Having previously discussed the background to using age groups in surveys, demographic questions and the pros and cons of demographic segmentation in the first of our two-part series look into 'Age Groups for Surveys' we will now examine some of the reasons why researchers and marketers typically ask respondents for their age in surveys.
As we touched on briefly in the first instalment, given the differences in life experience between different age groups, as well as people’s changing tastes and behaviour as they get older, it can be very useful to include a survey age question. This difference between the age groups, where people born around a similar time and within a particular generation, typically share some similar characteristics and ways of thinking, is the reason why marketers segment their target market on the basis of age.
Through surveying age ranges and using appropriate survey questions to identify the age demographic of the people who took your survey, you can potentially gain a lot of valuable detail during analysis of their feedback to reveal if there is a strong correlation between age and subsequent opinions and behavioural traits.
For example, if you were an owner of a growing café chain and sent out a survey to better understand the preferences, lifestyles and behaviours of different customer age groups, you might find on reviewing feedback from your 21-30 age group category, that your typical customer for this age group looked like the following:
'Female. She eats out once or twice a week and spends most of her free time on Instagram looking at brunch bloggers'.
What can you learn from this?
That people aged people 21-30 year old, particularly those that are female are generally more likely to eat out often and find out about new places to eat via social media sites like Instagram. Consequently, if the survey data showed that this group was also eating out more often compared to other age groups, the café owner may decide to increase marketing efforts towards this demographic, using their preferred social media channel.
Not only can including an age question on a survey enable you to tweak how you market an existing product or service to different age groups based on their behaviours and preferences, it can also be hugely beneficial in guiding you in the run up to a new product or service launch, ultimately helping to maximise its success.
For example, let’s say you decided to run a concept evaluation survey, to get feedback on a new product concept, either through your existing customer contacts, or through a consumer panels service, if you didn’t have enough of the right audience or demographic targets within your existing contacts.
Before issuing your survey, it might be that you already held some initial thoughts about the ideal target age group for your product, based on secondary market research of similar solutions.
However, having issued your concept evaluation survey and analysed its feedback you might find that you’ve had a greater and more enthusiastic response to it from a different age group to that which you had originally expected. And it could be that the suggestions from this group about how to further improve your product, or even alternative ways about how it could be used, might result in you changing direction completely, and ending up with an even better product targeted to this alternative age demographic.
What can you learn from this?
That running a survey, asking the right questions and segmenting it according to age should be a crucial activity in the lead up to the launch of a new product or service, if you’re to maximise the interest in it when it reaches the marketplace.
How to ask for age in a survey
Having done all your research into the age issue and taken the decision to run with a questionnaire age question, you need to think about how to ask age questions in your survey.
While it might seem simple question to ask, there are a number of things to consider when it comes to the survey question about age. Not only can this question be quite sensitive for some people, there can also be all sorts of ambiguities and documented sources of error, depending on the various ways in which you might ask it.
Fortunately, there are some best practices guidelines when it comes to survey questions around age.
When asking for age or an age category in an online survey, try to avoid using drop-down menus for response options.
If you’re asking for the year of birth, you must ensure that respondents provide all four digits.
If you decide on an open-ended box for respondents to insert their age or year of birth, you need to provide explicit instructions and examples about appropriate ways to fill in the box.
Finally, when it comes to how to ask about age in a survey, don’t just blatantly come out with ‘How old are you?
However, one of the more common ways to group age groups in a survey is to use a closed question, where respondents are asked to select their age from a range of age group categories, presented in a format similar to the following:
What is your age group?
18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 or over
This approach is also valuable if you’re a marketer who is looking to segment their target market on the basis of their age groups.
If you’re relatively new to surveys and would like to see some examples of how to present the age group or any other demographic question types, then you might like to view our library of online survey templates.
Why it's worth asking your respondents the ‘what is your age survey question'
While we recognise the value of keeping most surveys short and concise, which can be the argument used by some people to say that the ‘age question’ is an unnecessary distraction that just adds further length and complexity to a survey, we believe its benefits outweigh any potential shortcomings. While it can be a sensitive question for many, if handled in the correct way, the insights you stand to gain from asking respondents the age question after you’ve analysed each age groups’ feedback for correlations or common themes can be hugely valuable in informing future decision making and bringing your organisation even greater success.