The cost of online survey software – Free, Basic and Premium Accounts
If you type ‘survey software’ into Google, you will find several alternatives – for example, Qualtrics, SurveyToGo, QuestionPro, SmartSurvey, SoGoSurvey, SurveyGizmo, SurveyMonkey, SurveyPlanet and SurveySparrow. If you type in ‘free survey software’, you will probably find the same list of products. However, finding the price of a survey software platform can be more complicated than you might think. This blog article investigates the pricing of nine products as at the date of this blog post. This review covers these first nine searches in Google that came up for me.
Before starting, I would like to admit that I have a vested interest in this information myself as we are resellers of Snap Surveys. I would call Snap, a professional tool for online surveys and online analysis. I will cover this more towards the end of the article.
The 9 Product Comparison
What you get with most products
Most products will offer a limited free version. However, unless you wish to conduct a survey on behalf of your club, amongst your friends or you only run one or two small surveys each year, these free offerings are likely to be wholly inadequate for commercial purposes.
How do I know what features are included?
Some software suppliers will detail their features at length; others will leave this information in vague terms. Most suppliers have three or four price bands which start with a free limited version up to a basic version (which may not be called ‘basic’) and up to a more advanced version which has all the features that are on offer. I have to confess that I do not particularly like some of the offerings that only give you access to the more essential features in the pricier packages.
The Free Versions *
The free versions almost always have massive limitations; they are only for testing in many cases. These limitations are mostly the number of questions that can be asked, and often the number of respondents that can answer your survey. Unless you are conducting a small, one-off survey, they offer little more than the chance to get a feel for what the software is like to use. I did notice that Qualtrics spelt out that the fact that they did not recommend the free version for commercial use – that ticks a box for me.
The Basic Versions
Now it gets harder. Knowing what features a product includes in a base version and the full version is sometimes hard to ascertain. As a general, if somewhat vague, guideline, I would consider the base version as one that is good enough to handle some surveys, but possibly lacking when it comes to being able to conduct most surveys, particularly for a market research agency.
The Full Versions
The full version comparison is yet again complex to explain. What one package offers as a feature in the top-end system may be inferior to what another offers in the base package. The sorts of things that tend free and base versions suffer from are only basic routing, no randomisation of questions and answers, limited or no analysis features and an inability to output data as you want it. However, you will need to explore whether the features you need are present, but I can offer more help on that after the nine product reviews.
Some packages offer only one user, some offer 3 or 4 users. You would have to inquire further to find out if these are concurrent users or individuals. Having a one user licence is, in my view, too restrictive and sharing a login may break the conditions of your licence.
So, let’s get started with the overviews of pricing packages. This article is an update on reviews that I carried out in early 2019. Where relevant, I have made comparisons to my 2019 review. To show no preference, I have covered each product in alphabetical order. Where I have quoted monthly pricing, they assume you are signing up for a year unless otherwise stated.
In 2019, Qualtrics offered a cut-down evaluation version. Their focus now appears to be to engage you in an online demonstration. There are no indications of the pricing points. I have no doubt the Qualtrics software is full of excellent features, but the website is very corporate-looking and packed with information that either hides or does not reveal details. Maybe, if you do a lot of reading on the website, you will get enough information to decide whether it is right for you. In some senses, the website seems to cover all bases. It’s a bit like someone turning up for a job interview and telling the interviewer that they are an expert at everything. I am sure it has many strengths, but the website aims to give you the impression that is perfect for whatever you want to do. I find that hard to believe. I guess you will have to face that demo and hope it is time well spent if you want to find out.
QuestionPro’s website is much easier to explore. It tells you about the software from the moment you arrive. In terms of pricing, though, things have changed since early 2019. You can run surveys with as many questions and respondents as you want for free! That’s a generous offer except that you don’t get access to too many features, but it, at least, means you can explore the software to see what it offers. The Base version now costs USD85 per month, which is still reasonable, but then comes the unknown bit. If you want all the security tools, proper control over data and analysis, you need the Enterprise version. Guess what. Instead of the price, the message is ‘Let’s Talk’. QuestionPro may be better or worse value than two years ago. I fancy it is more expensive. Although there is a lack of detailed information on the website, you feel that there is a good degree of honesty about what QuestionPro offers.
SmartSurvey has four price points. The free version allows up to 15 questions per survey and up to 100 respondents per month. Again, this would be enough to evaluate, but, again, most features are not available. The first price point (called Professional) seems to have too many features removed to be good enough for most users, but is cheap at GBP360 (about USD470) per year for one user. The Professional version no longer has a limitation on the number of respondents and, therefore, offers a good starting point for trying as a live test. To get most of the full features, you probably need to go the next price point at GBP720 (about USD940) per year for one user. There are ‘team plans’ for multiple users, but this leads you to a form so that you can discuss privately. Why so much secrecy, I wonder? Annoyingly, for the full version (The Enterprise version), you go straight to the dreaded form so that they can contact you. The pricing looks reasonable. There seems to be a good range of features and the Professional package, lets you explore inexpensively.
I gave SoGoSurvey a poor review last time. Maybe, they read what I wrote and reacted. If so, good work, SoGoSurvey! Their website is much clearer about what is on offer. Pricing goes in five steps from free to a fifth category which remains a mystery – or, as they put it, ‘Tailored For Your Business Needs’. The other price needs are clear, although professional researchers will need, at least, the fourth of these price points, I suspect, which is USD99 per month. I think it’s safe to assume that this is for one user. When reviewing this at the last moment, I noticed that I could switch from ‘Personal Plans’ (so, yes, it is for one user) to ‘Business Plans’. I was disappointed to find, though, that all pricing under ‘Business Plans’ is a secret. However, if you want to know what features you get for each of the five price points, SoGoSurvey, to their credit, give you loads of detail – arguably, too much. You can scroll through a whole bunch of information and check that the features you need are there even if you are likely to have switched off after hitting so many ‘Page Down’ buttons.
SurveyGizmo still offers a free trial version for three small surveys. It’s not clear which features are available for this version. I suspect not many. It comes in four price bands which start at USD22 per month and rise to USD131 per month before you hit the fourth and secret price of their Enterprise version. To be fair, their ‘Full Access’ version for USD131 per month looks fairly complete and, assuming their definition of ‘advanced questions’ matches my definition of ‘advanced questions’, their second-tier offering at USD74 per month looks good value. In terms of information, it’s low on detail and more about buzzwords, hoping, I suspect, that Google will guide you to their website. There really isn’t much to see if you visit the website.
SurveyMonkey has succeeded in becoming a well-known survey tool for non-specialists. The website is like the Qualtrics website in that it does not tell you too much about the software and tries to cover all the different types of surveys you might want. The aim is probably to attract Google searches rather than provide detailed information. There is a free version, but I couldn’t find any details. After that, you come to personal plans and business plans. The personal plans start at GBP32 (about USD40) per month, although you probably need the Premier version to get all the features you need for GBP99 (about USD130) per month. For a small one-off survey, there is a GBP99 licence. The business plans are priced at GBP225 (about USD290) for three users per month. For more users, you get into the murky world of Enterprise licences and discussions with the vendors, but, as you have seen, this seems to be the norm.
As in 2019, I had difficulties with the offering from SurveyPlanet. They describe the features in vague terms. It was not easy to discern what each pricing level offered. The free version had a list of these vague features, although I was impressed that you can have unlimited free surveys with unlimited respondents. The first price point comes in at USD180 per user per year. This price is ridiculously cheap, If all the features are as good as they could be, it offers magnificent value. Somehow, I suspect it is lacking for people wishing to do anything but basic surveys. I looked at the Examples page and still felt that I knew little or nothing about this offering. Maybe, it is the right product for some, but it doesn’t appear to be suitable for market research agencies.
I thought at first that SurveySparrow did not have a free version, but hidden at the bottom of the pricing page, I discovered that I could run surveys with 10 questions collecting data from up to 100 respondents per month. It’s not clear what features are restricted though, probably most. There are five other price points. You probably need the third level to get enough features for even a basic survey. This level has a price of USD588 per year, which is reasonable. The next level up is their Business version which allows two users to use the software for USD1788 per year. There is then a big jump to the Enterprise version at USD5988 per year for ten users with the Elite version remaining one of those secrets that software vendors seem to love. The website lacks some detail, but gives examples of most of the things that it can do, for which I, for one, would commend them. I also liked the clarity, honesty and approach of this company; I was just a little unsure how far up the price range you need to go.
I liked Dobloo’s SurveyToGo website in terms of the information that it provides. It doesn’t give you long lists of features and gets to the point about what each level of licence offers. The pricing looks very competitive at USD1340 for 6000 interviews. This pricing invitingly includes unlimited surveys, users, questions – everything except the number of interviews. However, you have to look at the add-ons. Storage of 1Gb then costs you an extra USD99 per month, and if you exceed 6000 interviews, the price per interview does not drop too much. The first 6000 interviews cost USD0.22 per interview. If you expand to 120000 interviews, the price per interview only drops to USD0.18 per interview – and don’t forget the increased storage fees. You get the feeling that you are dealing with a good, professional software product, but the pricing looks uncompetitive, particularly if you run surveys with large sample sizes or a lot of surveys.
What about MRDC’s offering of Snap?
So, where does this leave us as vendors of Snap? I have tried to be objective in appraising these other software packages. They are, in some ways, competitors, but, in many other ways, they are not. I noticed some significant differences between the above nine products and Snap.
In summary, here are my observations:
- Snap has no free version unlike most of the nine products covered
- You can, however, get a free trial of a fully-featured version of Snap. There are no restrictions as long as it is for evaluation purposes.
- Many of the above products stop at data collection and have limited analysis tools.
- Most of the above products have no reporting/charting tools.
- Many of the above products are not mainstream ‘market research’ products, so they do not link data to market research formats such as SPSS and Triple-S.
- Snap has an entry price of USD1200 per year charging extra for completed interviews. These are priced competitively compared to other mainstream market research online data collection tools.
- Snap has a comprehensive set of tools for data handling, tabulations, charting and reporting. I suspect the nine reviewed products cannot come close to matching what Snap offers.
- Snap is not restricted to online surveys – paper surveys, CAPI**surveys can also be handled from the same package at no extra cost.
** CAPI = Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing – an interviewer using a tablet or other devices conducts an interview face to face with someone – e.g. at their home, in the street, at an exhibition
Is Snap right for you?
I recently encountered a post on LinkedIn when someone asked ‘how do I choose the right tabulation software?’ My reply was not to say that ‘our software is best’, but to reply – look at three things – whether it feels right, whether it will make you or your company productive and whether it is priced right. Snap may not be for you, but it might feel right, make you more productive than some other products (which may be cheaper or dearer) and, I think, is priced about right. But, you tell us what you think.
The data collected for the 9 products that have been reviewed have been made with ‘best intentions’. I have not read every word of every website. Understanding pricing information and caveats can be difficult on some websites as well as understanding the features included. If anyone feels that there is inaccurate information, I will gladly correct it with a note to acknowledge the error or misunderstanding.