Introduction: Why Questionnaires are a Good Research Method in Fashion
As we develop our fashion business or create a new collection, acquiring reliable data and customer insights is an essential part of our work.
The challenge that the fashion industry poses is the data we’re after is often hard to collect.
The fashion industry builds its value on perceptions and impressions, which are entirely personal to the customer. Therefore, understanding what a customer thinks is quite a challenge in terms of market research.
This is why traditional approaches to data collection revolve around focus groups and interviews. In these cases, an interviewer uses a series of visuals and projective techniques to get participants to talk about their experiences with a brand. This can be an effective strategy but there are some issues that may be hard to overcome.
- Interviews and focus groups can’t always build upon a large number of participants, making the results less reliable.
- Identifying what participants really mean with their feedback can be a challenge, as the subject of the conversation may not be easy to discuss, or difficult to fully comprehend. As a result of these challenges in communication, we can have results that lack validity.
- Last but not least, the collection of these results can be very expensive both in terms of time and money.
This is why questionnaires, can provide a valid alternative to interviews as they have many benefits:
- Questionnaires are easy to administer, and through online platforms, data processing can be done quickly and effortlessly.
- Questionnaires can allow you to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.
- Questionnaires can be a first step that may allow you to refine and focus your research so that you can then progress with another more specific methodology, such as semi-structured interviews.
As a result, the data collected by questionnaires can be the result of the research, as well as a step towards better understanding new research avenues which are still able to fully explore with a clearer picture of what you are really after.
This, however, does not mean that questionnaires are deprived of any challenge, on the contrary, questionnaire design requires rigor and attention to detail.
In this post, we’re going to look into the 4 steps that can allow you to develop effective and enlightening surveys for your fashion brand.
To help you navigate this post, here’s a breakdown of our content:
- Identify your questionnaire recipient.
- Identify the goals of the questionnaire before you write the questions.
- Create questions that participants can understand and answer.
- Ask participants to leave a contact in case you need to interact with them further.
1. Identify your questionnaire recipient.
As for any form of communication, identifying the characteristics of your recipient is essential. Surveys are no exception. Despite potentially submitting the same form to thousands of individuals, the results collected from a highly profiled audience can be much more useful in terms of building insight into the specific customer type you’re after.
This is why it a great idea to introduce questions that can help you identify the segment your participant belongs to with questions that can provide descriptive data.
If you’d like to learn more about the segments in the fashion market, this blog post can be really useful for you.
As a starting point, therefore, creating a customer persona, or a model participant can be a valid way to assess what questions to ask and how to frame those questions so that we can collect valid and meaningful answers.
Great, now that we’ve given some thought to who’s the target of your questionnaire, we can start thinking about the goals we’re setting for the survey itself. We’ll analyze this part in our next paragraph.
2. Identify the goals of the questionnaire before you write the questions.
The fewer questions we ask, the more likely it is that our participants will complete our questionnaire. In this sense, we need to make sure that we have a clear of what goals we’re setting for our research. The clearer our goals are, the fewer questions we will need to ask in order to collect the data we’re looking for.
We need to also think about the fact that some questions will be necessary to profile our respondents so, we actually have limited room for highly specific questions, which may be the most useful in terms of insight.
Identifying one or two specific outcomes will therefore allow keeping the questionnaire short, simple, and effective.
Now let’s move to the next challenge which is writing down our actual questions.
3. Create questions that participants can understand and answer.
There are many different question typologies that we can use to conduct our questionnaire which revolves around three types of variables:
- Attribute Variables. These variables and questions contain data regarding the respondent’s characteristics. We suggest asking these questions first to check if the participant is fitting with your participant persona.
- Opinion Variables. These variables and questions record how respondents feel about something, or what they believe may be true or false. These questions are useful to identify psychographic elements connected to the participants.
- Behavioral Variables. These variables contain data on what people did in the past, and this is considered highly predictive of what they’ll be doing in the future.
Of course, remember to analyze the ethical implications of your research as you create your questionnaire, as some questions may require special consideration. Once you have identified the variables you are after you can create different types of questions which could be for instance:
- List questions – where the participant chooses from a list.
- Category questions – where the participant suggests the frequency of an action.
- Ranking questions – where the participant ranks a series of items based on relevance.
- Rating questions – where a participant provides an answer based on a scale from disagreeing to agreeing with a statement.
- Short and Long answer questions – where the participant can express him\herself within the space available.
Regardless of the type of question you ask make sure that questions are asked with positive language to avoid any bias over the question formulation, and that each question revolves around one idea at a time, otherwise it can be really difficult for your participants to answer correctly.
Moreover, make sure you are pre-testing the questionnaire to make sure it is clear and easy to complete. This is essential, as it can expensive to administer the research only to realize the questionnaire is not formulated correctly.
4. Ask participants to leave a contact in case you need to interact with them further.
As a final consideration, remember to ask your participants if they can be recontacted at a later time in case the answers provided may indicate some new research avenues, that you may be wishing to explore through additional research methods, such as interviews.
In many cases, in fact, questionnaires are part of mix-methods approaches to research, as not only questionnaires can be a great way to explore new dynamics in customer behavior, but they also allow to build the foundations for additional inquiry.
There we go! It’s now time to start drawing up a few conclusive remarks.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve looked at a few tips to help you create questionnaires that can help you gain great insight into the growth of your fashion brand. Just to summarise our post remember to do these 5 things:
- Build participant personas. To make sure that you will be administering the survey to individuals who have a fitting profile for your research. A small sample of highly profiled participants can help you collect better data than a larger sample of unqualified participants.
- Set a clear goal for the questionnaire. Remember that data collection is an investment of time and financial resources, therefore there needs to be a clear goal or return on this investment. Make sure that you are clear on the objective you are after.
- Create a questionnaire that can be easy to navigate and clear to understand. As the fashion industry is full of intangibles, make sure that the questions you are asking are sufficiently clear to be answered effortlessly. Remember to pre-test your questionnaire to make sure your questions are clear and intelligible.
- Make sure you are staying in touch with participants. Make sure to ask if you may follow up on the questionnaire at a later time, if the questions provided may prompt some additional interaction, for instance on the grounds of an interview.
Questionnaire design can be challenging, so make sure you’re spending enough time on it to overcome the natural bias that we all have – as researchers – when collecting primary data.
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