Omnibus surveys are a type of online survey that allows companies to conduct market research with a large number of participants while anonymously splitting the costs with other companies.

Most businesses use omnibus surveys to collect data on brand perception, people’s opinions on various topics, behavioral patterns, and other topics. This article defines an omnibus survey, explains how to conduct one, and its pros and cons.

What is an Omnibus Survey?

An omnibus survey is a form of market research where a large number of people are interviewed on a variety of topics. The questions that respondents answer spanning multiple brands, products, services, and even behavior.

Companies assessing their products or services or gathering behavioral data share the cost of these surveys, making them cost-effective. You can think of it as splitting rent with roommates but everyone gets their room.

Also, the survey results are not distributed to all of the companies that sponsored the survey. Instead, each company receives data specific to them.

Although an omnibus survey is designed to collect information on a variety of topics, you can use it to gain data insights on how a specific demographic views a given topic.

How are Omnibus Surveys Conducted?

Previously, omnibus surveys were conducted over the phone, but most survey agencies now collect data digitally. When conducting an online omnibus survey, you’re more likely to get accurate data, quick responses, and easy-to-interpret data representation like charts, infographics, and more.

The steps to conducting these surveys are simple: first, contact the survey agency, then submit the questions you’d like to ask the audience.

If you require survey participants, you will indicate it as your preferred demographic. Even if you don’t, the demographics of your respondents are usually collected.

Also, if you have the type of information you want to collect but no specific questions, you can choose from various survey templates owned by the agency.

Following question selection, the agency conducting the omnibus survey will combine all of the companies’ questions and design the questionnaire.

Next, the agency will distribute the survey to respondents, and the survey will be closed once the maximum number of participants has been reached. Finally, the data will be compiled and distributed to each company.

How is an Omnibus Survey Different from a Piggyback Survey?

You’ve probably heard piggyback surveys used in place of omnibus surveys a lot. Well, there is no difference between the two terms; omnibus and piggyback surveys are synonyms.

They operate on the same principle. Which is, different companies split costs to collect information about their products or services from a large audience via the same survey agency.

Processes for Running an Omnibus Survey

An omnibus survey is one of the most cost-effective and time-efficient methods of gathering information from a large audience. The following are the steps to conducting a successful omnibus survey:

1) Select a Survey Agency

The first step would be to select the survey agency that would conduct the survey. For example, the agency should ensure the survey data security, generate results promptly, and assess a large audience.

Also, the survey subscription fee should be within your budget. The whole point of conducting an omnibus survey is to save money. So, any agency that requires you to break the bank should be off your list.

2) Agency Proposal

Next, submit your survey objectives and needs, after which the agency will send you a proposal. Once you’ve decided on an agency, the next step is to learn how the agency plans to conduct the survey. 

When dealing with third-party market research firms, it is standard practice to request proposals. Most omnibus survey proposals include the number of questions and the audience size.

You will also be sent the subscription fee based on the size of your audience and the number of questions you have.

3) Setup A Meeting

After accepting the proposal, the next step is to schedule a meeting with the survey agency. This is to discuss the type of information you require and for the survey agency to provide you with additional insights on how to optimize your survey.

Of course, you can skip this section if you believe it is unnecessary. Especially if you already have a questionnaire prepared. It doesn’t even have to be a full-fledged meeting. It could be a quick chat or email to iron out the details of your market research.

However, if you don’t have a prepared questionnaire for your audience, you shouldn’t skip this stage. It helps you finalize the details of your questionnaire.

The survey agency will recommend questions for you based on your needs and outline the benefits of these questions for your market research.

4) Survey Design

The next step is to design your survey, which includes question order, survey aesthetics, and question format (multiple choice, tick, or text). When the agency has finished designing the survey, the draft will be sent to you for final approval.

If you have no objections to the draft, the survey will proceed to the next phase.

5) Survey Setup

After you have approved the designed survey, the next step is for the agency to set up the survey in their system alongside the other companies’ surveys. This includes randomizing questions, question logic, and other features.

This ensures that your respondents have a pleasant experience answering your questions. To obtain accurate information from respondents, your survey should be designed in such a way that it does not tire out your audience and avoids sequential bias.

6) Survey Testing

Before launching your survey, make sure it is suitable for the participants. Little errors like a white screen, misspelled words, poor grammar, and a long load time can make the survey experience tedious for your audience. This can further result in a low survey completion rate.

To determine the potential user experience with this survey, both the market research team and people outside the team should conduct this test.

7) Launch

After testing the survey and it’s clear of bugs or any other mistakes that will impact the user experience, the next phase is to launch the study.

Most agencies prefer to launch this survey on a smaller audience first, then analyze the data collected to gauge the expected results from the survey. Then they can fully launching the survey to the required audience.

8) Results, Analysis, and Representation

Once you collate the data from the respondents, the results will be compiled and sent to you. This result takes several forms, including a report, a raw file of the responses, and a visual representation.

9) Survey Conclusion

After receiving your survey results, the next step is to interpret them and apply them to your product, services, or research.

If you’re having trouble understanding the results, contact your survey agency for assistance.

Who is the Ideal Audience for an Omnibus Survey?

You should have an idea of your target audience before launching an omnibus survey. Even if you can’t pinpoint your target demographic, the survey company can recommend based on the information you need. 

If your research does not require a specific audience, the agency will still include demographic as a filter to categorize your results. You could also determine your audience using data from previous research similar to yours.

The demographic information you collect is determined by the market research you are conducting. However, for most surveys, these are the general ones: age, ethnicity, household income, gender, region, and level of education.

How Do You Source Respondents for an Omnibus Survey?

Typically, the survey agency sources the survey’s audience. These platforms have members who answer survey questions regularly.

The survey website notifies users that there is a new survey that fits their demographic, the users open the platform, take the survey, and it automatically records their responses.

When the required number of respondents has been reached, the survey is closed, and the results are compiled and sent to you. Some agencies allow you to view live results as users complete the survey, allowing you to track the progress of your survey.

How Often Do Omnibus Surveys Run?

Surprisingly, survey agencies conduct omnibus polls around the clock. Most survey platforms schedule surveys for their users to have the time to complete them, so the surveys are completed quickly.

To test the reliability of your omnibus survey, you may need to run it more than once; quarterly or monthly. As a result, if you notice a change in the data trend, you can repeat the test to ensure the survey results are accurate.

Also, most survey agencies will provide you with previous survey data to show the expected data.

When to Use an Omnibus Survey

Here are the three best situations to use Omnibus surveys:

1. Quick Responses

Omnibus is a great survey option if you want to gather feedback on your product or conduct a quick study of people’s habits. It allows you to reach your target audience and collect data more quickly than other survey methods.

The results of most omnibus surveys are usually available within a day or two of the survey’s launch.

2. Defining Your Target Audience

The omnibus survey is suitable when you figure out your customers. For example, if you sell skin care products, you might notice from your survey results, that most men buy only moisturizers while women buy both cleansers and moisturizers.

This outlines that the target audience for cleansers is women, not men. Also, an omnibus survey could reveal the age group and household income of people who find your product affordable or expensive.

3. Product Perception

Omnibus surveys provide information about how customers perceive your products. So it tells you whether or not your product is suitable for your target market.

It may also indicate whether or not your customer finds your product appealing. If you want to change the look of your product, for example, it will help you determine whether your target audience likes the new look.

What are the Key Advantages of an Omnibus Survey?

1. It’s Cost-Effective

The most peculiar aspect of an omnibus survey is that it allows you to split the costs with other businesses. The omnibus survey allows you to assess a larger audience without incurring the high cost of conducting separate surveys.

2. Fast and Simple Data Collection

Omnibus surveys are user-friendly, as they do not overwhelm the respondents; they are typically multiple choice or tick questions.

You also don’t have to worry about designing your survey or finding participants because the survey agency will handle these tasks for you. So it is not only fast and user-friendly but also time-efficient.

3. Reliable Data Collection

Data collection with an omnibus survey is simple, and because it is conducted periodically, it allows you to detect new trends in results. It also simplifies and reduces the cost of data collection and comparison.

What are the Disadvantages of an Omnibus Survey?

1. Long Survey Duration And Inaccurate Results

An average omnibus survey contains more than 50 questions, which can be exhausting for respondents. Long surveys typically result in a lower completion rate or inaccurate responses because respondents start answering the questions mindlessly.

Most survey platforms include quality check questions to ensure respondents are paying attention to the questions to prevent inaccurate results. In addition, most survey platforms include a  ±5% margin of error.

Examples of an Omnibus Study

Most respondents taking an omnibus survey may not even be aware that they are taking an omnibus survey because most agencies separate these questions into matching categories.

Example 1

For example, company A wants to know what people aged 20 to 35 think about beer cans, and company B wants to know what people think about sun-tan lotion. While Company C is interested in changing its shampoo bottle packaging to a more environmentally friendly option,

The survey agency will randomize the question in a way that the beer can survey will go to the audience who are interested in drinks, while sun-tan will go to participants that have shown interest in skin care.

Most companies even go as far as including product ideas in the survey, so the audience has a perspective they are taking a sponsored survey for a product.

Example 2

Company A wants to manufacture queen-size beds but does not know who its target market is. Company B wants to know what price range people over the age of 25 find affordable for rent. Also, Company C sells interior decor and is interested in the demographic of people who like humidifiers and marble wallpaper.

The omnibus survey will be tailored to the audience so that it appears as if they are taking a survey about furniture, rent, and interior design rather than separate surveys.

These surveys do not have to be submitted at the same time; the survey agency will customize the questions for the participants.


An omnibus survey is a low-cost and quick method of conducting market research. It also provides you with assess to a large audience to conduct your research regularly.

Omnibus surveys are most suitable when you need quick responses, reliable data (including historical data), behavioral data collection, and discovering your target market at a low cost.

  • busayo.longe
  • on 10 min read


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