Comparing the Response Rate, Response Speed and Response Quality of Two Methods of Sending Questionnaires: E-mail vs Mail

Alan C. B. Tse


Kazuaki (1990) pointed out that market research clients nowadays are more sensitive to cost and speed than they used to be. As a result, applied and academic researchers are beginning to explore the potential of new technologies like fax and e-mail (Dickson & MacLachlan 1996). A few studies have been done on using a fax machine to collect data (Dickson & MacLachlan 1996; Tse et al. 1994). However, little study has been done using e-mail as a means of data collection.

With the exponential growth of the Internet and e-mail users,1 it is strategically important for marketing managers to investigate whether e-mail is a better channel for conducting surveys than the other more traditional methods such as mail surveys. Compared with mail surveys, e-mail surveys have the following advantages.2 First, it is very cheap. In Hong Kong, for example, e-mail users pay only about $5 (about US$0.3) connection charge to internet service providers per hour, making it an extremely cost-effective3 means of collecting data. In addition, there is no need to provide a prepaid and preaddressed response vehicle such as a stamped return envelope. Secondly, it eliminates the tedious tasks of folding and stuffing efforts and costs for both the researcher and the respondent (Dickson & MacLachlan 1996). Thirdly, transmission of questionnaires by e-mail is extremely fast (Kuzela 1987; Kress 1988; Parker 1992; Resnick 1994). While conventional mail requires the physical transfer of messages from one place to another, the transmission of e-mail messages can occur almost instantaneously. Replies can also be sent instantaneously and very conveniently (Kuzela 1987; Parker 1992). Messages can be sent and received around the clock (Parker 1992; Resnick 1994). This outstanding quality is most apparent when messages have to be transmitted overseas (Resnick 1994). Fourthly, an e-mailed survey might imply urgency and avoid being perceived as junk mail. Consequently, messages are seldom abandoned without a single glance (Parker 1992).