9 Ways to Boost Response Rates for Online Surveys

Race car with back wheels off turning cornerLet’s face it: online surveys aren’t always the most exciting part of marketing research. Nevertheless, they are important in gathering data and getting answers to the questions you have been asking.

While there is no ‘standard response rate’ for online surveys, the fact of the matter is that more is better. High response rates means you can be more confident that the sample reflects the population you’re trying to study. So, how do we boost response rates for online surveys?

First, we should touch on the psychology of survey responders.

What motivates people to take online surveys?

Salience. If the person is interested in the topic, they are more likely to complete the survey.

Commitment or investment. Respondents complete surveys when they are personally connected to the success and improvement of the brand, its products and services.

Incentives. Whether it’s a thank-you gift, a prize draw, or loyalty points, people give you their time and like to receive something in return.

Reciprocity. A respondent may feel obligated to respond to a survey when its creator is a trusted or legitimate organization. If they believe effort and resources have gone into its creation, this person will want to ensure that it was worth something.

Knowledge sharing. These participants are interested in having their opinions heard in regards to a certain topic.

Social responsibility. Most people feel good about helping others. Many survey participants will feel a sense of duty to help.

9 Tips for Increasing Survey Response Rates

1. Keep it short. People don’t want to spend hours completing an online survey. Keep the survey goal in mind while creating your survey and your invitation emails.

2. Personalize your invitations and follow-ups. Use their name in your email, but only if you can do it correctly.

3. Offer to share the results. If this is possible, offer to give respondents an early copy of the amalgamated data. If they’re interested in the topic and knowledge sharing, this will get people to respond.

4. Explain what the data is being used for. Those who are interested in knowledge sharing or are committed to your brand want to know why the survey is important. This can even be done on individual questions. Don’t forget to spell out privacy protections – people want to know their information is safe to share online.

5. Offer an incentive. Token gifts, entry into a prize draw, or gift certificates can increase survey responses by a large margin. Consider donating money to a relevant cause for every survey entry. Most importantly, it should be relevant to your audience.

6. Ask for referrals. People who are invested in your brand or the topic of the survey can forward your survey to others – this may be necessary if you are looking for a very narrow group of respondents who may know others like them. Of course if you have controlled the sample to reflect the underlying population you won’t want to allow this.

7. Include your brand when appropriate. Respondents are more likely to respond to a survey when it comes from a reputable and recognizable brand. Get stakeholders to buy-in – a message from an executive may have more impact than from an anonymous research team member.

8. Target the right audience. This is a simplistic example, but if you’re looking for answers about burgers, you probably don’t want to advertise it on a vegan recipe blog!

9. Ask for help. People with a sense of social responsibility will be more likely to respond to a survey if the request is made in terms of asking for help. Add a phrase such as “Thanks for your help” to communications.

Photos by Tony Harrison and Luke Hertzfeld.

BuyerSynthesis brings consumer insights to food, culture and clothing brands and their agencies to refine product strategy, user experience and communications.

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