Seven reasons to ask only five questions in a research survey

Some time ago, I visited a market research conference in New York, where the key theme was: “short surveys”. And with the word short they meant a survey with five questions or less. That short? Yes, that short?

Here are seven reasons why:

1. Focus on what you really want to know

This is probably familiar: when you finally have your research proposal approved, everyone wants to add extra questions. But are they really “need to know” or just “nice to know”? A strong upper limit to the number of questions makes sure you stay sharp. Only ask these questions that really will change your strategies.

2. Cost savings

Of course, you have already predicted this one. Respondents are reimbursed paid on the length of the survey, and with less questions, there is less analysis involved: a huge budget reduction!

3. Better quality of data

If a questionnaire is shorter (and less complex, and fun to fill in), the responses are more consistent. Also: try to limit the use of (Likert) scales, and “cheating” by combining three questions into one. Both are not good for the quality of the response.

4. Lower non-response bias

Short surveys are not only filled in better, but also more often finished. This reduces your non-response bias significantly. A survey with only 5 questions has about 5% non-completes. The percentage increases to 20% for surveys with 40 questions or more.

5. Agile working

Very large research projects result in a lot of information and insights, but often so much that an organisation only uses a fraction of it. I regularly summarise all researches done in the last 5 years for a client. There are always insights in there they “forgot” or want to research again unnecessarily. It’s better to cut your budget into a few smaller pieces. Take each quarter for a focused research leading to (profitable) action than one big research of which half will not be used at all.

6. More satisfied respondents

When a respondent has to fill in a long and boring survey, they will end it with a negative feeling. As your survey is about your category or even brand, this feeling will be associated with it. You don’t want that, do you?

7. Responsability towards your research colleagues

Us market researchers are extremely dependent on respondents (people!) willing to cooperate. And they are no longer just in panels, online customers are also asked for their opinion via emails after every purchase. Let’s please take our responsibility and work together to ensure that consumers don’t get “research tired” and that they want to keep answering our questions.

I hear you protesting: “But five is really too little!”. Not necessarily, but it is an extremely big step from current practice. On the one hand, this bold requirement really makes you think differently, and on the other hand, practice shows that we always want more, so if we arrive at 8-10 questions, we have already come a long way.

With my market research agency Spinos | Research & Analytics I no longer throw long questionnaires into the market. I prefer to ask my customers more questions, so that we can arrive at the real actionable insights. Do you want to know how I approach this? Please feel free to contact me.