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Omnibus surveys – a cost-effective way to buy quality

April 19, 2011
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Just because your research budget is small doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality.  In some situations, using an omnibus survey is a great way of getting the quality of a large-budget survey at a fraction of the price.

Most of the big research agencies run regular omnibus surveys.  An omnibus survey is designed to be representative of a particular population such as the population of Scotland or the population of the UK.  An omnibus survey typically has hundreds or thousands of respondents, runs weekly or monthly, turns around within a week or less and can be conducted by phone, face-to-face or online.

Anyone can buy a question or questions on the omnibus survey, and survey costs are shared amongst all of the clients on a per-question basis.  This means that the questionnaire is different every time and contains questions on all sorts of subjects.  The data from your questions remains confidential to you, but you can access a range of demographic information for cross-analysis.

For you, the client, you are buying a solution which is significantly cheaper than setting up your own bespoke survey.  The cost is around £500 per question, but the output has a scale, turnaround, and methodological rigour that you would usually need to pay several tens of thousands of pounds for.  For this price, the research agency will write the questions for you (if you need them to) and at the end you will receive your data in tabular format.

Buying questions on an omnibus survey is a good solution if:

  • You have a relatively small budget
  • You only want to ask a few questions
  • You want to ask questions of the general population, or a large sub-set of the population

 Buying questions on an omnibus survey might not be a good solution for you if:

  • You have a long questionnaire
  • You have interest in a very specific or local population (although it is possible to access omnibus surveys for certain ‘popular’ sub-groups e.g. minority ethnic, Edinburgh, teachers, MPs)
  • You do not know how to read research tables (although you can pay an additional fee of perhaps £1k for reporting or interpretation)
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