Mail Surveys and Paper Questionnaires

The U.S. postal system may seem a bit old-fashioned, but in many instances mail surveys provide higher response rates (and perhaps more representative results) than telephone surveys or online surveys. That is, if 100 households were surveyed by mail, phone, and online, it’s likely that a greater number of completed surveys would result from the mail survey. This is especially true if incentives are offered and if the topic of the survey is of moderate to high interest, such as the new car recently purchased, or the diamond engagement ring, or the music concert, etc. Mail response rates tend to be lower among downscale consumers, but this is also true for the telephone and the web.

Mail Survey Experience

Decision Analysts’ mail survey experts have managed and processed thousands of mail surveys from simple postcard invitations to online surveys, to multicell, in-home product tests, to major customer satisfaction monitoring studies, to large market structure studies, to global tracking studies. Capabilities include:

  • Postcard or letter invitations to an online survey.
  • Warranty card receipt and processing, online and offline.
  • Multipage paper questionnaires.
  • In-home usage tests.
Project Management

Decision Analyst provides complete mail survey services, including:

  • Sampling
  • Questionnaire design and layout
  • Tracking-identification coding
  • Variable inserts
  • Printing
  • Test product labeling
  • Test product packaging
  • Test product mailing or shipment
  • Insert, meter, and mail
  • Business-reply mail accounts
Mail Questionnaire Design and Layout

Since mail surveys are the original self-administered questionnaires, they need to be simple and easy to understand, with no skip patterns (if possible) and with a minimum number of open-ends. Decision Analyst has created hundreds of mail questionnaires over the years and prides itself on exemplary mail surveys. Decision Analyst’s mail survey design team can design the letterhead, postcards, questionnaires, and envelopes with your existing brand and logo or other graphics for printing.

When the informational needs of a project dictate a more complicated questionnaire design, Decision Analyst recommends programming the questionnaire online and then mailing survey invitations to potential respondents, inviting them to the online survey.


Decision Analyst utilizes Icion®, its proprietary, multivariate sampling and panel management software system, to simultaneously balance samples by geography, gender, age, income, and ethnicity with random selection of respondents within each quota cell.

All mailing lists are cleaned, dedupped, and assigned a unique ID before mailing. When appropriate, mail samples are cleaned via the NCOA database and CASS certification.

Survey Return Handling & Response Tracking

Completed questionnaires and forms are typically returned to one of Decision Analyst’s business reply accounts. Respondent participation is carefully tracked using Icion®. Once surveys are returned to Decision Analyst, the questionnaires go through editing, coding, and data entry processes, followed by data cleaning and quality assurance checks. Cross-tabulations come next, followed by analysis and reporting.

Logician® Online Reporting System

Decision Analyst’s Logician® Online Reporting Platform is one of the ways results can be delivered. As questionnaires are processed and the survey database is updated, clients can review topline results, generate real-time reports, run cross-tabs, and export results to Excel for charting and graphing.

Mail Surveys Versus Online Surveys

Mail surveys provide the widest reach, since almost everyone has a known mailing address. However, only a subset of the population may be reached by online surveys (not everyone is online) or by telephone surveys (not everyone has landline; answering machines screen calls; do-not-call list blocks many numbers, etc.).

Mail surveys are best for moderate- to high-interest product categories, where participants are most likely to respond to mail surveys.

When to use an Online Survey:

  • When the questionnaire is long and complex, involving skip patterns.
  • When the target audience is reachable via email.
  • When the results are time sensitive.

When to use a Mail Survey:

  • When the questionnaire is simple and easy to follow for respondents.
  • When you have time to wait for completed surveys.
  • When the audience is difficult to research by other methods.
Combined Mail and Online Surveys

A combined data collection approach is a solution to consider. In a combined mail and online research design, an invitation to an online survey is sent to respondents via the mail. This provides the reach of mail surveys and the questionnaire control of online surveys.

In-Home Usage Product Testing (HUTS)

Decision Analyst’s Mail Processing Department ships thousands of products each year to households in the U.S. and other countries so that those households may participate in home-usage product testing studies. Decision Analyst has evaluated thousands of consumer package goods and consumer durables using its American Consumer Opinion® panels, online research capabilities, and mail processing capabilities.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is exacting, and mail surveys are carefully monitored at every step in the process by Decision Analyst’s Quality Assurance Department. Before printing, all materials are carefully proofed by the Quality Assurance Department. Once the surveys are printed and inserted into the envelopes, they are inspected for completeness, matching IDs, correct product for the cell assignment, etc. As questionnaires are completed and returned, each questionnaire is checked against the original sample to prevent duplicates and uninvited respondents. Data entry accuracy is 99.95% (after data entry and 100% verification, the standard procedure).

Types of Mail Surveys
Decision Analyst

Decision Analyst is a global marketing research and analytical consulting firm with over four decades of experience in advanced research to help businesses become more successful.

Mail Survey Services

If you need assistance with a mail survey project, please contact Jerry W. Thomas, President/CEO, by emailing him at, or by calling 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.