I recently watched a webinar published by Snap Surveys, which was part of their 2013 Summer Camp series of training events available online. This particular presentation was developed by Steve Bax, managing director at Bax Interaction Limited. The title of his webinar was “Designing engaging questionnaires to deliver high response rates,” which, based on the title, seemed to be more strategy-oriented than some of Snap’s other summer webinars that focus more on the nuts and bolts of online survey design through its software. Although the second half of this webinar was mostly spent on the basics of survey design and common industry terms (dichotomous, double-barreled, etc.), I thought the first 15 minutes or so provided me with some valuable takeaways.

Here are a few of those key takeaways from the Steve Bax webinar:

1) Declining survey response rates – this takeaway is nothing new and it’s something our industry has been trying to counter-act more and more over the years. To improve response rates, survey writers have tried incentives, sweepstakes, shortening the length and engaging respondents through scales and sliders. The point being is that nothing seems to be the perfect answer and, if it were, we wouldn’t be seeing trends like this (see graphic below). This shouldn’t discourage researchers from trying though, as in most cases a combination of these efforts and potential multi-mode study will still give you enough data to make credible recommendations to your clients. However, there is just something better about reporting on 800 completes right off the bat at the beginning of presentation than doing that same presentation with 350 completes. Higher response rates set a nice tone for the overall themes in the market research.

declining survey response rates

Click to enlarge

2) Respondents are “time poor” – related to the first point, respondents want things done quick and need instant gratification. This is a topic we’ve covered before on the blog regarding respondents being over-surveyed. The days of the good citizens of the United States taking a few moments of their time to help out market research and the greater good are growing slimmer by the hour. With the evolution of panels and growing awareness of paid focus groups (thanks Domino’s), many respondents expect to be compensated for their feedback and time, even if it is a simple telephone survey or mail survey. You’ll see this on all of the restaurant surveys you take, which promise a percentage off or dollar amount off your next visit. Also, respondents don’t want to be bored or frustrated while taking a survey because they probably won’t finish, and if they do, expect some straight-lined, unusable data.

3) First step in market research – unrelated directly to improving survey engagement was a point made by Bax that discussed a question to ask market research clients before jumping into market research. First ask them “Do you want to measure or explore?” The answer to this question will help guide your client to qualitative (focus groups, IDIs, etc.) or quantitative (online survey, telephone survey, etc.) research.

4) What is the best time to send an online survey? According to Lightspeed Research and this study, the best time to send an online survey is Monday in the afternoon or early evening (around 2:30 PM or 5:30 PM). Another rule of thumb that Bax Interaction Limited suggested when creating online surveys was to limit the length to 30 questions or less for online and four pages or less for mailed surveys (which can honestly still be cumbersome for a lot of respondents). Maybe it’s time to use RMS for a quick pulse survey instead?

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. To learn more about RMS and our service offerings, visit our website by clicking here. If you have any questions about RMS or how we can work with you as a consultant to get you answers to your key business questions, contact Sandy Baker, our Business Development Director, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling (315) 635-9802.