In addition, many of these tools incorporate their own data analysis tools or allow data to be exported to statistical packages such as SPSS and Excel.

Softwares that allows offline mobile surveys (CAPI)

Below is a list of some CAPI tools that allows surveys to be applied via offline mobile devices, shown at the first page of the Google search engine.

Softwares for telephone surveys (CATI)>

Below is a selection of some CATI tools that allow field surveys to be conducted by telephone interviews shown, at the first page of the Google search engine

Videos related to the concepts of CATI, CAPI and CAWI to broaden the discussion