Online Survey Diaries Explained

Although most consumers have heard of traditional phone, paper and online surveys, there is another type of market research used by companies who are searching for a more detailed analysis of certain products or services.

Panelists using online survey diaries gather this information for the companies and businesses in an efficient manner. For instance, a respondent may be asked to keep track of purchases made every day for two weeks. Most times the participants are provided with a special recording device to be sent back to the survey company at the end of the study.

How Online Survey Diaries Work

When companies are looking for feedback about their products they generally start with an online survey, which is sent out to panelists who match the demographic that they are interested in obtaining results from. After completing the survey, respondents who fit a certain profile may be contacted for further studies.

For example, a beverage company will start with a general online survey to determine what, when, and how many of their product compared to their competitors that an average businesswoman might drink. If a panelists mentions she drinks 6 cans of soda each day, they may contact her to ask if she is interested in keeping a diary of her drinking habits for two weeks.

If the panelist agrees, she will be sent an electronic recording device such as a palm pilot or mobile phone that is programmed specifically to only log beverages and store this information. Return packaging, labels and information are sent along in the first package so panelists should be sure to keep everything until the end of the study.


The rewards for these types of surveys are higher than for traditional online surveys. In the above example, the businesswoman would most likely receive a small gift card along with the recording device at the beginning of the study as a first payment. Then after the survey is closed (typically four to six weeks later) and she has returned the recording device, she would receive a deposit of a large number of points into her online account and perhaps another gift card, this one having a higher denomination that the first one she received.

Companies are willing to pay bigger rewards for these types of surveys, yet they are also expecting panelists to stay committed throughout the study and provide them with high quality feedback. Participants are expected to carry the diaries with them at all times and record each action they take pertaining to the survey. This is why more points, gift cards and higher incentives in general are paid out.

Why Companies Use Online Survey Diaries

Online survey diaries are ideal for tracking products that consumers use throughout the day. Typical surveys in the past have included items such as beverages and snack foods. It makes sense for business to pay more to track the habits of their typical customers in this way.

Traditional surveys can only gather so much information, because if the online surveys get too involved or take too long for a small incentive then many survey-takers get frustrated and don’t complete them. So by starting with an online survey, companies can select panelists who already use the product they want further market research on and offer them an opportunity to receive more rewards through more detailed feedback.

Focus groups are another way that companies can get specific details on the day-to-day habits of consumers, but supplying panelists with devices so they can give immediate feedback throughout their day eliminates a certain amount of estimating and uncertainty that a respondent may provide in a focus group. Online survey diary research has many benefits and rewards for both the product manufacturer and the consumer.