A manufacturing client wanted to know if their customers would be interested in buying a limited set of their products online. It was going to involve a sizable investment to create an e-commerce site and, in addition to the costs, there was the risk of upsetting some of their retailers and distributors. Was it worth the risk and expense? We talked it through a few times and solicited input from various departments. While everyone agreed that it seemed like it would be well worth the cost and effort, the real opinions that mattered were those of the consumers. Would they buy online? To find out what they thought, we created a survey. The survey contained roughly eighteen questions designed to determine the customer's willingness and comfort with purchasing our client's product online. Our client had used surveys in the past, but found them limited in their effectiveness. They required considerable costs to mail out, and, in addition to the costs, the completed surveys took a long time to come back. When they finally did come back, the percentage of respondents was often not very high. The task of compiling results required a lot of work. Someone had to do data entry to get the written results into whatever software was being used for analysis.
We thought, "since we're trying to determine the comfort level of their customers in buying online, why not use an online survey instead of the traditional survey?" We spent some time building the survey forms and some simple reporting tools for results. We set the survey up to email the client with the survey results as surveys were completed. The client had the email addresses of many of their customers, which they had collected from a monthly email newsletter offered on their website. They decided to offer respondents a chance to win some of their products in return for spending ten minutes filling out the survey. We sent out the email to about 8,000 recipients. Then an amazing thing happened. Within five minutes of sending out the emails, results started coming in. Out of curiosity, I took a look at two or three of the initial emails. As I was reading them, three more came in, then five more. Within a half an hour we had over two hundred survey results. By the next morning we had over two thousand! We ended up with at least 30% of the recipients responding to the survey. Aside from causing the client's email box to overload, the information provided the client with much better data from which they could make a more informed decision about selling their product online.
Another client approached us about creating an online survey. Their survey was much more complex than the one we had previously built. It required using various types of survey question formats. Among them were multiple-choice questions, choose many or choose only one type questions, interval questions (1 being bad, 10 being great), and open text response questions. Our client wanted to send an email to recipients offering them a chance to win a product for filling out the survey. In this case they did not have an internal source for the email list. Instead they purchased a few different lists from highly targeted opt-in email list brokers. Similar to the first survey, this one generated an amazingly high respondent to recipient ration (over 20%). The results started pouring in within minutes of the email going out. At many points throughout the day that the survey when out, there were over 100 simultaneous surveys being filled out! This data was extremely valuable to the client in making marketing decisions.