In-Person Surveys vs. Online Surveys: Which One is Better?

You need to conduct a survey. But before you go searching for the cheapest online tool to email a link out to your audience (who may or may not engage), ask yourself: Are online surveys or in-person surveys more appropriate for achieving my goal?

The answer may surprise you. In fact, the way in which you conduct your survey can even have an effect on the outcome in some cases. Online surveys are great for convenience and keeping costs down, but in-person surveys may be the better route for collecting more quality data. Keep reading to discover the benefits (and limitations) of in-person surveys and how you can combine them with online methods for a survey style that’s exactly right for you.

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The Benefits of In-Person Surveys

In-person surveys provide a number of advantages over other data collection methods. Whether face-to-face with a trained interviewer or on-site with a kiosk, in-person surveys allow you to:

  • Survey anywhere. Online surveys are great because they’re available on-the-go, wherever the respondent is. But can consumers really remember their last shopping experience when they’re at their desk in the middle of the workday? To summon the most genuine responses, in-person surveys sample responses from the most relevant places—at the store, outside the concert venue, or in the aquarium. In-person surveying can be done face-to-face with trained interviewers and a survey device or through the convenience of an on-site automated kiosk. When you’re in-person, you can also display new products for customers to try. Either way, meeting your customers where they’re most likely to be interacting with your product/service gives you more control over the environment and more accurate data for better decision-making.
  • Collect data offline. In-person surveys take your questionnaires out into the world. But not everywhere in the world offers fast, reliable internet. The best surveys allow offline access so the experience is seamless and easy for each user. When offline, your data is safely stored in the app until the device is reconnected.
  • Reduce overhead and human error. Don’t have trained interviewers, or don’t want to spend the money to hire them? Automated kiosks at strategic locations allow you to easily collect feedback, while reducing overhead costs and eliminating the risk for human error in survey administration. You’ll still get the benefit of on-site surveys, but without the need for extra staff or unreliable data. Because kiosks have a constant internet connection, you can receive alerts when there are any issues with performance, allowing you to collect survey data while you work on other projects.


The Limitations of In-Person Surveys

Despite the benefits, in-person surveys aren’t always the right methodology for every project. In-person surveys can fall short because of:

  • Unwilling participants. As a consumer yourself, you likely understand that not everyone has the willingness, time, or patience to participate in a survey at all times. That’s one of the upsides to online surveys—they allow respondents to partake at their convenience. While in-person surveys bring the experience to the customer, it’s often when they’re in the thick of other activities like shopping, with family, or even on-the-go. Without respondents, you won’t have the data you need. That’s why making surveys as quick and easy as possible yields the best results.
  • Time restraints. To get the most diverse and balanced samples, you may want to survey in-person respondents over a longer time frame to account for external factors like weather, holidays, in-store sales, etc. that may otherwise taint the data. Because online surveys collect data in real time, they can often be completed in a much shorter time span, while in-person surveys can last for weeks or longer depending on the sample size needed.
  • Logistical challenges. In-person surveys can sometimes require unforeseen challenges due to working with a physical space: Where will the interview/kiosk be located? Does the interviewer have clearance/authority to be there? Are test products and other stimuli required for conducting the survey? In-person surveys can sometimes require additional planning to navigate logistics that will determine the success of the project.


The Best of Both Worlds

The beauty of digital capabilities is that you can use as much or as little of it as you want. Surveys need not be “either/or,” but can actually combine certain elements for the most tailored, most effective approach. Because in-person interaction is best for recruiting respondents, you may consider beginning the survey process in-person and finishing via an online or mobile method. You could also collect respondents’ email addresses (with their permission, of course) in-person to be used for future online surveys.

Deciding between online vs. in-person surveys is truly in the hands of the researcher. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but creating the perfect methodology depends on your needs, resources, and overall goal.

QuickTapSurvey allows you to keep a pulse on your customers with fast, actionable insights through in-person or online surveys. Conduct surveys offline, access templates for different needs (like customer satisfaction or net promoter score), and get instant access to data as soon as respondents are finished for the quickest and most insightful customer feedback possible.




Deepa Christina Radh

Deepa Christina Radh

Brand & Community Manager at QuickTapSurvey
Keeping it fresh and engaging with all things content and community. Let's chat! Find me on Twitter @quicktapsurvey or email deepa@quicktapsurvey dot com
Deepa Christina Radh