With the advent of the World Wide Web (Web or WWW) and electronic mail (email), the Internet has opened up new vistas in surveying. An online survey is a questionnaire that the target audience can complete over the Internet. Online (Internet) surveys are becoming an essential research tool for a variety of research fields, including marketing, social and official statistics research. According to European Society for Opinion and Market Research (ESOMAR), online survey research accounted for 20% of global data-collection expenditure in 2006. For medium to large samples, the online survey will be the predominant survey methodology. The ﬁeld of survey research is more scientiﬁc and has numerous advantages like:
Online surveys are quite ﬂexible. They can be conducted in formats of e-mail with embedded survey, e-mail with a link to a survey URL, visit to a web site by an internet surfer who is then invited to participate in a survey and so on.
• Speed and timeliness
Online surveys can be administered in a time-efﬁcient manner. This minimizes the time taken to introduce a survey into the ﬁeld and data collection. The entire data collection period is significantly shortened as all data can be collected and processed in little more than a month.
Online surveys provide convenience in several ways. Answers can be given by respondents in their convenient time.
• Ease of data entry and analysis
It is relatively simple for respondents to complete online surveys, responses to be tabulated and analysed.
• Question diversity
Online surveys are capable of including dichotomous questions, multiple-choice questions, scales, questions in a multimedia format, single/multiple response questions and open-ended questions.
Yes/no or other dichotomous questions.
Open-ended text responses (long answer and short answer).
Multiple-choice selection of exactly 1 of n (select a single answer).
Multiple choices selection with k of n (select multiple answers).
Multiple-choice open ended questions.
Horizontal-scale, vertical-scale, drop-down, side-by-side formats.
The Internet and e-mail make it faster and cheaper to develop survey panels. Rather than mailing a paper survey, a respondent can now be given a hyperlink to a Web site containing the survey. For an e-mail survey, a questionnaire is sent to a respondent via e-mail, possibly as an attachment. It costs significantly less to send e-mail surveys than to make phone calls or send postal mail surveys. To sum up, online surveys are less time consuming, cheaper and the results are got faster. It is possible to transfer and use the data in other business applications.