Conversational surveys: What are chats and how are they different from traditional online surveys?

1 October 2022 | 4 min read | Written by Jennifer Reid

Some people call them conversational surveys. Some refer to them as chat surveys or even chatbot surveys. Whatever you call them, conversational research is here—and it's to disrupt the market research industry. 

Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know about conversational surveys. 

What are conversational surveys?    

Conversational surveys (or "chat surveys" or simply "chats") are programmed, mobile-first surveys hosted through web browsers and distributed via social media networks (such as Instagram), SMS and mobile messaging apps.

The elements of a conversational survey: The elements of a conversational chat survey

Market researchers use conversational surveys to capture quant and qual data, as well as video feedback. Unlike traditional online surveys, these surveys use plain language as well as emojis, GIFs, photos, videos and memes to deliver a more conversational experience to research participants.

In addition to "chattifying" the questionnaire, conversational surveys feature a user experience that looks and feel like a text message to a loved one rather than a formal, test-like survey. 

Are conversational surveys just for B2C research? Not really. This approach of getting customer insights is also applicable to B2B market research studies. After all, B2B participants are still people! The tone can be adopted for your brand's unique personality and the audience you want to reach.

Also, conversational surveys are not just for Gen Z market research. Our research shows that people of all ages are receptive to this new way of providing feedback. 


Check out the video below for a quick overview of conversational surveys. 


Rethinking a market research tool for the mobile-first world

A growing number of research teams are adopting chat surveys as a way to engage their insight communities or to conduct agile research. Why?

For one, the participant experience in conversational surveys is much better than other online or mobile surveysWhile the typical survey tends to be clunky, too formal and impersonal, the chat experience is more conversationalThrough a mix of text, buttons, images, audio files and video, chats provide a more fun way for respondents to share their feedback.

A growing number of research teams are rethinking the traditional survey and adopting chats as a way to capture customer insight.  

Another factor driving the adoption of chats as an alternative to traditional  surveys is the popularity of mobile messaging apps and the growing email overload problem. Simply put, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people to participate in research using email-reliant research methods. 

Some demographics (like Generation Z) are virtually impossible to reach via email, for example. Many market researchers are looking for more modern and more effective ways of recruiting and continuously engaging consumers—and conversational surveys are proving to be an effective way of doing that. 

What makes conversational surveys unique?  

Chats and traditional online surveys are similar in one way: they both allow the collection of robust quantitative data and rich qualitative insights

That said, chats over a few significant advantages over traditional surveys 

  • Mobile-first: When we’re talking about chats, we’re not simply referring to mobile surveys. Whereas mobile surveys are essentially traditional surveys resized for mobile devices, chats are a complete reimagining of the research experience optimized for mobile. Everything from the UX to the tone used in chats are optimized for mobile-first users.   
  • Persistent and timely: Since chats are pushed through messaging apps rather than emails, people are more likely to respond. You can time deployment to capture real-time feedback while respondents are still in the midst of the experience you wish to examine. By leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile notifications, chats make in-the-moment research a reality for many companies.  
You can time deployment to capture feedback while respondents are still in the midst of the experience you wish to examine.
  • Conversational: A chattified experience that feels more like a conversation rather than an interrogation.  
  • Shorter: Unfortunately, many traditional surveys are long and arduous. Not chats. Because chats provide a better experience, research participants are more willing to agree to be contacted again. The high recontact rates mean there’s no need to ever send a long chat.  
  • A source of richer insights: Open-ended feedback can be requested as text, image, video, or audio—giving your insights more context and color. A study from our sister company Reach3 Insights found that video responses result to 700% more content compared to text-only responses.  

Getting user-generated videos through conversational surveys

Why do people love chats?

In a recent research-on-research study, an overwhelming 88% of participants told us they found the chat experience either “much more” or “somewhat more” enjoyable than other surveys they’ve taken in the past. Our data also shows chat surveys are seen as easy or slightly easier to complete than a traditional survey.  

Open-ended responses from this study revealed that respondents liked that chats felt more like a conversation with a friend or a family member rather than a survey from a faceless companySome research participants went as far as calling chats “the best survey” they’ve ever taken.  


Chat survey tools and conversational survey platforms, including Rival, allow insight pros to get robust quant and rich qual data while delivering a more seamless experience to participants. But at the end of the day, chats are more than just an evolution of online surveys — they are a significant leap in engaging today's modern mass consumer for insights. 

Try a conversational survey 👇

Conversational surveys are one of the most popular market research trends. But in many ways, they represent a much more significant shift in the market research industry.

Their popularity is a response to a growing expectation from consumers for a more meaningful engagement. They are a response for a need to finally acknowledge that market research is an important part of the brand experience. 

Curious and wondering why a growing number of Rival customers are adopting this new research technology?

Feel free to give it a try by taking this short chat on market research trends.    

Note: A version of this article was first published in February 2019. We updated the article with new information and stats related to conversational surveys.

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Written by Jennifer Reid

Co-CEO and Chief Methodologist at Rival Group

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