Omnibus research surveys

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Omnibus research represents a middle ground between off-the-peg research services, where the data has already been collected and the researcher simply buys what is available, and primary research, where the researcher has to collect the information personally. Omnibus research describes regular research surveys that are being undertaken with a stated frequency and a decided method, using a set number of respondents and sampling points. The fieldwork 'omnibus' is running and the client is invited to 'board the bus' by adding a few personal questions to the questionnaire. The omnibus user has the advantages of original question design, privacy of information and representativeness of sample, without having to bear all the fieldwork costs alone. The user pays only for the number of questions included and this is a very cheap form of original survey research. Omnibus research is particularly suitable for fairly robust data, e.g. the usage and purchase of products. It is less reliable for attitudinal and opinion data. This is because an omnibus survey might last for 40 minutes or even more. During that time the respondent might be asked about six or more entirely different topics, which could range from voting intentions through bank account ownership and holiday-taking, to the purchase of hair-care products. This miscellaneous mix of bedfellows, who may come together in a single questionnaire, means that if more than superficial data is required the respondent is unlikely to be in a frame of mind to give sufficient concentration to any single topic for reliable attitudinal data to be produced. For straightforward questions, for example, 'When did you last buy ...?', 'Do you own ...?' or 'Have you ever ...?', where top-of-the-head answers are perfectly acceptable, omnibus surveys can provide good original data at a fraction of the cost of a 'made-to-measure' survey.

A list of organizations providing omnibus research services is published each month as an advertising feature in the MRS newsletter Research. A copy of this can be obtained from the Market Research Society (Tel: 020 7490 4911) and will identify companies currently offering services.

A User's and Buyer's Guide to omnibus surveys is published annually in ADMAP magazine (Tel: 01491 411 000, Fax: 01491 571 188). This provides an objective comparison of the available services based on data provided by the respective companies. The following listing is compiled from ADMAP and ad hoc information from the MRS.

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