Research survey guide: Benefits, examples, and templates

You likely already know the essential role market research plays in helping your business or nonprofit succeed. Gathering insights about your audience, especially their pain points, desires, behavior, and motivations, is necessary for making critical business decisions.

Market research can inform just about everything your organization does, including how to improve your current offerings, which new products and services to launch and new markets to enter, and what brand and marketing strategies are best to help you stand out in the marketplace.

So, how do you gather this critical intel?

Conducting a research survey is one of the most effective ways to gather feedback in real time from a large audience, then transform that feedback into robust, usable data. And these days, it’s easier than ever to do with the availability of multiple survey tools for research.

In this article, we’ll explain what survey research is, discuss its benefits, highlight different types of survey research, review how to design a research survey, and share how you can use Jotform to create a survey that suits your needs.

The importance of survey research

Survey research makes it possible to understand audience preferences on everything from social policy to product development to employee initiatives, giving you the ability to gauge your audience’s opinions and make important improvements to your operation.

Let’s look at a few examples of how survey research is used:

  • Education: Survey research allows schools and universities to gauge students’ and parents’ opinions on the educational institution overall. It can also gather specific feedback on courses, student engagement and satisfaction, academic programs, the post-graduation student experience, and more.
  • Business: Companies can conduct market research to assess what current and potential customers think about their products, services, pricing, and customer service. It can also provide data on how customers feel about a company’s marketing strategies, messaging, position in the marketplace relative to similar brands, and so on. The data collected will help inform decisions about areas for improvement in all these categories.
  • Public opinion polling: Survey research is useful for measuring and understanding public opinions and attitudes on elections, voter preferences, policy initiatives, the economy, recent news events, healthcare and social services in a community, and more. Public organizations can use the data they collect to improve community services, allocate tax dollars, apprise candidates of issues of concern to their voters, and so on.
  • Healthcare: Providers can collect data about medical symptoms and conditions, risk factors, treatment preferences, and the overall patient experience.
  • Human resources: HR teams can use survey research to measure employee satisfaction, evaluate employee engagement, identify obstacles to productivity, and determine areas for improvement across the organization.

A few other uses of survey research include customer satisfaction surveys, social research, community surveys, industry-based surveys (such as the retail or hotel industry), and nonprofit surveys that gather feedback on volunteer satisfaction or community impact.

A brief overview of survey research

Survey research is a method of gathering data from a group of people that represents your target market or audience. The goal is to develop insights about your products, services, marketing campaigns, and other factors that are crucial to the success of your organization.

Types of survey research can include face-to-face interviews, telephone surveys, product research surveys, brand surveys, online surveys, and panel surveys. We’ll cover more on that shortly.

2 types of survey research: Quantitative and qualitative

The type of data you collect will depend on your research objectives. In most cases, combining both quantitative and qualitative approaches to data collection will yield the best results.

Quantitative research involves collecting numerical data that you can count or measure, such as website conversion rates, business revenue, or demographic data like respondent age or education level. Analyzing quantitative data can help identify trends and patterns in large populations.

Qualitative research involves gathering non-numerical information by asking open-ended questions. This approach provides data that gives more context about behaviors, preferences, and opinions.

Surveys can be either qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of both, depending on the questions you ask. For example, quantitative surveys include closed-ended questions, such as multiple-choice, rating scale, or yes/no questions. Qualitative surveys, on the other hand, feature open-ended questions that allow respondents to answer at length and in their own words.

Types of survey research

The survey research method you choose will depend on a few factors, including the budget, time frame, survey distribution channels, and type of data you’re hoping to gather.

Here are six survey research types to consider.

Face-to-face interviews

This research method involves using a researcher to gather information directly from respondents. Though conducting face-to-face interviews can be more costly than other methods, it’s considered an effective approach that yields high-quality data, as trained researchers are able to gather detailed insights and more in-depth, nuanced responses.

Telephone surveys

In this type of survey research, known as a computer-assisted telephonic interview (CATI), respondents answer questions that a researcher poses over the telephone. This approach can yield rich data because respondents often feel more comfortable answering questions over the phone than they do in person. On the other hand, many people don’t answer calls from unknown numbers, and if they do, they might answer questions quickly just to get off the phone.

Product research surveys

A product research survey gathers attitudes and opinions about a product from a section of the target audience. The goal is to identify product strengths and weaknesses and discover what current and potential customers like, don’t like, or feel needs improvement. The data these surveys gather helps inform decisions about current product improvements and new product development.

Brand surveys

Brand surveys measure how the target audience feels about your brand overall. Data gathered can include insights on how your audience views your brand in relation to its competitors, what your brand strengths and weaknesses are, which words people associate with your brand, and how customers experience your brand, among other things. Brand survey types include brand awareness surveys, brand perception surveys, brand identity surveys, and brand loyalty surveys.

Online surveys

Online surveys are by far one of the most popular approaches to survey research. This data collection method consists of questionnaires and surveys that anyone with an internet connection can access, including those using mobile devices. Online surveys allow you to gather, process, and analyze a large amount of data in a less labor-intensive and more cost-effective way than other methods. And today’s online survey tools make the process easier than ever.

Panel surveys

Panel surveys involve enlisting respondents who have previously agreed to answer questions and are on a list that a research company maintains. Such companies typically vet respondents who represent a sample of your target audience.

The benefits of survey research

Survey research delivers many benefits:

  • Reliable data gathered from surveys helps inform key business decisions and strategy.
  • Quantitative data is useful for persuading stakeholders to make important product improvements and other essential enhancements they might not make otherwise.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data can help improve the end-user experience and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Dependable quantitative and qualitative data prevents organizations from making misguided decisions about product development, marketing campaigns, employee retention, and other areas of operation.

The benefits of online survey research

Conducting research using online surveys has additional benefits:

  • Online surveys allow for anonymity, which encourages honest feedback. This leads to context-rich, candid answers from respondents.
  • Online surveys can reach large audiences, which improves research validity.
  • Online surveys are generally cost-effective and easy to conduct.
  • Online surveys are particularly effective for capturing both quantitative and qualitative data on your target audience through a mix of question types.
  • Online surveys are easier for respondents to access and complete than other survey methods.
  • Survey software often makes it easy to analyze results from an online survey instantly.

5 steps to designing a research survey

To get started with designing your survey, follow these basic steps:

1. Clarify your research goals

Before you conduct research, it’s important to define your goals and objectives. Start by asking yourself a few key questions, such as

  • What specific data do you hope to collect?
  • How many respondents will you need?
  • How will you use the data?
  • What are you hoping to learn?
  • Which types of questions will elicit the data you’re looking for?

One approach to defining goals is to apply the SMART goals framework to your survey and survey questions. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

For example, let’s say you’re conducting a brand survey. Here are some examples of SMART goals you might set:

Specific: Conduct a survey to determine whether your brand is appealing to a specific target audience.
Measurable: You need to receive 300 completed surveys to get enough insights to achieve this goal.
Achievable: You’ve conducted similar brand surveys in the past, so you know you can achieve this goal.
Relevant: You want to gather opinions from the target audience before launching a new marketing campaign.
Time-bound: To initiate the marketing campaign by the fourth quarter, you know you need to conduct the survey and analyze results in the third quarter.

2. Choose appropriate questions

Be sure to select questions that are relevant to your research goals and objectives. You may want to choose a mix of question types that will allow you to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. You can collect qualitative data by using open-ended questions or gather quantitative data by posing yes/no, multiple-choice, rating scale, and other such questions.

A good approach is to begin your survey with a general question to determine which respondents use your product or service. You can also use yes/no questions to divide respondents into groups of those who have purchased and those who haven’t, then ask different series of questions based on this information.

3. Distribute the survey

Once you’ve designed your survey and selected relevant questions and question types, it’s time to get your survey out to your target audience. You can distribute your online survey by sending it through email, sharing it on social media, or embedding it in a website.

4. Analyze survey data and draw conclusions

Once you’ve gathered enough responses (according to the goal you set in step one), you can organize your data according to demographics, psychographics, behavior, and other categories relevant to your research goals. You can use statistics for quantitative data, and you can analyze qualitative data by themes, content, and narrative.

Then compare your analysis to your original assumptions and use the data to identify how to improve customer service, product development, marketing initiatives, or other aspects of your business.

5. Create a report of your survey results

You may want to present your findings in a written report. You’ll use this report to share the survey results along with your analysis and recommendations. You may also choose to include details about the methodology you used, an explanation of the types of questions you presented, information on the survey audience, and the response rate.

Research survey examples and templates

Surveys are an ideal way to evaluate customer, employee, or public opinion about your brand or organization. Whether you need to conduct a market research survey, understand customer demographics, gauge employee satisfaction, or conduct a poll, a survey template (a ready-made sample survey with built-in questions) is the perfect solution.

Jotform offers over 1,000 survey templates for different industries and use cases, including surveys for HR, marketing, product development, customer satisfaction, education, healthcare, and more.

Gain reliable insights with Jotform’s suite of tools

Jotform provides several powerful tools and resources for creating and sending surveys, as well as analyzing survey results.

You can design a survey quickly and easily using one of our 1,000-plus survey templates. Use our free drag-and-drop online survey maker to customize a template or build your own survey from scratch. Add your own questions, set up conditional logic, and share your survey online to start collecting responses instantly.

Jotform surveys are super versatile, and you can share them through multiple channels. Embed the survey on your website, share it via QR code, or email it directly to survey participants. You can even use the conditional logic feature to create targeted, dynamic surveys that change based on how respondents answer. You can send automated thank-you messages or follow-up emails to respondents about your surveys.

Jotform integrates with multiple analytics and CRM tools, allowing users to easily track and analyze their survey data. Plus, Jotform Report Builder turns form submissions into stunning visual reports with a few clicks. Generate bar graphs, pie charts, and submission grids automatically, all without coding. Then share, embed, or print your reports. Jotform Form Analytics can also help you analyze data, learn from customer behavior, and increase conversion rates.

Then there’s Jotform’s Popup Form Maker, which allows you to create and publish a lightbox form that pops up on your site automatically. You can use this feature to add a popup contact form, signup form, or feedback survey to your website easily.

And finally, Jotform’s kiosk mode feature turns your smartphone or tablet into a mobile survey station, so you can gather form submissions, payments, e-signatures, and more at conferences and trade shows. Your form will refresh automatically after every submission, allowing you to collect online form responses safely and securely.

Photo by George Milton

Kimberly Houston is a conversion-focused marketing copywriter. She loves helping established creative service providers attract and convert their ideal clients with personality-driven web and email copy, so they can stand out online, and get more business, bookings, and sales.

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