Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Face it, I’m just not THAT into you

I was emailed an invitation by Mothercare to complete a survey last week. “This simple survey will only take about 10 minutes to complete” it said. I thought it might be interesting so I clicked on the link and set to work.

It started off easily enough, but three pages/questions in I noticed that the progress bar was barely shifting after each question and I began to wonder what I had let myself in for. The third question asked me to tick which of about a dozen baby and child web sites I visit ‘regularly’ and then which I’d bought from; not so hard, though I’ve no idea whether ‘regularly’ means weekly, monthly or what.

Then came the first of several essentially impossible questions; ‘And which website have you bought MOST from in the past 12 months?’. How the **** am I supposed to know? I have a baby. Do they think that I have the time to create a spreadsheet with all my purchases coded by merchant and product category so that I can run a report to identify where I’m spending the most? A few more easy questions, and then: “Roughly how much do you spend on kids and baby products each month both online and in total?’ Few people – when faced with a question like this – could do more than make a wild guess. At this point the progress bar was scarcely more than a quarter of the way to 100% and if I weren’t professionally involved with ecommerce then I would have bailed out. Three or four questions later and my patience had run out, with the progress bar still stubbornly below the halfway mark. I just couldn’t face trying to remember what the Mothercare site was like, and so wasn’t in a position to score it on 8 different factors.

I can’t believe that this survey will yield any useful results. It is not credible to imagine that a significant percentage of customers will make it all the way through to the end. Those that do make it will surely represent a skewed sample, and most will have guessed many of the responses.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mothercare and I dread to think how much money they make from the Meath Baker household. But I don’t love them enough to get brain ache trying to answer questions for 10 minutes, not least when I don’t know the answers.

Why spend precious management time on a survey that will be reliable as a Met Office weather forecast? One of the beauties of online retail is that pretty much everything can be measured, and therefore tested. If you want to improve your website, don’t waste money on a survey; get some multi-variate testing software and test, test, test.

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