Contacting the subject in market research


Once the sampling plan has been determined, the marketing researcher must decide how the subject should be contacted: mail, telephone, personal, or online interview.

Mail Questionnaire

The mail questionnaire is the best way to reach people who would not give personal interview or whose responses might be biased or distorted by the interviewers. Mail questionnaires require simple and clearly worded questions. Unfortunately, the response rate is usually low or slow.

Telephone Interview

Telephone interviewing is the best method for gathering information quickly; the interviewer is also able to clarify question if respondents do not understand them. The response rate is typically higher than in the case of mailed questionnaires. The main drawback is that the interviews have to be short and not too personal. Telephone interviewing is getting more difficult because of consumers’ growing antipathy toward telemarketers calling them in their homes and interrupting their lives.

In late 2003, Congress passed legislation allowing the Federal Trade Commission to restrict telemarketing calls to consumers through its “Do Not Call� registry. Even though marketing research firms are exempt, many think that the legislation spells the beginning of the end of telephone surveys as a marketing research method.

Personal Interview

Personal interviewing is the most versatile method. The interviewer can ask more questions and record additional observations about the respondent, such as dress and body language. At the same time, personal interviewing is the most expensive method and requires more administrative planning and supervision than the other three. It is also subject to interviewer bias or distortion. Personal interviewing takes two forms. In arranged interviews, respondents are contacted for an appointment, and often a small payment or incentive is offered. Intercept interviews involve

stopping people at a shopping mall or busy street corner and requesting an interview. Intercept interviews can have the drawback of being non-probability samples, and the interviews must not require too much time.

Online Interview

There is increased use of online methods. Online research was up 20 to 30% in 2003 and was expected to continue along the same growth trajectory in 2004. Furthermore, online research is estimated to make up 25% of all survey-based research in 2004.

A company can include a questionnaire on its Web sites and offer an incentive to answer the questionnaire; or it can place a banner on some frequently visited site such as Yahoo! inviting people to answer some questions and possibly win a prize.