How to get a representative audience for your online surveys

Sampling from a representative population is important when surveying an online audience for inclusivity and to avoid bias. Read five things you can do to ensure you're reaching one.
22 April 2021
representative audience, online surveys
Vivien Le Masson
Le Masson

Senior Director, Singapore

Becki Gonsalves

Director, Global Content and Asia-Pacific Marketing, Profiles Division , Asia-Pacific

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Market researchers thrive to understand audiences, and often focus on what consumers are saying via online surveys.

Because the digital universe is changing continuously and faster than ever, reaching a truly representative audience can be a balancing act. However, putting the work into ensuring your online audience is representative is worth the reward. Otherwise, you risk introducing bias and collecting unreliable data.

So, how can you ensure you are reaching a representative online audience? Here are five things to keep in mind:

  1. Design online surveys to be mobile first
  2. Recruit from a variety of sources
  3. Leverage inclusive profiling
  4. Sample for success
  5. Safeguard against fraud

1. Design online survey to be mobile first

It’s no longer good enough to create surveys that are device agnostic. Surveys must be designed for mobile responders and the rest of the devices will fall in line. Here are two reasons why.

First, user experience matters. Mobile first survey designs go beyond functionality and embrace software advancements that enhance user experience. If a respondent can’t see the question in full or find the ‘next’ button, then you risk incomplete data or early dropout. Shorter and engaging surveys will keep people’s attention through completion and improve representation.

Secondly, device representation is important to online research today. If surveys aren’t accessible to mobile responders, then your audience won't be representative.

Globally, as of January 2021, 59.5% of the population were active internet users. Of that total, 92.6% accessed the internet via mobile devices. By not capturing mobile users, you risk gaps in representation in geographies, demographics and consumer behavior.

2. Recruit from a variety of sources

When recruiting for a panel or survey, diversity of sources is key to claiming representivity. Some respondents are recruited through apps and others via the web. Both audiences will have different digital behaviors and attitudes.

Using diverse sources ensures you’re including people with various behaviors and reduces the risk of inherent bias in your results. This creates a more sustainable long-term approach to research.

This is why it’s important to choose a sample partner who recruits respondents through a mix of curated partners, media, social channels and loyalty schemes. That applies to both niche audiences and holistic views of a nationally representative sample.

3. Leverage inclusive profiling

The world is made up of a rich mix of people from different cultures, backgrounds, education levels, ages, genders and sexualities. People are complex with unique voices to be heard, so considering behaviors and demographics. The attributes you profile on are all important when defining a representative audience and surveying respondents.

Using a deeply and pre-profiled panel of respondents in your research can give you confidence in knowing your audience is inclusive and diverse.

4. Sample for success

Quotas and sample sizes are central to a representative online audience, and setting quotas on groups isn’t always the right way forward. For example, if you set quotas on hard-to-reach audiences, you may risk introducing bias by upweighting the opinions of one group over another. 

Indeed, using sample invitation quotas can be better than setting quotas in the survey itself. Sampling technology has become increasingly more sophisticated in recent years. We are much more able to efficiently handle the quotas through the sample invitation process.

5. Safeguard against fraud

With online comes the potential of fraudulent respondents. Experienced panel managers can mitigate against this through gatekeeping at registration, leveraging pre-survey advanced quality approaches and in-survey checks.

Kantar uses best-in-class audience compliance tools for recruitment, pre-survey checks and in-survey checks. These include identity validation, machine AI learning, Honesty Detector, digital fingerprinting technology and in-survey quality controls.

Learn more

Kantar has an unparalleled commitment to delivering quality data for your research projects. We continually invest in a multi-faceted approach through permission-based data, research-on-research, proprietary technology and a team of experts. Speak to one of our online research experts today.

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