Business Research Methods: Best Use Cases of Mixed Mode Surveys (Online and Phone)

Business Research Methods: Best Use Cases of Mixed Mode Surveys (Online and Phone)

Mixed-mode research commonly refers to using more than one market research method for the same task, like using online surveys and phone interviews in the same research project. The most suitable mode of data collection varies depending on the purpose of the research, the size of your sample group, and your resources.

When conducting market research, there are several tools and techniques available to you for gathering survey responses. The most suitable mode of data collection varies depending on the purpose of the research, the size of your sample group, and your resources.

In some cases, it can be helpful to use more than one technique—a process known as mixed-mode research. Even when implementing a particular tool, such as surveying, there are times when you should invest in multiple modes of data collection to get the most meaningful results for your construction materials company.

What is a Mixed-Mode Survey?

Mixed-mode research commonly refers to using more than one market research method for the same task, like using online surveys and phone interviews in the same research project. Take surveying, for example.

Digital surveys are a standard technique for market research in the building materials and home improvement industry. When created and administered properly, they provide a wealth of quantitative information that can help with product development, measuring brand health and better understanding customer preferences and purchase motivations. 

Additionally, online surveys are convenient for your respondents. They can take the survey on their own time, using a device of their choosing, and online surveys are relatively easy to administer. Being conducted remotely also means there is no geographical limitation, which is useful if you distribute your construction materials to markets throughout the U.S. or internationally. You are able to efficiently collect data from a large number of people.

Online surveys do require a larger sampling of potential respondents because online responses rates are often very low.  And as the method implies, online surveys are only accessible by those that are often online or have agreed to participate in online surveys.  Therefore, online surveys may not yield a larger enough respondent group or leave out respondents that may be offline or unengaged in research panels. 

To address that challenge, you can introduce a mixed-mode survey method that includes phone interviews, as well as online surveys.

When to Use Mixed-Mode Surveys in Market Research

There are both challenges and advantages to conducting mixed-mode surveys. They require more coordination and a more complex process, yet they enable you to reach narrow audiences and ensure representation for a broader range of customer segments. In many cases, the extra investment and time commitment are worth the payoff.

Realistically, phone interviews are not always a logical survey method either. The high cost and longer field times can disqualify phone interviews from budget conscious or expedited research projects. Further, phone interviews are not an ideal medium for fielding grid questions, long aided lists, or questions that use Max Diff or Conjoint methods.

Some advantages of person-administered survey methods in general, such as phone interviews, are that respondents tend to stay more engaged, meaning you can clarify questions or answers so there are no potential misunderstandings that undermine the data; and you can ask follow-up questions based on the answers you receive.

This is especially helpful when you want to connect with your customers for usage, attitude and behavior research, and dig deeper into their motivations. Whether your goal is to uncover customer behaviors and understand your audience, gauge their view of your brand and your competitors, or understand what’s driving channel selection, mixed-mode surveys come in handy. It more comes down to the particular scenario you’re dealing with.

A few scenarios in which conducting both phone and online surveys makes sense include:

  • To access “off-line” users that aren’t as comfortable or motivated to fill out a digital survey on their own; for example, architects are accustomed to being on their computers or mobile phones constantly, while electrical contractors may not be engaged in online research. 
  • To expand your potential survey field to encompass more customer segments; for example, homeowners and DIYers are plentiful and feasible for online, but niche groups like commercial property owners are difficult to reach through online research methods.
  • To validate results generated from online surveys by gathering data via phone interviews
  • To get more qualitative data to complement quantitative data collected online and ask more open-ended or broad questions
  • To address the weaknesses or challenges inherent in each mode of data collection and increase the validity and authenticity of answers from respondents
  • To reconcile or explain contradictory results

Whether you decide to conduct online or phone interviews during market research for building products or home improvement brands, don’t underestimate the value of building rapport and how that can motivate respondents to give authentic and accurate answers.

Best practice is to open surveys with a brief overview to help set respondents at ease. If it’s appropriate, take the opportunity to explain what interviewees can expect, what respondents will be answering, how the data will be used and any clarifying instructions. When stakeholders feel their answers will be appreciated or they feel comfortable being able to explain their answer, they are more engaged and willing to participate whole-heartedly.

Applying Mixed-Mode Research for the Construction Industry

Conducting quality primary market research requires using customized methods and techniques to your particular brand, your customers and your business objectives. That’s what our team at The Farnsworth Group brings to the table. Whether you’re conducting usage and attitude (U&A) research, developing a new product, improving marketing strategies, or investigating opportunities for market growth, we work with you to select the right modes of data collection to provide the most valuable and actionable insights to your question at hand. 

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