What affects online survey response rates?

According to the Pew Research Center, the gold standard for surveys, online response rates are on a downward spiral. With so many more things to do online than just a couple of years ago, declining attention spans and smaller, mobile handsets dominating web use, it’s little wonder fewer respondents are spending time completing (sometimes laborious) surveys online.

Before we dissect what impacts online response rate, what do we think is a good or acceptable response rate in the first place? Any discerning researcher will know this is of course dependent upon a myriad of factors and it’s really quite impossible to give one answer to this question without asking for a whole heap of additional project information to put it all into context. But regardless of what ‘the industry’ might be experiencing, here at RbD many of our online surveys are bucking the trend and delivering quite exceptional response rates for our prestigious client base ... so what are we doing differently?

Long before your respondent decides whether (or not) to click on the link that takes them to your survey, there are a number of hurdles for you to help them over. Broadly, we can split these into two distinct groups.

 Online survey image 1

On one hand we have the processes and procedures related to your audience and your direct survey correspondence and secondly, techniques more focused on your existing relationships with the target audience. The infographic below summarises the former:

Online survey image 2

Your journey to maximising online response rates commences with your study database. It is imperative that you invest time and energy here to maximise your chances of cutting through. You should also consider the scheduling of your messaging and survey compatibility with the plethora of internet enabled devices on the market. Whilst many perceive the email invitation as a simple tool to deliver the survey link, appropriate focus must be placed here to ensure your recipients are motivated to open the message. Consider the sender name, subject line and personalisation of the message as well as its actual content.

What about wider messaging and engagement with your target audience? If your audience is one you are in regular contact with, it’s important to maintain a strong connection and raise awareness of your online study. This could be through promotion on your own (or partners’) company websites or through social media postings and signposting through electronic newsletters for example. You should also reflect on the audience make-up and decide if an incentive for completion is appropriate. In a consumer context this might be a free prize draw for an ipad for example, whereas in a business context you might wish to offer a charitable donation.

So, you’ve given due consideration to all of the steps outlined above, now you can actually focus on the survey itself and ensuring this is fit for purpose. Look out for the follow-up blog that seeks to maximise your chances of steering your respondents successfully through your online survey.

Key take-outs:

1. Invest time in your database to ensure it maximises your chances of success.
2. Remember the importance of the email invitation. Focus on the sender name, email subject line and the actual content. Personalise wherever possible.
3. Promote the study more widely to raise awareness and encourage interest.
4. Consider the pros and cons of including an incentive for completion.
5. Measure your success, learn and improve.

 By Richard Mace, Associate Director 


This entry was posted in Surveys, tagged Quantitative, Research tips, Engagement, Responses, Databases, Online surveys and posted on August 12, 2015

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