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

Jennifer Reid
President and Chief Methodologist

Some people call them conversational surveys. Some refer to them as chat surveys or even chatbot surveys. Whatever you call them, market research platforms that capture conversational feedback are set to disrupt the future of our industry.   

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

Re-imagining a popular (and mostly useful) market research tool    

At Rival, we refer to conversational surveys simply as “chats”. These are programmed surveys hosted through web browsers and distributed via social media networks (such as Instagram), SMS and mobile messaging apps  

A growing number of research teams are rethinking the traditional survey and adopting chat surveys as a way to capture customer insight. Why? For one, the respondent experienceWhile 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?  

kelloggs-chatChats 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 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: Chats leverage the same channels that people use to talk to their friends and family every day. The experience 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. 

Finally, if you’re curious about chats and wondering why innovative companies are adopting this new research technology, feel free to give one a try!    

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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