Offline surveys are surveys administered through face-to-face interviews using tools that can function even when there is no Internet connection.
In technical jargon, this method is also known by CAPI methodology (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing), an agent completes the interview in person rather than via telephone or the web. Because of this characteristic, the survey tool has to work also offfline, allowing interviewers to collect data even in rural areas or where there is no data or wifi.
Interviews are collected using an APP for tablets or smartphones (or more rarely from laptop computers) that allows surveys to be collected offline, the data are then uploaded when a connection is available (e.g., at the end of the working day).
Why to use an offline survey
An offline survey is the ideal methodology for two scenarios:
- Interviewers recruit people to be interviewed at specific locations, such as shopping malls, stores, car dealerships, trade fairs, hospitals, or any other location where people on target with the survey purposes can be found.
- Interviewers are assigned specific contacts, go to their home or workplace to conduct a face-to-face survey. For example, to interview doctors at their offices, families at their homes, etc.
The use can be the most diverse and adapted according to the requirements of eacg survey project (as we have seen, by its nature will also be an offline survey project).
How to choose the best survey software for face to face interviews
The choice of the right survey software for face to face interviews is crucial. Here are the most important features to consider when you choose the CAPI survey software.
APPs for offline survey
Not all survey software provides a solution for conducting face-to-face surveys, and even fewer offer offline capabilities. Be sure that the survey software you selected includes both these features and a dedicated APP for these purposes.
Compatible APP with all mobile devices
The APP must be compatible with the most common devices, such as smartphones and tablets, both Android and Apple, regardless of their OS version.
Choosing a tool that offers an APP compatible with the most popular devices brings many advantages, such as the possibility of using interviewer-owned devices, or low-cost devices provided by the agency or organization conducting the research without offline survey.
APP you can download from Google Play or AppStore
Interviewers can independently download the APP to their own devices, eliminating the need to deploy pre-configured tablets or smartphones. This solution lowers costs as no investment is required to purchase dedicated devices.
Easy setup and good usability of the APP
When working with interviewers scattered throughout the territory, assisting them can become complicated and onerous. It is essential that the APP is easy to install and that the download of the questionnaire, the data collection, and the data synchronization are simple, even for interviewers not previously trained.
CAPI methodology can often be used in conjunction with other methodologies, for example the CATI methodology i.e. phone surveys or the CAWI methodology for online surveys.
For example, agents (CATI methodology) might preemptively schedule appointments via telephone with contacts and then conduct face-to-face interviews in place. Or, field interviewers recruit people to be interviewed by recording some data and then sending a link via email or SMS for the respondent to answer the questionnaire by themselves (CAWI methodology
Geolocation and background audio recording
The app must record the GPS location of each interview and background audio recording to allow supervisors to verify the authenticity of the interviews conducted.
Costs and sales model of the software
Some software charge for each face-to-face agent in addition to the main cost of the system.
This does not allow for a scalable cost since the number of agents may change from project to project, or face-to-face survey projects can be sporadic, making the initial investment unjustified.
Other software charge for the respondents’ APP. This is the most inconvenient solution as it complicates the download of the app.
Other software, such as IdSurvey, has a cost by completed interview and offer the offline survey APP for free. This solution allows a scalable solution with no fixed costs. In the case of IdSurvey, there are also no costs for the main interface.