Around 2008 we witnessed research funding being all but eliminated. In response, organizations who still needed data to drive day to day decision making, turned to free online survey tools. In addition, postage costs continued to increase year over year to mail paper surveys. This further solidified organizations transitioning to an online platform.
Now, let’s fast forward to current day. We are seeing a transition back to paper surveys – but why, when online administration reports that it is the most cost-efficient mode (more on this later)? The instant gratification of getting responses within hours of distributing make it very difficult to consider going back to paper.
Why are we seeing a transition back to paper? There are a variety of reasons for our clients:
1. Response rates are really low compared to paper surveys.
a. The competition in getting a respondent’s attention in their “in-box”. People are getting so many emails today, they focus on the ones that they know and/or are expecting.
b. People are afraid of clicking on links from people that they don’t know.
c. Many email providers are now sorting emails which may increase the chances of the respondent never seeing your communication.
2. Online panel sample.
a. There is a lot of controversy with online panel sample.
b. The costs associated with a panel can be more expensive than paper surveys.
3. Many researchers are going back to address-based sampling. And yes, you can pay to try and tie phone numbers and email addresses to the sample, but this process is very costly and not always reliable.
Think about this, when is the last time you looked at a Kohl’s ad electronically? Now, think about the last time you were mailed an ad that has that hidden discount that you need to peel to reveal? I know for me, I will go looking for that electronic Kohl’s ad if I need to go there. But when I get it in the mail and reveal that 30% off – now I will make an excuse to go buy something.
My point here is that getting the attention of a respondent is much more likely when using paper surveys that are well-designed because there is not as much competition in a person’s mailbox as there is with their inbox. A lot of people are getting their bills electronically which further reduces the competition in their mailbox.
Remember when we would log into AOL and got excited when we heard “You’ve Got Mail!”? Today many of us dread opening our inboxes, and people are getting excited when they receive physical mail.