Three of Our Favorite Ways to Get Survey Data Quickly and Affordably

Three of Our Favorite Ways to Get Survey Data Quickly and Affordably

Sometimes you just need survey data.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need the data.  Spending two weeks waiting for a Purchase Order and another four-to-six weeks to get the survey data back isn’t always possible.  Wouldn’t it be great if there were some fast, inexpensive options out there to get data on smaller business questions?  Well, there are.  However, you might be wondering, “Are they reliable?”  From our own personal experience, we can attest that these three vendors are affordable, quality ways to get the survey data you need quickly.

Show of Hands:  A Social Approach to Survey Data

Imagine if at the start of a meeting you were asked a question and could have an (n=60+) answer by the end of that same meeting.  The Show of Hands app allows you to do exactly that.   As a member of the Show of Hands community, you can post as many questions and polls as you want FOR FREE.  Even better, you can watch the results come in in real-time.

Show of Hands Strengths:

Fast and free are Show of Hands’ two biggest selling points.  Show of Hands is a mix of social network and market research playground.  Members can create an account for free and ask as many questions as they want for free.  Each free question can collect a maximum base of up-to (n=200).  Questions also include a comment section and can create a very rich dialogue from among the Show of Hands community.  There is also a pay-to-play option that gives you much richer demographic detail on your respondents, and allow for base sizes of (n=1,000+).

Show of Hands Limitations:

If you are a methodological purist, the survey data you get from Show of Hands may not be for you.  Unfortunately, each question is asked one-off.  There are no builds or skip-logic. Second, each free question has only two response options.  This can be limiting.  Lastly, Show of Hands’ active community could also be viewed as a negative since your respondent pool are “hobbyist” survey-takers.

Why I Like Show of Hands:

As I said above, it’s a great way to get free, real-time data.  If I’m doing qualitative research and notice a trend in responses, I can field a free Show of Hands poll during the research and get a national read quickly.  It’s great for gathering confirmatory data or for showing a hypothesis is worth pursuing.  Most importantly, all of my anecdotal experiences with Show of Hands have panned-out when I’ve compared their results v. more formal surveys.  Most notably, Show of Hands’ had the 2016 election predicted correctly all-along, even when the more mainstream polling companies did not.

Field Agent:  An In-Store, Crowd-Sourced Approach to Survey Data

In a previous post we discussed how challenging it can be to get permission to do in-store research.  One company, Field Agent, found a loop-hole.  With so many shoppers bringing their mobile devices in-store, couldn’t you ask them survey questions while they shop?  Yep.  And that’s exactly what Field Agent does.  They also ask mobile surveys in the home too, but they started in-store, and that’s why I love them.

Field Agent Strengths:

For a per-respondent cost of around $10, you can get a ton of data from Field Agent.  Field Agent surveys offer multiple questions and multiple responses.  Further, Field Agent GPS-tags each respondent, so you know the survey data you are getting is being collected in the store or location you requested.  Additionally, Field Agents can be asked to take pictures and photo audits of store shelves, products, or pretty much anything.  Even though these surveys and store audits take time to field, Field Agent is fast.  The full survey data and report are usually back within 2-4 weeks.  Lastly, YOU can become a Field Agent too and collect money by doing projects for them on your own.

Field Agent Limitations:

Unfortunately, you don’t have 100% total control over who you are recruiting.  It is possible that your photo survey at Meijer could be completed by a Meijer store associate.  Second, retailers typically have rules against taking photographs of their shelves.  If you want to work with Field Agent, make sure you work-out the proper permissions with your retail partners before hiring the agents.

Further, when you ask survey questions in-store, make sure they are the kind of question anyone could answer at the shelf.  Opinion questions on what was visible or what stands-out on-shelf are great.  Preference questions on what they will likely buy may not be the best use of this methodology.  Lastly, if you do collect hundreds of pictures, it’s hard to figure out what to do with all of them.  Pictures say a thousand words, but you can get millions of unused “words,” so think carefully when designing your study.

Why I Like Field Agent:

If you want to see how your new product launched at your top retailers, but you don’t have the budget to travel, go with Field Agent.  For situations where you need insights on mobile-users or mobile-shoppers, go with Field Agent. If you are in shopper insights, and aren’t leveraging Field Agent as a research provider, at least sign-up for their mailing list to get their free research reports.  As long as you are creative and can manage the limitations, you can make extremely rich presentations out of the visuals and survey data Field Agent can provide for you.    Oh, and like I said, quick and affordable.

Google Surveys:  A Large-Base, Wide-Net Source of Survey Data

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you are reading an article online you can’t go any further unless you answer some survey questions?  If you took the survey, chances are you took a Google survey.  Google’s vast scale even stretches into the market research world.  They are surprisingly affordable and can return survey data with base sizes of (n=1000+) in around week — or sometimes less.

Google Survey Strengths:

Obviously, Google’s size and scale speak for itself.  Of the capabilities on this list, Google Surveys offers the widest variety of survey question types and techniques.  The technology is self-serve, but it’s as-easy or easier than Survey Monkey to learn.  The capabilities they offer, and the kinds of questions (with visuals) you can ask will meet just about any need you have.  You are even able to target your respondent base.  If you need a large base of respondents to answer a series of questions with moderate complexity, but don’t need the in-store element of Field Agent, Google Surveys is a great resource.

Google Survey Limitations:

Because of the size and speed of Google Surveys, it may be tempting to test new product ideas or artwork with this capability.  Unfortunately, there’s no confidentiality agreement for the respondents.  This is true of Show of Hands and Field Agent too, but it’s easier to forget with Google Surveys.  Anything you put out on a Google Survey will become public.  Co-workers of mine have discovered pre-launch competitive product innovations in Google surveys they have taken.  The tool is powerful, but the same things that make it great make it risky.  If you choose to leverage Google’s size and scale, do so responsibly.

The other limitation of Google Surveys is around the respondent demographics.  First, Google may wish to validate that your target respondent pool is big enough before the survey truly goes live.  If you are looking for a very narrow demographic of shoppers, you may not be able to use Google surveys.  Secondly, Google doesn’t ask specific demographic questions for each individual survey.  They derive much of this data from what they know about the IP address of the user already.  Google is pretty good at this, but if you need to be absolutely sure who your respondent is, it might be worth adding those questions specifically.

Why I Like Google Surveys:

I once had a project where I needed to identify the density of a particular shopper group by US county.  Unfortunately for me, that shopper group was common, but it wasn’t in SPECTRA.  I had two weeks before a major presentation to internal and external partners and I needed to know where this shopper target lived.  Within a week, Google Surveys had collected (n=8,000) responses that helped me created a heat map estimate to answer this question.  My old business partners still bring-up that map and the success of that presentation today.


If you are looking for fast, inexpensive survey data, Show of Hands, Field Agent, and Google Surveys are three resources you should be aware of.

Disclaimer:  Neither Netizen Insights, LLC, nor its managers, nor its members, nor its agents received compensation or any other kind of incentives from these companies for this article.  The opinions and experiences shared in this article are those of the author and his contributors as a result of their favorable experiences with these services.

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