Pros and Cons of In-Store Surveys

The Upfront Analytics TeamStrategy3 Comments

Pharmacist with a client inside a pharmacy. The pharmacist woman is holding a box in hand

The Pros and Cons of In-Store Surveys

In a world that’s all about “click Yes or No” or “Slide this bar to indicate your satisfaction,” is it possible that we’ve lost the art of actually talking to consumers? The in-store survey is much maligned but often misunderstood and passed over for 2.0 versions of the same idea: Getting customer opinions.

But while it might seem outdated, the idea of talking to customers at the point of purchase (or even intercepting customers before they make a purchasing decision) could return accurate, in-the-moment results. Don’t count out the in-store survey until you’ve weighed the pros and cons first.


In-store surveys can offer insight nearly impossible to gain through other methods. Here’s why you shouldn’t be so quick to discount face-to-face, immediate surveys:

  • In-store surveys are fairly inexpensive, especially when compared to other traditional survey methods. The price for the printing and mailing of in-home direct mail surveys and even the time-related cost of developing and distributing online surveys can be pricey. In-store surveys require less manpower and little to no printing and distribution costs.
  • In-store surveys are quick and immediate, which means they provide market research analysts with in-the-moment feedback. Shoppers might have an experience and then go home, but by the time they leave the store, they forget that experience. In-store surveys mean grabbing the reaction and attitude as it happens.
  • In-store surveys allow you to gather specific insight and answers. Unlike slider bar-based online surveys, you don’t only get a consumer’s opinion, but also why he or she holds that opinion. A shopper might say they dislike a certain brand, but you’ll also get the opportunity to find out why.
  • In-store surveys can make customers feel more valued and heard, which can increase satisfaction with the associated brand. It’s flattering to be asked for an opinion, so in-store surveys can have a positive effect on attitude.


There’s a reason in-store surveys have slowly petered out over time. While they are effective for high-quality data and market research analytics, there are some areas in which they fall short.

  • In-store surveys, by nature, can only return a small sample size. Even if you get a high rate or participation from shoppers that made a purchase, you’re still missing out on the 30 percent or so that enter a store and leave without making a purchase. This can stunt results and slant them toward a falsely positive outcome, assuming that customers that purchase have a favorable opinion.
  • These surveys rely on self-reporting, which isn’t always accurate. Because they’re talking with someone face-to-face, the customer may feel pressured to offer a positive opinion or even inflate their economic conditions to skew results. It’s highly biased, so in-store data must be correlated with more trustworthy data sources.
  • Customers can experience a high degree of survey fatigue, especially if they’re in a hurry. This can cause low participation numbers and even negative results due to shoppers who feel as though they’re being unnecessarily inconvenienced.

It still has a place among data collection strategies: The in-store survey offers a glimpse inside shopping behaviors as they happen. When used judiciously and justified through more accurate data, in-store survey results can give you a better idea of what consumers think (and when they think it).

3 Comments on “Pros and Cons of In-Store Surveys”

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