Nielsen Survey – Ways To Collect Information


It’s Tuesday evening, you just got off work and went straight to the grocery store to pick up a few items. You stand dead smack in the middle of the aisle, staring into a seemingly endless array of juice flavors and combinations. Which product you ultimately decide to buy is interesting to more than just yourself. Your choice is also of interest to the Nielsen Survey.

You probably based your final juice decision on several factors, such as who the maker of the juice is, what the price of it is, what ingredients are in it, if those ingredients affect the environment, your allergies, your personal beliefs, your taste buds — you get the picture. Those specific whysbehind your final decision constitute your customer behavior, otherwise known as “Consumer Buying Power.”

Knowing and understanding the whys behind a customer’s decision is golden insight for manufacturers and businesses. Yes, what you buy and how you buy it is of prime importance to retailers around the world, because they want to learn how to better serve you.

That’s where the Nielsen Survey comes in. Nielsen, the company behind the survey, conducts more than 210,000 surveys a year throughout the United States, and also in more than 100 local communities where access, resources and information are limited or scarce. The surveys set out to gather, analyze and report on the habits, patterns and behaviors of individual consumers and their households.

Every year, millions of companies turn to that valuable market research to help them understand why customers purchase the services/products they do, how they perceive product developers’ images, how they prefer to shop (online or in-person) and a host of other behavioral factors. Companies can then take that data they’ve learned and figure out how to adjust their processes or revise their products accordingly.

In the end, the consumers are the winners. As the companies change to better serve buyers, consumers get the items they truly want, need and appreciate more readily available from the companies they like and trust.

So, let’s talk about what the Nielsen Survey is exactly, how it is conducted and why it is important.

What Is The Nielsen Survey?

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The Back Story

Nielsen Holdings PLC, known as a “global information, data and measurement company” based in New York City, New York, has been passionately helping business owners and corporations understand Consumer Buying Power and consumer behaviors for the past 90 years.

It was first founded in 1923 by Arthur C. Nielsen Sr., and in 2016, it was listed as worth $6.2 billion. Additionally, that same year, the American Marketing Association ranked Nielsen as the number one firm among the top 50 market research firms in America.

By using scientific analysis and research methods, innovation and technology, Nielsen consistently has delivered and implemented new methods of getting answers to the most common questions being asked daily by businesses, retailers, manufacturers, advertising agencies and media. Nielsen does this through its unique and proprietary tool called, the Nielsen Survey.

So, what is it exactly and how does it work?

The Nielsen Survey Explained

The Nielsen Consumer Survey — commonly called The Nielsen Survey — is a nationwide analysis based on the results of the more than 210,000 surveys it conducts annually in more than 100 local areas, just like yours and ours.

The survey collects information about consumers and what they are listening to on the radio, what they are reading in the newspapers, magazines and other publications, what advertisements they see and engage with, what brands they use every day, and if they are interacting with those brands in person, online or through some other means.

Retailers across the globe have come to rely on the survey to better understand what their consumers are reading, what they are listening to, what they are buying, where they are traveling to, what their kids are interested in and what they find most valuable.

How Is The Nielsen Survey Conducted?

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There are two primary kinds of Nielsen Surveys that ask consumers for their opinions. They are The Nielsen Consumer Survey (in the format of paper or digital diaries) and The Nielsen Telephone Surveys. Let’s examine how each of these are conducted.

The Nielsen Consumer Surveys

The Nielsen Consumer Surveys ask consumers to participate either by filling out a paper version in person or a digital version online. The surveys ask consumers and participants questions about their personal usage or opinions related to:

  • Types of entertainment
  • Geography
  • Vacation and travel
  • Holiday travel and plans
  • Daily shopping items
  • Interests they have
  • Media they see

The Nielsen Survey also asks consumers:

  • What types of newspapers or other publications they read
  • What types of music their family listens to
  • What movies they stream for family night
  • How many devices are located in their home
  • How many times a week they do certain activities on those devices, etc.

Often when consumers take part in The Nielsen Consumer Survey, they will receive a “television diary.” The purpose of this diary is to provide a stronger idea of what the people in that household watch regularly on television. This can be handy knowledge for local television stations in the area, along with any media outlets and local businesses.

The diary is a detailed record of what you watched at home on television that day — much like you would record a day’s happenings in a personal journal. The diary asks participants to record their TV watching habits over a consecutive seven-day period. This is critical to The Nielsen Survey process because those consumers who take part can represent hundreds, if not thousands or millions, of other consumers in their part of the country.

The Nielsen Telephone Surveys

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The Nielsen Telephone Surveys is similar to the Nielsen Consumer Survey, but is a little broader in scope.

The telephone survey asks consumers to answers questions via telephone only. All answers are recorded by a representative or sometimes an automated workflow. Questions asked are related to the survey taker’s lifestyle and living choices, education levels of household members, content and media preferences, and how that person accesses them (print or online.)

So, now you understand what the survey is and how it works, let’s talk about why it is important from the standpoint of both businesses and consumers.

Why Is The Nielsen Survey Important?

Businesses, Retailers, Corporations

As we previously mentioned, The Nielsen Survey is invaluable market research, whether it is in the form of the Nielsen Consumer Surveys or the Nielsen Telephone Surveys. Every business must use market research to better fulfill the needs of their customers, and that is why the Nielsen Survey is so popular.

Businesses can use that market research to find out:

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  • What is it about the competition that makes people want to buy from them repeatedly?
  • Why do consumers find your product/service so appealing?
  • What are the trends and insights into your industry?  Is it booming or is it being phased out?
  • Where can you tweak your existing products to provide more value, which means more profits?
  • What is the method for distribution of your services and products?

The Nielsen Survey allows businesses to dig deep into why consumers are using the competition’s products/services or your own. In order for a business to survive and grow, it has to have customers who find value and keep wanting to return — especially when competition is stiff.

When businesses take the time to ask customers what can be done to solve their everyday problems and bring them what they want and need, companies can then stay relevant and grow right along with their audiences.


Every one of us can make our voices heard and lead to companies offering us products/services that can help us or that just add to the noise. Smart companies are the ones that care about what you want and want to serve you better. That’s exactly why the Nielsen Survey has been around for so long.

As a consumer, you have buying power in this economy. If you are a survey taker, then you allow businesses, retailers and corporations an opportunity to understand who you are and what you do on a day-to-day basis, including how and why you come to your purchasing decisions. Through this, you can represent people in your community, making sure products/services improve for them, as well. That is a big responsibility and a very important one at that.

Companies examine the results of the surveys and diaries every year as they plan for the coming year. They put a great deal of stock into what you as a consumer want in the marketplace. Your experience with that company then becomes customized. That’s why your opinions matter!


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It is imperative for all of us to understand what consumers really want. Why? Because if we truly understand what they want, then we get what we want in return. Understanding preferences and behavior, gathering intelligence from a variety of sources and continuously acting upon them is what increases revenue and loyalty for businesses, retailers and companies around the world. The Nielsen Survey plays a pivotal role in that process and will, surely, for decades to come.

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