Solid market research is the keystone for launching a successful marketing campaign. Before you begin, you need to learn the basics of the most cost-effective and popular research method out there: convenience sampling. Read on to determine if this popular sampling strategy is right for you.
What is Convenience Sampling?
Market sampling is a vital element of devising an effective marketing campaign. Its purpose is to secure a rough assessment of a target audience by engaging a portion of that audience. Engaging the whole audience would be a pain, and the time and resources consumed would negate any growth. Sampling grants a good look at a group without the hassle of asking everyone in it how they feel – it’s easier on you, and more importantly, easier on your wallet.
Convenience sampling is a non-probabilistic market research technique. This is an important distinction to consider when evaluating the techniques that will best suit your needs:
- Probabilistic: Techniques that are “probabilistic” automatically give individuals similar odds of being selected, and that probability is never zero. It’s “random” in the statistical sense – the subjects have the same non-zero likelihood of being chosen, but the selections are not predetermined.
- Non-Probabilistic: In non-probabilistic techniques, one or both of the following might be true: the probability of selection isn’t known, and the probability will be zero for some individuals. This means that some candidates have a 45% chance of selection, while others have 12%, and some have 0%.
Selecting every third person in a row of candidates wouldn’t be probabilistic. The pattern is obvious and the next candidates can predict whether or not they will be selected. Assigning each candidate a unique number and choosing random numbers from a pool is probabilistic – they each have the same chance, but the results can’t be anticipated.
Convenience sampling is non-probabilistic because candidates are chosen based on proximity or ease of accessibility. It’s so popular because candidates are readily available, and it’s quick, economical, and easy to engage them.
Convenience Sampling Methods
There are several ways to recruit subjects and collect data via convenience sampling. Some are more effective than others.
- Public Gatherings: This is a common method of convenience sampling, as there are already large pools of potential recruits in one place. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself in the form of political surveyors outside of sporting events or focus group recruiters in shopping malls.
- Utilize Extant Internet Traffic: Social media use and online shopping are at an all-time high, and a well-placed survey will inevitably gather useful information. By taking advantage of popular platforms with high traffic and engagement, you can learn the same-day where your ideas will be the most well-received.
Whether they’re online or on the ground, the key is to position yourself where people already are. Let the information come to you.
Convenience Sampling Uses
It is essential to utilize convenience sampling effectively. Let’s say someone wants to open a small coffee stand on a college campus. They should visit the campus with a list of questions and begin compiling information.
- Measuring interest is the primary use for convenience sampling. If people are already in the area, what’s the likelihood of them becoming customers? For our example, do most students drink coffee, or are they running on energy drinks? Is there another coffee shop nearby or on-campus that offers incentives or faculty discounts? Without interest, your resources are better spent elsewhere.
- Determine customer values by asking specific questions. Do students prefer ethically sourced beans or local roasters? Do they want paper straws and reusable cups? What’s important to potential customers?
- Measuring image perception and awareness are more effective when you have access to a diverse cross-section of the population. When passersby see your company name and logo, is it memorable? Is it easy to understand? If your coffee stand is perceived to be a boutique option for more affluent customers, you may find yourself underperforming in certain socioeconomic circles.
- Effectively determine your next steps with the gathered information. If some students are still opting for gas-station coffee, consider introducing a loyalty program for free drinks, or a reusable travel cup that comes with a discount on every refill. Information gathered from convenience sampling can help you think outside the box and become more innovative.
These simple concepts apply to your online business too! Understanding what customers are looking for helps you cater to their needs, target and expand into new markets, and manage the public’s perception of your brand – this means growth and more money in your pocket.
Pros of Convenience Sampling
Convenience sampling offers marketers several powerful benefits:
- Save time, money, and effort by utilizing convenience sampling. As discussed above, the information is literally coming to you. It’s an inexpensive way to compile information quickly and easily, thus stretching your market research dollar.
- Data is available immediately – ask questions, get answers. Typical surveys take less than ten minutes to complete and net same-day results. This allows for multiple simultaneous studies, and works as mediation for customer discontent. Immediate response is also especially helpful as a quick way to get feedback about new products, ideas, or changes made in response to customer concerns.
- Limited rules and more freedom: since there are so few rules about how information can be collected, you can tailor your efforts to meet your needs. It also makes it easier for the individual to take part in your study.
- Secure a wealth of information from the individual. With simple questions, you get unique, candid responses. This is particularly valuable for securing valuable feedback on specific topics. In conjunction with demographic information, the picture becomes a lot clearer, and it’s easier to build accurate generalizations about groups in the future.
- Acknowledging shortcomings improves the validity of the study. As you’ll see below, several issues can impact the overall legitimacy of your research. By acknowledging and including notations about potential bias, you can improve the reception and validity of the results.
Cons of Convenience Sampling
Before you launch a study or marketing campaign, it’s important to remain aware of the drawbacks of convenience sampling.
- Difficulty replicating results is a major concern. Since the traffic is never the same twice, responses can vary wildly even if other factors remain the same. This even extends to identical circumstances that are repeated on different days: even the same researcher, subject, and questions can’t guarantee consistent results.
- Inaccurate representation is a result of many factors. For in-person studies, results are skewed by many factors. For example, busy parents aren’t likely to stop for a survey, excluding them from the results. Even timing plays a factor. The Wednesday morning crowd may be vastly different than those out on a Saturday afternoon. Online, your data comes primarily from individuals who are already prone to online engagement. This could cause you to miss the mark and come away with information that isn’t reflective of the entire population.
- Researcher bias is common. When trying to compile enough participants to make up an effective sample, rejection is inevitable. Researchers may subconsciously begin to approach candidates they can relate with, increasing the chance of success. Over time, only certain potential candidates have the opportunity to participate, and that bias distorts the data.
- Producing False Data is common and easy within convenience sampling studies. Engaging people who are busy or “at rest” – shopping, at a sporting event, gaming, etc. – increases the potential of inaccurate data. People may say anything just to leave the situation, and that leaves you with information that may not be truthful. It’s then up to the researcher to determine its validity.
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