What’s the Point of Your Survey? Defining Goals and Understanding Metrics

Surveys sound like they should be so easy. You ask your target audience a bunch of questions, they answer, and boom—consumer insights! But while the actual act of data collection may seem like a breeze, the development and analysis of your survey are rarely so simple.

In order to design and administer an effective market survey, the researcher must first clearly define their goals and their metrics.

The goals of the survey will reflect its purpose, determining the appropriate questions and applicable market. The metrics will be the lens through which you interpret your data and measure its relationship to your goals. Defining these two aspects of your survey will make conducting your online market research not only easier, but far more precise.

When (and When Not) to Use a Survey

But before you dive into crafting the perfect survey, you should figure out whether a survey is the right path to take. Though they’re among the most recognizable forms of quantitative market research, there are certain inherent limitations to surveys that must be considered.

For example, surveys are ill suited for probing respondents or capturing emotions, so if you’d like to investigate consumer attitudes deeper, consider combining quantitative and qualitative research. You’ll also need to already know what group you want to poll, be it a specific segment or gen pop, to ensure you’re receiving feedback from the right group of people. Finally, don’t use a survey solely for its seeming affordability and convenience: if you lack the expertise to choose the right research methodology, or if you’re unsure of how to write an effective questionnaire, you run the risk of ending up with results that aren’t as helpful as they could be, which could be a waste of both your time and money.

A few examples of when it’s a great time for a market survey are when you want to

  • Efficiently validate the winning design for a new concept against competition
  • Identify which concepts resonate best with consumers   
  • Determine which package should move ahead
  • Identify the strongest positioning statement to show in stores

Defining Your Goals

Now that you know a survey is the way to go, you must figure out what your goals should be. Quantitative research should be structured to address key questions and provide the necessary data in the correct form. Those key questions are your survey goals: what answers you’re trying to find. For instance, if you are wondering if consumers will buy your new product, you won’t necessarily know for sure just by asking if they would recommend it to a friend.

To determine your goals, there are a few questions your research team must ask themselves first. They should go something like this:

1.    What are we testing?

2.    What do we want to know about it?

3.    Whose opinions do we care about?

4.    Should we compare our stimulus to another like it?

From learning what customers think of a new product to testing the effectiveness of an existing one, you should always ask yourself framing questions to arrive at comprehensive survey goals. Once your team has achieved clarity and consensus on your goals, ask yourselves once more whether a survey or another method will provide the required answers.

Finally, when assembling your questionnaire, you’ll need to determine what context and background your respondents will need in order for their responses to yield actionable consumer insights. Check out this blog for help writing competent, well-crafted questions and avoiding any potential questionnaire bias. Or you can always work with a research partner to help guide you throughout the entire process.

Identifying Your Metrics

Now that you know your survey goals, you must determine the metrics by which you will measure your respondents’ answers. Think of your metrics as the sieve through which your customer insights are filtered; they sort out what is and isn’t working in terms of your tested stimulus.

While there are various metrics you could employ, we’ve determined the following three to be the most effective in the majority of quantitative tests. They are


Your analysis should focus not on the individual metrics, but rather on the relationships between them, which reveal far more about how consumers feel from multiple angles of market value. For example, if purchase intent and uniqueness for a concept are high, but believability is low, then your team should be focusing on proving that the product or idea does what it says it will do. That’s why identifying the right metrics is so essential: without them, you won’t know how to define success or failure.

Though surveys aren’t quite as easy to craft as they sound, an agile research partner can help align your structural goals and metrics with your research objectives, thus ensuring that your survey does its job quickly and effectively. Click below to see the power of survey metrics in action when determining which car features appeal most to consumers.

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