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Getting You Started


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Table of Contents

What is an Omnibus Survey..3

The Advantages of Using an Omnibus Survey......3

Using an Omnibus Survey to Study Specific Audience....5

Which is Better: Online or Telephone Omnibus Surveys?............................................................7

What to Consider When Choosing Between a Telephone or Online Omnibus Survey...9

Tips For Getting Started..10

Choosing an Omnibus Research Partner........11


As the pace of business increases while research budgets are tightening, marketing professionals are looking for more cost effective methods to quickly gain insights and answers without sacrificing quality. Many companies turn to omnibus surveys as a primary method of measuring public opinion and awareness. This guide outlines when and how to properly use these surveys.


An omnibus survey is a shared cost, multi-client method of quantitative research where data on a variety of subjects is collected during the same interview. Omnibus surveys are a way to get fast answers to questions (to conduct a poll or survey of your own) at a fraction of the cost of a custom study. The research firm designs the methodology, schedules the study, and each time the survey is done, asks a number of standard demographic type questions (age, sex, income, region of the country, etc.). Clients then submit their specific (usually from 3-10, but sometimes more) proprietary questions. They share costs and common demographic data collected from each respondent.


Cost is lower because clients share the common costs, the survey methodology is standardized, and the resources needed to conduct the survey (programmers, interviewers and researchers) can be pre-scheduled. Individually priced questions allow for adaptability to your budget. Timeliness - because omnibus studies are conducted in a time efficient manner and run on a set schedule. Responses to the questions are proprietary, belonging to each client individually. You share the costs, but not the results.

Omnibus surveys can be used many ways to support your business. Some uses include: New Business Pitches o Gain insight into your market & consumers to help build knowledge for a pitch. Test New Concepts & Messages o Learn what potential consumers think about your new concept and what messages resonate so you can effectively plan and execute strategy. Measure the Impact of a News Story on a Companys Reputation (either alone or to supplement a media audit) o Are the media mentions resonating with the public? Are they affecting attitudes? Validate Qualitative Research Results o Quickly & effectively validate your qualitative research with a quantitative study. Measure the Publics Awareness of Your Product or Brand o Understand how your brand & product is perceived in the marketplace and how effective your marketing efforts are. Public Relations o Help get your company (or companys client) in the news by conducting representative surveys for publications and PR activities.


An omnibus can be an effective way to interview certain targeted audiences, assuming they make up a large segment of the overall population. Unlike most do it yourself surveys, an omnibus allows you to conduct your own survey among a statistically valid and representative sample of the general public. Many surveys you see quoted in the media are conducted amongst 1,000 people; in fact many of those surveys are done in an omnibus. However, a sample size of 1,000 is not always necessary if you are interested in sub groups. If your target audience is a subset of the population (like men under 45, baby boomers, etc) a smaller sample of 400-800 is often all that you need. In addition, if you want to compare the reactions of different groups in the population (say those living in the Northeast compared to Midwesterners) an even smaller sample size of 75125 can be used to analyze or compare groups. You can use an omnibus to locate, or screen for, some of these sub groups in the larger sample of 1,000. You can target specific demographic traits (age, gender, education, income, etc) OR you can look to identify respondents using your own proprietary questions (laptop users, video game owners, people who fly more than once a year, etc). With studies that are run weekly, you can include your questions in multiple waves to increase your sample size. However, an omnibus is not a panacea. While you can screen for a group in an omnibus, keep in mind that your starting sample is 1,000 or 2,000 adults. If your target is only a small part of the general population, you will not have a large enough sample to reliably analyze the answers of your target group.

Rule of thumb for deciding if an omnibus is the best approach are: If the group you are targeting is at least 25% of the population or more, an omnibus will likely work (250 or more respondents out of one wave of 1,000). If the group is 10-25% of the population, an omnibus is a possibility (100-250 out of one wave of 1,000). If the group is smaller than 10%, an omnibus may not be the best choice (fewer than 100 per wave of 1,000).

Some examples of groups large enough to be surveyed through an omnibus are: Demographic screening o Gender (i.e. women only) o Region (i.e. Northeast, Mid-West, South, West) o Large age groups (i.e. baby boomers) Proprietary screening of larger groups o Car owners o Soft Drink Purchasers o Credit card owners o Cell phone users o Laptop users

Examples of groups that may be too small are: Small age groups (college age: 18-22) Individual states, cities, markets Extremely high income ($120K plus) Mothers of infants


The answer to this question depends on the goals and content of your survey.

Surveys using online panels are less costly, although there are some concerns. Random digit dial telephone surveys are still considered to be the best method of surveying the general population and some industry groups, such as the AAPOR (American Association for Public Opinion Research) who contends that online surveys should be used cautiously. In their view, the issue with online surveys is not simply because of coverage (not everyone is online), but goes to projectability. Most online surveys are conducted among panelsgroups of people who have agreed in advance to participate in online surveys. With these opt-in panels, there is no random selection of households (i.e. phone numbers) of respondents. Thus, in contrast to random digit dial telephone surveys, you cant legitimately cite margin of error (sampling error) for such surveys. It is this position that is at the root of some media organizations (including AP, New York Times, etc) reluctance to accept stories based on online surveys. Keep in mind that simply conducting a survey using the telephone is NOT the key element. It is the randomness of the sample vs. the self-selected respondents in a panel.

In addition to these concerns, online respondents may not be representative of all groups of the population. Online results can be different than results of a random telephone survey. One reason for the differences can be that online survey respondents simply take more surveys. The chart on the next page suggests that on average, online respondents take 12-17 surveys per month, while most telephone respondents (whether reached on a landline or a cell phone) have not participated in a study at all in the last 30 days.

Past Month Interview Participation Frequency: Online vs. Telephone Respondents



Online Vendor 1

Online Vendor 2

Unweighted n =






























How many surveys have you taken in the past 30 days, through any format such as by telephone, online, etc?


What is the primary purpose market research or media release? If media, strongly consider telephone. o What type of media is the target? Tech oriented media and USA Today are sometimes friendlier to online research. TV networks and most other newspapers tend to prefer telephone.

What is the available budget? Ultimately, choosing the research methodology comes down to a cost benefit analysis. o A telephone survey might be the ideal, but the less expensive online survey might be required by your budget.

What is the target universe? Are respondents easy or hard to reach? This may make the decision for you. Some groups are easier to reach via online panels, some via telephone.

Is one methodology better suited to the group you need to reach? For example if you are asking about details of internet or computer usage, online may make more sense.

What is being measured? If your questions require a long explanation of a product or concept, an online survey where respondents can read the concept themselves rather than hearing an interviewer read it to them, is likely better.

Will graphics or other visual stimulus improve the results? Online allows you to use visuals/pictures.


Clearly define the purpose of your survey. The last thing you want to end up with is a set of results that you cant use and defining the surveys purpose will help decide whether or not an omnibus will work and what data collection method (phone or online) is best. Questions you should try to answer include: o What is the goal of this survey? What do you hope to accomplish? o How will you use the data you are collecting? o Is the survey primarily for decision making or for public release? If it is for decision making, what decisions do you hope to impact with the results of this survey?

Keep the questionnaire focused. It is generally better to focus on one or two important objectives rather than creating a master survey. Once you have your questions outlined, try to prioritize them as need to know vs. nice to know.

Make sure your survey questions flow in a logical order. It is generally best to begin with broader based questions and then move to more specific ones.

Keep the questions simple and straight-forward. Survey respondents will not be as knowledgeable about your product category or familiar with industry terms and abbreviations as you are. If you need to use special terms or acronyms, define them for the respondent.

Use closed ended questions whenever possible. Closed ended questions give respondents specific choices, making it easier to analyze results. Closed ended questions can take the form of yes/no, multiple choice or rating scale. Openended questions allow people to answer a question in their own words. They can be great as supplemental questions, providing qualitative information and insights. However, for analysis, closed ended questions are generally better.

Keep rating scale questions consistent through the survey. Rating scales are a great way to measure and compare sets of variables. If you elect to use rating scales (e.g. from 1 5) try to keep them consistent throughout the survey.

Consider the need for skip patterns, branching and screening. For instance, if your questions are all about coffee drinking, you first need to screen out those respondents who never drink coffee.



Many companies say they offer some sort of omnibus service. Things that you should consider when choosing an omnibus service are:

Experience and Breadth of Offerings: Look for a partner that has a history of both omnibus and custom research, and offer both a telephone and online study. Such firms have no incentive to push your survey in a specific direction and can often provide needed advice and expertise.

Service Options Some firms offer only a bare bones service you provide the questions and the service fields them and gives you data (cross tabulations or a data file) in return. Others offer only a more expensive full service option, where the firm will write the questions and provide a written or graphic report. A few give you the choice, which you can fit to your needs. o For instance, if one of your omnibus studies consists of three or four questions you may not need a great deal of assistance. Other times, you may have a more complex study that can really benefit from your partners expertise.


To conclude, an omnibus is a shared cost, multi-client method of quantitative research where data on a variety of subjects is collected during the same interview. Omnibus surveys can be used in many ways to support your business. Whether it is for the new business pitch, to test new concepts, or measure public awareness of your product, an omnibus can help. The advantages of using an omnibus are clear. An extremely cost effective way in getting fast answers to your questions - you share the cost of the survey, but not the results. Individually priced questions allow for further adaptability to your budget. Since omnibus surveys run on a set schedule, you receive your results quickly. Unlike many do it yourself surveys, an omnibus allows you to conduct your own survey among a statistically valid and representative sample of the general public. When you are ready to use an omnibus survey, ORC International, a leader in global market research, has provided CARAVAN omnibus services for over 40 years.

About CARAVAN CARAVAN is Americas oldest and longest running provider of omnibus surveys. Our suite of omnibus services offers solutions for your ongoing market research needs. Our shared cost, multi-client omnibus approach allows for cost-effective research at a fraction of the cost of an ad-hoc study. Costs are based on the type and number of questions you decide to ask, so you can easily adjust your study to your budget. While you share sample, screening, and demographics with other clients, the results of your study are proprietary and belong only to you. Every questionnaire is thoroughly reviewed by our experienced research team. We look for things you may have missed and make sure we understand your intent. We return a questionnaire in our program ready format with our suggestions or questions, along with cost confirmation for your review and final approval. Once approved, your questions are programmed and tested, both by the programmer and research team. When you get your tabulations back, you can rest assured they have been thoroughly checked.

The CARAVAN Suite of Omnibus Services Includes: CARAVAN Telephone Omnibus ONLINE CARAVAN TEEN CARAVAN Small Business CARAVAN ONLINE CARAVAN International

For more information or to discuss your needs, contact one of our CARAVAN research specialists at