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Preventing Bias in Questionnaires and Surveys

Market research and consumer data are usually a critical weapon in any marketer or business owner’s arsenal. Having detailed and clear insights into who your customers are, and why they make the choices they make, is an important part of effective advertising. 

But bias – defined as a deviation of results from the objective truth – can creep in and skew the results in all kinds of research, data collection processes, and experiments. Humans are subjective by nature, and obtaining a true and clear picture from a data sample is always tricky. 

With market research conducted through questionnaires, surveys, interviews or focus groups, there are many kinds of research bias that can skew results, and provide an inaccurate picture of your consumers’ preferences, behaviors, likes and dislikes. The impact of biased research can impact your advertising in subtle ways, or it can completely derail your marketing efforts. 

Here are the most common forms of research bias and how to prevent them from impacting your survey results. 

Sampling Bias or Selection Bias 

Not all consumers respond to surveys or questionnaires. Often, a particular segment of consumers will be more likely than others to complete questionnaires and forms, biasing your results in favor of the preferences of that particular group. 

For instance, if you post the link to a survey on your brand’s Instagram page along, you will get the most responses from consumers who use Instagram, and follow your brand. This segment could be skewed towards younger consumers, thus affecting your results. 

To avoid sampling bias, try to get as many responses as possible. Sharing your survey through different modes, including email, text message, app notification and social media, accounting for time zones, is one way to accomplish that. Giving respondents an incentive to reply, in the form of a discount or coupon code, is another way. 

Response Bias 

Often, surveys are created in a way that the possible responses don’t fully capture your consumers’ actual preferences and opinions. For instance, a restaurant brand might ask: “What didn’t you like about your experience?” and provide four options: ‘slow service’, ‘poor taste or food quality’, ‘ambience’ and ‘cost’. 

By not providing the option of ‘other’ or ‘none of these’, this survey creator is forcing consumers to pick one of those options, even when they don’t want to. This could bias the results and lead to higher instances of customers choosing a random reason. 

Survivorship Bias 

It can be hard to survey ex-customers or ex-employees, so most businesses tend to survey the easiest demographic and ask existing customers or employees what they think of their brand. But excluding the former can bias the results of your survey in favor of enthusiastic and satisfied customers. This provides no insights into why your ex-customers or employees left. 

This is known as survivorship bias. 

To prevent and correct for survivorship bias, it is important to be aware of it – and know that there are limited options in surveying those who no longer wish to engage with your business. Consider offering an incentive to get responses from those who would not otherwise respond to your survey. 

It can be hard to completely eliminate bias from any research or data collection exercise. But being aware and conscious of the different kinds of bias that can occur in your analysis helps marketers avoid or correct for these biases. 

Have more questions about how market research can impact your advertising? Ebony Marketing Systems can help you design a data-driven, multicultural marketing plan to effectively target your consumer base. For more information, call us at (718) 742-0006 or send us a message today.

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