How to minimise online survey fatigue and maximise response rates

Recently I listened to an interesting ESOMAR snack webinar called ‘Top Tips to Minimize Survey Fatigue” prepared by Confirmit*.

A highly topical issue for any market research company, I was curious to hear what tips were given and I was positively pleased to discover that Research by Design is already using a vast majority of the examples that were mentioned in the webinar.

So, what it is that RbD actually does to ‘fight’ the survey fatigue and maximise online survey response rate:          

Email invitation and email schedule

Tailoring of email invitations

- Personalisation – Adds the benefit of making it appear less like a ‘spam’ or an untargeted message.
Email ‘from’ name – As it is usually the first thing that respondent will see, it is important to use familiar sender name that is recognisable to the respondent, which brings element of trust and looks less like a ‘spam’. Job description and business adds to the authenticity of the sender too.
- Relevant ‘subject’ line – Carefully picked subject line, that is relevant and engaging, increases the likelihood that recipient will open the email invite. The subject line should be kept short and to the point.
- Content – Keeping the email invite short but engaging helps to catch attention of respondents. The words that activate spam filters (e.g. ‘click here’, ‘unsubscribe’) should be avoided.
Survey link – The link to the survey in the email invite should be clear, accessible and easily recognised. When clicking the link, the email invite should take respondents directly to the survey with no need to log in.


To boost response rates, we use tailored reminders that can boost the number of completes up by 100%+. Generally, 2-3 reminders are sent during the time of the fieldwork. Short, ‘punchy’ reminders right before closing fieldwork proved to be very effective for maximisation of the response rate.

Reminders are sent only to those who have not started or have only partially completed a survey.

Email schedule

The timing (day of week and time of day received) of sending email invites is very important and affects the response rate. The time and day that email invites are sent should be targeted to recipients’ working patterns and avoid peak or inappropriate times (e.g. avoid Monday mornings, late Fridays and weekends; pausing sending email invites overnight).

Custom-made ‘feedback inbox’

To show respondents that their input is welcomed and valued, we create a custom-made ‘feedback inbox’, where we personally respond to any email queries from respondents, offering reassurance, guidance and support when needed.

Questionnaire design and device agnostic

Questionnaire design

- Length of survey – The shorter the survey is (<15 minutes duration), the better the chance it will attract higher response rates.
- Concise wording – Tailoring the survey with adequate and clear language helps to keep respondents’ attention and prevents unnecessary dropouts. Questions should be kept short and unambiguous, as well as avoiding academic language.   
- Content made relevant and ‘known’ demographics not asked – Where possible, pre-loading of data (already available information as age, gender, etc.) is very useful way to save respondents’ time to complete the survey and therefore helps to keep them engaged, as they are not asked questions that are not relevant to them or were already given. As well, it helps to tailor the questions with correct tenses or options dependant on previous answers.
- Minimise grid style question – Respondents are more likely to drop out of surveys if there are too many ‘grid style’ questions. Reducing its amount increases the chances of survey being completed.
- Use imagery, visuals, etc.- Use of clickable images, answer sliders or multimedia is a great way to create added interest and engagement in the survey.

Device agnostic

With the rise of handheld devices (mobile, tablets, phablets, etc.), it is important that online surveys are compatible across various devices – are so called ‘device agnostic’. This means respondents can access surveys not only on traditional desktop computers, but on laptops, tablets and even mobiles (when suitable). This requires the survey to be adaptable to different formats and resolutions. Survey software used by Research by Design allows respondents to automatically render to chosen device. On top of that, respondents can leave the survey and come back to it later on different device.

device agnostics

Other useful ways that can help increase response rate:

Incentives – Use of incentives can boost response rates. We do not always recommend incentivising online surveys, it depends on the nature of the relationship between the respondent and the organisation commissioning the survey. When it comes to membership organisations, we often prefer to rely on the strong relationship between members and their professional body to drive engagement. However, we acknowledge that incentives can be useful in cases where lesser or no relationship exists.

Collaborative approach with client – Close collaboration with the client and the additional support they can provide proves to be very successful in boosting response rates. Some of the ways that clients can support a survey is promotion on client’s website and social media or creating an additional standalone survey available on website.

Lindsey Nadin talks about this in more detail in her blog ‘Client support really helps boost response rates for online surveys in the membership sector’

By Tereza Krtickova, Research Executive



This entry was posted on September 16, 2016

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