Survey Questionnaires in 80s & 21st Century

People are used to filling out online surveys nowadays and companies are enjoying a slew of digital survey tools that enable them to get information and analyse data in ways someone from the 80s couldn’t possibly imagine. All these tools have given companies incredible advantages, allowing them to tailor their products, services, marketing and more to better fit with their target market.

The Survey of the 80s

Market research projects, especially those focused on consumers, were complicated and expensive to conduct in the 80s. Armies of interviewers would be drafted to go out into the world and speak to people, filling out questionnaires during the interview. The survey questionnaires would then go through a coding process, where open-ended answers were classified into a number of main categories and provided with codes. This was usually done manually.

The information would then be entered into special computer programs – yes, computers did exist in the 80s – and these programs would spit out various results, which would then be interpreted by analysts.

Sounds pretty easy, but it was a lot of work. Limitations were also rampant. Questionnaires were printed on paper and could only be so long. You could only keep the attention of a respondent for so long. Issues such as interviewers – who were often part-timers paid by the questionnaire – would skew the results by filling out additional questionnaires with fictional information to earn a little extra. Back then, before mobile phones spread like wildfire, it was difficult to contact a respondent to ensure the veracity of their responses. Or if they even existed.

While some of these issues still exist today, many of them do not. Let’s see how online surveys have changed the world of market research.


Early twenties, conducting consumer research was prohibitively expensive for many small to medium firms. The cost of such projects ran from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Now, anyone can create an online survey and conduct market research inexpensively, using sample sizes that were unheard of in the 80s.

Questionnaires are also much more dynamic because they can be. In the 80s, questionnaires had to be printed and they had to be simple. The more complicated they were, the bigger the chance of errors. Nowadays, survey questionnaires can be as complicated or as simple as their designer wishes them to be. Respondents can be guided from one question to the next based on their responses, which means that each questionnaire can be unique. Responses can be immediately fed into analytical programs and results obtained in a matter of minutes, rather than days or weeks.

Surveys with dynamically changing questionnaires, analytical programs that can spit out results right away, and huge sample sizes are just a few of the differences between surveys now and those conducted in the 80s. The real difference, and the most important one, is that brands can now learn so much more about consumer behaviour and preferences, which is critical information in an omni-channel world where effective relationship marketing and outstanding customer experience are critical to success.