The Research Circle of Life


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Remember ten years ago when offline to online parallel research was all the rage? Client after client wanted to transition their surveys from paper to the internet. It seemed like we were doing twice the work as every survey needed to be run once on paper and once online. We needed solid proof that online responders weren’t a big freakshow just ripe and ready to mess up all of our research if we moved it online.

Nowadays, many clients have moved a lot of their research online. The fact that internet penetration in the America’s is over 70% and pretty close t0 80% means we just aren’t worried about method generalizability the way we used to be.

But, have you considered that we might have gone full circle? Now that we’ve accepted that people who answer online survey aren’t crazy, what about people who still answer paper surveys. Why aren’t they online? Why do they put up with ‘old fashioned paper’ surveys. Is there something weird about those people?

It’s just a thought, but certainly worth considering!

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3 responses

  1. Seems to be it is just what they are comfortable with, also they are just answering what they have received. i.e. if I receive a paper survey which says I can also go online and answer the survey I am quite likely just to fill in the paper survey as it is right in front of me.

  2. Great point! I’ve thought that for a while about people who take phone surveys, but it hadn’t occurred to me for people who take *paper* surveys.

    For years we sent out emails and postcards to home buyers and home sellers on behalf of a national real-estate agent franchisor. We did this until the postcards dropped to a few dozen a month, compared to thousands of web survey submissions. So the tribe of paper survey takers is getting smaller and smaller — and no doubt more idiosyncratic as a result.

  3. 70% internet penetration isn’t really the point. For most surveys you need to be online and a member of a panel. People who join survey panels are no more or less weird than people who fill in PAPI surveys. They are just weird in different ways.

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