The Rise of online surveys/polls and its implications on brands

At its core, online surveys/polls are practical and powerful tool since it incorporates a comprehensive social strategy. A newspaper in Pennsylvania is widely credited with having conducted the very first poll way back in 1824. Polls conducted then was typically surveys leading up to elections. However, brands soon followed suit when they recognised the potential of this model to collect concrete feedback about their services or products.
Earlier, most polls were conducted either via snail mail or telephonic interviews. A few of them with a smaller sample size also relied on personal interviews. All this changed with the advent of online polls, which are a far more cost-effective and user-friendly alternative compared to traditional methods.
Furthermore, with the arrival of the World Wide Web, snail mail letters have all but become extinct, and face to face surveys have also become a rarity. The new technology allowed market research companies to send out email questionnaires, which follows the same concept as postal letters but was comparatively free of cost and more importantly infinitely faster.
Then came the era of mobile phones and the emails were slowly replaced by text messages, which was then a surefire way to target the younger generation who were mostly glued to their phones. Telephonic surveys also became far more popular since most mobile owners would carry it around at all times, making them far more accessible than ever.
Rise of ‘Online Polls’
Soon, smartphones came into being closely followed by social media sites and their frenzied adoption. The number of worldwide users of these sites is expected to reach around three billion by 2020. Polling incorporated into social media sites or applications are a great way to get pointers, gain insights about customers in real-time, produce content, and to enhance traffic. The easiest way to conduct a social media poll is to just post an open or close-ended question on Facebook or Twitter. This is free of cost, will potentially involve thousands of respondents within a matter of hours and the results can also be shared by other users leading to some extra publicity, which also eliminates the need for a separate marketing strategy. Online surveys are a unique approach to spark interest in a brand leading to conversations and engagement. There is much more diversity of methods among these surveys than among yesteryear polls.
Their inclusion on social media platforms has also made it easier for users to access these polls and have also eliminated the need to provide personal information before filling in their input; all without going to an external website. This is a boon for modern businesses who want swift reactions. Like Rupert Murdoch said: “It’s not about big companies beating small companies anymore… It will be the fast beating the slow.”
The online survey proves to the client base that the communication channel isn’t one-way but by inviting the client base into the decision-making process imparts a sense of partnership. It conveys that a brand is open to what people have to say and they feel valued when their suggestions are taken into account. This also helps brands to provide their customers with what they want, when they want it and how they want it. In fact, customers are believed to be far more attracted to brands that regularly conduct surveys. Certain companies which portray a casual and friendly image to its consumers have also begun leveraging light veined polls as a strategy to keep their client base entertained further helping in creating brand value.
Studies have also shown that people are far more honest in online surveys. Case in point: during polls conducted prior to the previous presidential elections in the United States of America, Donald Trump was almost always leading as opposed to predictions. This goes to prove that people are far more willing to give an honest opinion behind the anonymity of a computer screen.
Online Panels: Key to Brands
Online Panels are the group of respondents who have agreed to participate in surveys instead of exciting rewards for their time and feedback. Lately, research organisations have started investing their resources in building panels across sectors, like consumer panel or healthcare panel, so that they can have the questions of their clients answered by the right target audience.
A healthy and robust panel holds the answer to many questions posed by brands, and it may help build great products and services for the future. In fact, a lot of companies now have started to reach out to research companies with global online panels as it can give double benefits viz. speed and it can also help save cost.
It is difficult to imagine a world where consumers lose their most important right, and that is to share their feedback and hence impact the development of new products and services. We may not have this reach in the past, but through online panels and social media, brands can listen and learn a lot from their consumers.
[About the author: Jasal Shah is the CEO, Managing Director of Markelytics and Velocity MR.]

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