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What you need to know about convenience sampling

Last updated

2 April 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Convenience sampling is an effective way to research and gather market and user experience data on a budget. It can give you valuable insights into consumer behavior, market trends, and competitive strategies without breaking the bank.

You can use convenience sampling to develop effective marketing strategies and tailor your product and services to suit the needs of your target audience.

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What is convenience sampling?

Convenience sampling is a popular type of non-probability sampling that allows researchers to collect information from the most accessible study participants. Businesses often resort to this type of research when they need quick results, wish to conduct a preliminary study, or are limited by time and financial resources.

For instance, a researcher studying the effect of a new drug may choose participants from a nearby hospital rather than from the general population. This location provides fast and easy access to qualified participants. Since randomized participant selection isn't necessary for this kind of research, the researcher can work with any patient willing to participate in the study.

Since convenience sampling allows for quick and easy launches, it's often used:

  • To test or generate a hypothesis

  • To get a feel for the market

  • For a pilot study

Also known as accidental, opportunity, grab, or availability sampling, convenience sampling differs from random sampling because the study participants aren't selected at random and don't have an equal chance of being selected from the general population.

How does convenience sampling work?

With convenience sampling, you can work with anyone who is available and agrees to participate. Ease of participant selection is one of the highlights of this research method. You can approach virtually anyone through any method and ask them to join your study. Because of this convenience, anyone can conduct a survey using this data-collection methodology.

Convenience sampling entails working with the most accessible or available participants within a population of interest. It involves choosing participants that you can easily recruit or access, based on factors such as:

  • Proximity

  • Availability

  • Access

For instance, if a local restaurant wishes to understand a college student's eating habits, the researcher can quickly recruit students from nearby colleges and universities. They can easily approach and recruit willing students on campus, or post an advertisement in the university's common areas or on their social media pages.

Why is it important for businesses?

Convenience sampling is appealing to businesses because it delivers quick wins without substantial upfront costs. It provides quick and easy access to crucial information about your prospects and customers. Working with willing, available participants lowers the cost of the survey while providing you with actionable data.

For instance, you could recruit participants from your social media platforms or customer database when testing a new product. The participants could provide valuable insights into your target market preferences and behaviors, enabling you to make informed decisions about product development and marketing strategies.

If you have limited resources or time constraints, convenience sampling is a golden opportunity for you. Startups and small businesses with limited budgets may use convenience sampling to collect valuable market data.

Similarly, companies that need to make quick decisions based on limited information may use convenience sampling to launch a pilot study to gather relevant data quickly.

Applications of convenience sampling

You may choose convenience sampling if you’re limited in time or resources and need to quickly get feedback or research results from the market or consumers.

Typical uses of convenience sampling include:

  • Pilot studies: You may use pilot studies to test the viability of a market or product before committing time and resources to larger, more comprehensive studies. Working with willing and available participants allows you to quickly gather preliminary data and assess the feasibility of a research design.

  • Online surveys: Online surveys lend themselves to convenience sampling as they are easy to distribute through social media or email. You can use online surveys to gather credible data on wide-ranging topics, including consumer behavior and political opinions.

  • Focus groups: You may recruit participants from your personal networks or online communities to participate in focus groups. Use convenience sampling to gather qualitative data from your focus groups on specific topics.

  • Medical research: Medical researchers often use convenience sampling to recruit participants in clinical trials and other medical studies. For instance, you may recruit patients from nearby hospitals and clinics who are undergoing specific treatment.

  • Market research: You may use convenience sampling to gather information about consumer insights, sentiments, preferences, and behaviors. It can help your business make informed choices about product development and marketing strategies.

Examples of convenience sampling

Gauging public sentiment following a product release

Following the release of their latest handset, a phone company may send a researcher to a phone outlet or have them participate in an online forum. The researcher can ask shoppers or forum members to participate in a short survey and record their opinions about the new phone.

The survey could include a questionnaire that asks participants if they bought one of the new handsets, whether they liked or disliked it and their opinions about specific features.

Soliciting feedback from employees

A company may use convenience sampling to gather employee feedback about specific company policies. They could distribute a questionnaire to collect data on how employees feel about the policies and what they think needs changing. This could help managers understand what employees value about working for the company and what they can do to create an enabling workplace.

They could send the survey as a company-wide email or post it on the firm’s social media platforms. Alternatively, they could hand out printed questionnaires to employees.

Running a pilot study

A business development manager may wish to test a theory about a new product line. They may use convenience sampling to gather primary data from prospects to understand how the target market would react to the product.

The study findings can offer insights into market preference and customer sentiment, and provide actionable facts to drive a data-backed decision. The manager may use the study findings to justify the budget and need to launch a full-scale research project.

Advantages of convenience sampling

Convenience sampling is widely used to conduct market research and data collection in the business sector because of its numerous advantages, which include:

  • Low entry bar: Unlike other research methods, anyone can use convenience sampling for their research project. You can easily conduct research on random volunteers nearby. The sample size is usually small and participants don’t need to have prior knowledge of the research topic.

  • Low cost and easy to implement: You rely on this sampling method when you need fast results and operate on a shoestring budget. It's an affordable, straightforward data-collection method. It can be as simple as posting a survey link on a social media platform, saving time and effort.

  • Great for a preliminary study: Convenience sampling offers relevant insights into your target audience, helping you understand their thoughts, beliefs, and values. By collecting initial findings about your customers and market, you can create base-level knowledge about particular opportunities and problems which your company can address in follow-up research.

  • Fast pilot data collection: It allows you to collect the data you need to make an informed decision quickly about whether full-scale research is warranted.

  • Few participant restrictions: The sample size comprises people who are readily accessible and willing to participate in the research. Choosing participants is a quick and convenient process with hardly any restrictions.

Disadvantages of convenience sampling

While convenience sampling is a quick and easy way to collect data, it has disadvantages. The main disadvantages of convenience sampling are:

  • Sampling bias: The researcher isn't required to build a representative sample and will often work with the most willing and accessible participants. Sometimes a researcher may subjectively choose the participants, which introduces a huge bias.

  • Selection bias: Working with the most willing and accessible participants will likely exclude many demographic subsets from the study. Since participation is voluntary, people passionate about the topic will probably be overrepresented in the data.

  • Can't generalize data: You can't make inferences about the entire target population because the sample size is unrepresentative.

  • Low credibility: A study based on a convenient sample lacks external validity unless replicated using a probability-based sampling procedure. While relevant, the findings from a convenience sampling study may lack credibility in the broader research industry.

  • Positive bias: The researcher may introduce positive bias by recruiting people closest to them. When working with a close friend or relation, people generally lean toward providing positive answers.

  • Demographic representation is skewed: The choice of the target population may skew the demographic data. For instance, if you pick your participants from a college, young people will be overrepresented while older people will be underrepresented.

How to reduce bias in convenience sampling

Convenience sampling introduces sampling and selection bias into your research. When a researcher works with readily accessible study participants, the sample doesn't represent the entire population.

Here are some ways to reduce bias in a convenient sample:

  • Define the target population: Clearly defining the population of interest can help ensure that your sample is representative. This can reduce bias and increase the study's usefulness. Researchers should make concerted efforts to obtain a sample that represents a miniaturized version of the study population.

  • Diversify your recruitment methods: Varying your recruitment methods allows you to build a sample with diverse participants. For instance, if you’re recruiting participants from a university, use different platforms for recruitment or advertise the study in different departments. You can also strengthen convenience samples by varying the days and times you collect data. This will give you access to a more representative section of the target population.

  • Set explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria: Polishing your inclusion and exclusion criteria can help you build a representative sample as you’ll be selecting participants based on specific characteristics instead of convenience. It introduces a probability-based sampling method into the study and may help build credibility and external validation.

  • Expand your sample size: Increasing the size allows you to capture diverse views and thoughts as you are surveying more of the target population. A large sample size helps control bias and uncertainty and offers deeper insights into data analysis trends.

  • Collect multiple samples: You may replicate the study with different sets of willing participants. Asking the same questions of other populations helps you capture more diverse opinions.

  • Include qualitative and quantitative questions: Using a mix of question types provides deeper insights to help you understand the views and opinions of your target population.

How to efficiently analyze convenience sampling data

You need to analyze convenience sampling data carefully, always bearing in mind that the sample is unlikely to be entirely representative of the study population.

Here's how to efficiently analyze convenience sampling data:

  • Identify potential biases: Accounting for potential sampling biases can help inform your ability to interpret the data. It can also help you minimize the effect of bias on the study findings.

  • Account for the study limitations: Acknowledge that you can't generalize the findings to cover a larger population. Also, consider how selection bias may skew the research findings.

  • Use descriptive statistics: Use descriptive statistics such as mean, median, and mode to describe central tendencies. Use the measures of variabilities such as range and standard deviation to measure the data spread.

  • Visualize the data: Visualizing the data using charts and graphs helps identify trends and patterns. Qualitative data answers easily lend themselves to trend analysis graphs.

  • Interpret the findings carefully: Use the context of the research questions and study objectives to interpret the results. Consider convenience sampling limitations and how they may affect your interpretation of the data.

If using a large sample size, you could divide it in half and cross-validate the two sections. Compare the findings of each to establish differences and similarities to gain deeper insights from the data.


What is an example of convenience sampling?

An example of convenience sampling is surveying a shopping mall. A researcher could approach available shoppers and ask them to participate in the study. This sampling method is quick and convenient as the researcher can effortlessly collect data from available shoppers willing to participate in the study.

Why is convenience sampling used?

Convenience sampling is a quick and easy method to conduct market research and other types of research when an organization is limited in time and resources. It's a quick, convenient way to gauge market sentiment before launching a new product, or to run a pilot study of a new market.

How is convenience sampling different from random sampling?

Convenience sampling is a non-probability sampling method where participants are selected based on availability and accessibility. Conversely, random sampling is a probability sampling method in which participants are selected randomly from the studied population.

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