Data collection is the process of gathering, measuring, and analyzing information to draw accurate insights for research and decision making, using standard validated techniques. Today, data gathering has become a subject of prime importance for businesses to improve their competitive position, get valuable information about their customers, and better understand their markets.
The result of a global survey of 900 business analysts about their use of data to drive decisions and achieve key business objectives revealed that data-centric businesses are far more likely to succeed by 58%, allowing them to mitigate costs and risk better, grow their revenue, and enhance their customer experience.
With the advent of technology, obtaining data can either be done online or offline. The use of internet-based methods to aid research practice has become more prevalent in recent years and has made it less costly and more quickly and efficiently to get information than ever before. Examples of online data collection methods are email, website, social media, and in-app surveys.
Offline data collection, on the other hand, is referred to as data gathered without the use of the internet. This method of data collection is beneficial in environments with slow or no internet connectivity. It is also important for businesses and researchers who want to uncover the complexities of data in rural/under-developed areas with little or no access to the internet.
While the online data collection method might be taking centre stage in the world today, offline methods are still very much important.
Below are all the different methods that data can be collected offline.
Short message service (SMS) is an integral part of the mobile phone system. It is inexpensive and user-friendly; messages can be stored, retrieved, and answered at the user’s convenience; and its transmission is quick.
Mobile phone usage and penetration has exceeded 80% in developing countries. It is no longer a gadget for the tech-savvy or wealthy, which then makes SMS an effective way to gather data offline.
SMS can be used either to collect data through surveys directly or to remind respondents about completing them. However, there is a limit to the type of information you can include. File formats such as images, videos, and audio cannot be obtained through SMS.
SMS surveys are easy to fill out, and the average response time, according to Digital Marketing Magazine , is 90 seconds. This is so because people always have their mobile phones with them and are very unlikely to miss messages.
Paper forms or questionnaires are a traditional method of data collection. They consist of a series of well-written questions designed to collect data from large groups of people.
Questionnaires make it possibly better to understand the wants and needs of your customers. They can be a useful tool in measuring the attitudes, beliefs, behaviour, preference, opinion, and intentions of a group concerning one or more specific subjects.
There are two types of questions in a questionnaire:
Open-ended questions: these types of questions offer respondents the freedom to voice their opinions and express their feelings in a free-flowing manner. For example “How would you change our product?”, “What did you like about our service?”. Not having options to choose from helps to avoid bias and get real answers from respondents.
Closed-ended questions: these questions offer respondents a range of options to choose an answer from. They are more straightforward than the open-ended questions because they allow respondents to answer questions quickly.
The downside to questionnaires is that for a variety of reasons, respondents may not be 100% truthful with their answers, and the more questions you have, the lower your completion rate will be. Therefore, it is best to build your questions to address the most relevant questions, keep them short, and should not take longer than 5 minutes to complete in order not to fatigue respondents.
The cost of printing hundreds of questionnaires and the amount of time required to distribute and collect them back can also pose challenges for researchers.
Interviews and Focus Groups.
Interviews and focus groups are techniques for collecting data, particularly about people’s experiences, attitudes, opinions, and motivations.
Interviews involve asking individuals or small groups questions about a topic, while focus groups are a more specific form of group interview where interaction between participants is encouraged. The person conducting a focus group plays the role of a facilitator – encouraging discussion– rather than an interviewer asking questions.
These methods of data collection allow observation of non-verbal communication and cues that participants may give, and not only what they say. Facilitators and interviewers also have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and new lines of inquiry if the need arises. The major limitation of these data collection methods, however, is that it relies on the willingness of participants to disclose information or discuss in a given situation.
Data Collection Apps With Offline Capabilities.
Data collection apps are mobile applications that make it possible to collect data through a smartphone or a tablet. The significant advantage of data collections apps is the possibility of gathering data offline and on-the-go, without losing anything.
The apps include forms that can be filled without internet access, and once you return to areas with internet access, the forms automatically synchronize with the online database.
Useforms, for instance, is committed to making working offline more efficient and not allowing poor network connectivity to affect your research work. With the Useforms mobile app, mobilized agents can continue gathering data at any location, whether there is an internet connection or not. Offline entries will be queued on the app and then uploaded once an internet connection is detected.
Online or offline, establishing an approach to data collection largely depends on your goals, objectives, and data requirements. What you need to know is the kind of survey you need or would like to deploy and then apply them appropriately to get actionable data.
Offline surveys are just as useful as online surveys. Data can be collected at any location without internet interference, and can easily be analyzed using the right tools.