Data collection: electronic or manual?

This week’s blog is a guest blog posted by Consider Digital, an online marketing company based in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.  They shared with me some insights based on their experiences in data collection, considering the pros and cons of digital vs. paper-based market data collection.  These are important points for anyone in the early stages of considering how to go about collecting customer or supplier data.

Data Gathering – Paper Based vs. Electronic Data Collection

Data gathering can be carried out in a myriad of ways. Among them are Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI or “electronic”) and Paper and Pencil Interviewing (PAPI or “paper based”). These methods come with their very own set of advantages and disadvantages. PAPI is a more traditional method that involves questionnaires or surveys in paper form whereas CAPI is a newer and more popular method that involves tools like tablets, smartphones or laptops to record responses. Although CAPI is gaining popularity today, PAPI may still be the right choice in certain situations.

Here is a list of pros and cons to help you make the best decision:

Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI or “electronic”)


  • Data gathering through electronic tools is most effective when the data generated through a well-constructed questionnaire can be fed in for analysis directly without any need for further data cleaning.
  • Studies have also shown that electronic tools generate a much higher response rate and allow researchers to connect with a vast population regardless of their location.
  • Data entry and integration is fast, information gets stacked and processed for real time usage. Electronic tools eliminate the need for manual intervention and minimize human error.
  • It’s easy to modify the surveys based on the real-time feedback. Electronic tools allow for flexibility to make changes quickly and send the survey back into the field without waiting for an entire cycle of surveys to end.
  • When the cost of initiating an electronic survey that requires large overheads is compared to the magnitude of the survey’s reach, the cost-per-response is significantly lower compared to other alternatives. Avoid the hassle of hiring employees to carry out electronic surveys; Dattel will do it for you. Click here ( to ASEAN’s leading face-to-face data collection service provider that utilizes tablets, digital tools and artificial machine learning systems to collect the true voice of the respondents across a vast urban and rural gamut. To date, Dattel has more than 310,000 unique and verified respondents, over 250 full time Field Data Associates as well as over 40 quality assurance officers across 3 countries. Real-time data collection and analysis has never been easier.


  • Poor communication connectivity can be the most debilitating liability when it concerns areas that lack the adequate infrastructure. Electronic tools cannot be used to administer surveys effectively in areas that don’t have sufficient internet connectivity or access, and this will negatively impact the process.
  • The lack of familiarity with electronic tools on the part of the researcher and respondent can cause major hiccups when it comes to answering and administering surveys correctly. Also, complete reliance on electronic tools may hinder researchers from carrying out surveys in areas where respondents may be uncomfortable with these devices.

Paper and Pencil Interviewing (PAPI or “paper based”)


  • Even though wireless infrastructures are rapidly spreading everywhere and low cost mobile device usage is at an all time high, the lack of familiarity with electronic tools among respondents and poor communication connectivity makes paper based surveys the most reliable option. Most respondents of any sample are highly likely to be familiar with paper-based information. This method may very well elicit the best response when it comes to respondents that are not tech savvy.
  • It is also less expensive as it requires a lower overhead cost and more often than not, don’t require an initial investment.
  • Electronic tools require researchers to be adequately trained to use the devices correctly so as to not impede the data collection process. Whereas, paper based tools require little to no training.
  • This also means a potentially higher reach spanning the most remote and sparsely populated areas that are sometimes left out because of poor power supply and internet connectivity.
  • Paper based tools are almost completely devoid of technical glitches like tablets losing power due to a finished battery or laptops hanging due to overuse.


  • It takes a lot of time to transfer information from the point of collection to the center of data assimilation and analysis due to the manual nature of the process. It can be very time consuming to administer paper-based surveys and this is inevitable.
  • Data entry can bring about human errors that can’t be avoided. Digitizing information collected on paper based surveys and analysis allows for erroneous entries. The lapse of human attention is a drawback, which may make electronic tools a better alternative.
  • Paper based surveys mean unnecessary bulk if there is a need to retain records. Also, record retention and recall is a challenge. Sheets of paper can suffer wear and tear during transit and storage.
  • Another challenge is logistic difficulties that are encountered when surveys are mailed and respondents are less than willing to complete the survey and make the extra effort to return it.

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