Researchers across countless organizations utilize online surveys to get actionable data, consumer feedback, employee opinions, or identify trends.
While there are countless use cases for conducting online surveys, it takes some skill to cajole a survey response rate that is statistically significant, representative of the sample, and unbiased.
While survey research is becoming more central to many organizations’ operations, the industry has simultaneously been experiencing a decline in survey response rates – for quite some time. This has been a long-running puzzle that dedicated survey programmers have been trying to crack with various tactics.
Increasing online survey response rates: is it possible?
In their overview of response rates, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) commented that: “[…] response rates across all modes of survey administration have declined, in some cases precipitously.” While online surveys have exploded in popularity, they are not immune to this downward trend.
To further complicate the matter, Adrienne Keller found that various different studies described their response rate as “acceptable” at 10%, 54%, and 65%. It seems that researchers cannot seem to agree as to what rate they should be striving for.
All things considered, we know that low or substandard response rates decrease the statistical validity of the data, in turn undermining the overall study. The reality is that your surveys are but one of the many messages and calls to action that your potential respondents get on a daily, or even hourly, basis.
This certainly paints a bleak picture, but it is indeed possible to cut through the clutter and increase survey response rates, all while maintaining the integrity of the collected data.
Keep reading below to learn more about how you can build a respondent experience that feels personalized to the individual. For online surveys, researchers must employ tactics like sophisticated logic, advanced skip patterns, and engaging design in order to keep respondents interested.
1. Visually appealing design
While we’re starting with the more basic recommendation, it’s no less important than the other tactics. Survey programmers often forget about the power of making their surveys aesthetically pleasing. However, when we talk about the respondent experience, we’d be remiss to not mention the impact of a beautifully designed survey.
On top of being beautiful, a thoughtfully designed survey can take advantage of your existing brand equity – using your brand colors, logo, and verbiage. This can also inspire further trust and engagement with the respondent.
2. Try an image area evaluator
A more “advanced” tactic for visual engagement is using an image area evaluator. There is an application for this style in various question types, but it is most effective when assessing things that cannot be communicated clearly in words, like choosing your seat on an airline flight. In this instance, an image area selector would facilitate communication by displaying an illustration of the airline flight seats for the respondent to select their seats directly from the image.
This is a generally more interactive question type, so respondents will likely engage with these kinds of questions more deeply. There is even the possibility to allow for negative and positive selections, so one question in the survey can glean two types of data.
3. Employ skip logic
Skip logic can make your surveys more engaging and feel personalized. More sophisticated survey software will allow users to do same-page skipping or even same-table skipping – reacting immediately to the respondent’s selections.
If a respondent is taking a survey in which they do not see themselves reflected appropriately in the questions, you run a very high risk of getting a non-complete.
For example, you wouldn’t ask a non-mother if they breast or bottle feed – that question should be skipped when they initially responded with their parenting status! Forcing respondents to manually skip questions or re-input answers like “non-applicable!!” will frustrate the respondent, driving dropouts dramatically. Using skip logic in your surveys ultimately enhances your dataset and increases your response rates.
4. Use branching tactics
Branching is another type of logic used in surveys for ushering respondents down specific paths that were planned in advance and built into the survey. The path they follow down will depend on how they respond to the previous question, like a choose your own adventure story.
This tactic will also help researchers personalize their surveys in a way that is engaging for the respondent, as it’s responding “real-time” to their answers. The survey will only show the respondent questions that are deemed relevant, and it can even follow the natural flow of a conversation, driving engagement.
5. Echo responses with piping
Piping is another logic capability that can be employed in surveys. Like the other logic tactics listed above, it helps respondents feel like they’re being heard and that their responses have an impact. Piping displays answer(s) to a respondent that they’ve previously given in the survey to further contextualize it.
For example, if a researcher needs a lot of information, it may be more effective to progressively ask questions as the survey moves forward so that the respondent is not overwhelmed. In other cases, you can dynamically change the wording of a question to include the respondent’s city, based on geolocation in the backend.
Prioritize correctly and stay competitive
According to a CMO by Adobe study, 94% of customer insights and marketing professionals across various industries say that personalization is “important,” “very important,” or “extremely important” for meeting current objectives.
This means that doing what you can to give respondents a personalized experience has never been more important. It will become the norm of what audiences will expect, so in order to continue to drive survey responses and get good quality data, you must follow suit.
While most marketers and researchers are aware of the importance of using survey logic and engaging design into their projects, not everyone has gotten on board. It’s the perfect time to take your surveys to the next level, so you aren’t left in the dust.
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