How to approach people when conducting a market survey?


I am trying to conduct a market survey, using it to gauge the experiences of people who visit a very old open-air market and what improvements they would like to see. This place is pretty popular with tourists, both foreign and domestic. Currently, this is how I am conducting the survey:

  1. I have a questionnaire (about 10 one-word-answer questions).
  2. I stake out the entry-exit points (which are the same) for getting people to answer my questionnaire.
  3. As people come out, I try to approach them to help me fill out the survey.

Purpose of the survey:

1. I have a few ideas on what can be done to improve the experience of the people as they visit the open-air market. I want to figure out if there is a market for what I have in mind.


1. The objective of the survey is to collect data on the experiences of the people. Mailing the survey etc. would not be a feasible option for lack of resources and the fact that not many people are willing to furnish email/home addresses.

Issues that I am facing:

1. It is extremely difficult to get people to stop, even for 20 seconds, to answer my questions. My pitch to get them to fill out the survey is something on the following lines (said with a smile): "Excuse me, but would you like to help me out by answering a few questions based on your experiences of the market?" to which most of the replies are a gruff shake of the head and you-are-dismissed wave of the hand. It could be because of the hot weather, bad reputation of the market survey-type people or touts in the market. Though it is entirely understandable why you would not want to answer any questions, it makes my job a lot harder. In about 3 hours I spent yesterday (in the sun), I got a grand total of 4 respondents (God bless their souls). This is the first time I have done something like this, so it is still early days and I want to correct what I may have done wrong.

My questions based on all the above:

1. How do you approach people to fill out a survey? Is there something that I should say or do that I am not doing at present?

2. How much of a sample size should I be looking at?

3. Are there any tips to approaching people and getting them to do as you want them to (given that I have all of 5 seconds to make a pitch)?

P.S: Please let me know in case any more details are needed. Please also feel free to add any questions you think are important to this thread and that I may have missed.

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asked Sep 19 '11 at 14:04
174 points

2 Answers


The best way to get people to fill out a survey is to give them something for doing it. Even cheap little things will help your conversion rate.

You can also do a raffle for something even better but that takes a little bit more coordinating

I would also setup an official looking table so that it's easy for your respondents to fill the survey out and get information about what you are doing.

Doing a survey in this way will typically get a low response rate since people are just busy going about their day.

Some other things to try include:

  • Reducing the size of the questionnaire
  • Partner with vendors at the market to handout your survey
  • Get a couple of friends to do the survey with you (e.g. at different locations).

As for sample size, it all depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to get a good cross section of attitudes on your survey, then you would have to go on multiple days, at different times and stand in random places (to get a good sampling).

If you did that, then I would say the minimum response rate to make decisions on would be anywhere north of 96 responses (10% margin of error). Obviously, the more the better. The real trick is that the sampling has to be as random as you can make it or your data will be skewed.

Take a look at this wikipedia article on Margin of Error and also Sampling for some ideas on how to properly sample a population.

answered Sep 19 '11 at 15:44
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points
  • I don't believe reducing the size of the questionnaire would be likely to help; most people will be objecting to the delay at all, not to the length of it. I doubt that he had anyone who stopped but when they saw the length of the questionnaire fled. – Chris Morgan 13 years ago
  • Thanks for the help! I am not sure if I can setup the table, but I will try to get some more people (preferably some hot chick) to help me with the survey :). I also agree with @Chris, the survey in its present form is about 10 questions long with one-word answers to most questions. Those who stopped, completed the survey. Those who did not, fled outright.. – Sriram 13 years ago
  • So it sounds like length is not an issue. That's good to know. Sometimes if a survey is too long people don't complete it all the way or get turned off straight away. – Jarie Bolander 13 years ago


1. How do you approach people to fill out a survey? Is there something that I should say or do that I am not doing at present? Ideas for improving your pitch would include:

  • Eye contact first: Get eye contact and ask the people with whom you get it
  • Assume the ask: "How was your experience at the market today? . . . after they answer say -- may I ask you a couple more questions about your experience?"
  • Pick more carefully who: This of course will impact the validity of your survey -- but this is what happens when paid survey takers are paid for the number of responses they get. Choose those who are not in a be line and busy.
How much of a sample size should I be looking at? If you are looking for a scientific sample then you cam read about margin of error and sampling. But who cares if it is a scientific sample? It will never really be any way right -- you are only getting a certain kind of person through this route, you are only available certain days, . . . blah blah blah. this is for you right? To give you the confidence in moving forward with your idea. The sample size should be the "when I am ready" size.

Are there any tips to approaching people and getting them to do as you want them to (given that I have all of 5 seconds to make a pitch)?

  • Don't invade personal space. Don't start talking while you are moving toward them. Position yourself in the way and ask as they walk into your personal space.
  • Give yourself some legitmacy -- a badge or something -- if you are associated and affiliate with the market -- make it seem like you could be. Having a table that people could go and take the survey with lots of nice prizes that looked really official would help too.
  • Get someone young and "hot" to ask the questions. I don't know that you are not. If so I apologize. if not -- I apologize. How ever unfortunate this is -- a 20 year old highly attractive female will get far more responses than a 41 year old swarthy guy with a goatee (me) -- I am just saying . . .
answered Sep 19 '11 at 20:28
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • Those are GREAT points! I will be sure to keep them in mind when I go next time.. and update this space... thanks much! – Sriram 13 years ago

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