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How to Improve Web-Response Rates

DOs and DON'ts to improve survey response rates

How to Improve Web-Response Rates

Eric van Velzen
Posted on 28 June 2016 in Online Survey
by Eric van Velzen
4 min
May we ask your opinion?

Who hasn't read this sentence before? It doesn't matter where you go, nowadays you are asked for an opinion everywhere on the web. For some it is a way to express their opinion, for most it is a sheer annoyance.

Online Survey

As a market researcher, you are confronted daily with the challenge of getting the most from your valuable sample and to reach your target-completes in time. Getting respondents to open a questionnaire is the first step and, surprisingly, this usually works fine, but oh the drop-outs. Depending on the complexity, length, and engagement of the survey, those can pile up to 70% of all respondents. You probably experienced it yourself before, desperately sending out reminders to reach the requested number.As it turns out it could all be a lot easier. In this blog post I want to list some DOs and DON'Ts which could help you to better reach your targets and, best of all, respondents might enjoy your surveys more.

Feel their pain!

Time progressed fast, the technology has come a long way from those old hole-punched paper cards, which technically were the first application of computerized Research. Unfortunately, Market Research isn't specifically known to be at the forefront when it comes to applying new technologies or even methodologies. And even today it still has its issues to catch up with other industries.

The "why" has many facades. I believe that the most important reason of all is, that the chain of people between the person wanting to get data-insight and the respondent is far too long.

When companies hire research agencies, they usually present them with a questionnaire concept which is purely focused around the report they want to create. In many cases the respondent's experience is not brought to a bigger attention. This is where the whole misery begins.

Ask yourself:

How often have you...

  • Filled-in endless grid-batteries evaluating products or statements on a scale of 1-10?
  • Really thought about your answer before punching it in?
  • Found yourself in a situation where you regretted that you said you know 7 products and now have to evaluate each separately?

I think you get my point. Especially complex and long questionnaires can be quite annoying and boring to fill in. Have a heart for your respondent, be empathic and feel his pain, then you will start to understand why your survey has so many dropouts and you will be able to change it!

Time for a change!

The big "keyword" over the last years, was "Gamification". And the Market Research Industry loves it, though still with a jealous glimpse over to the camp of the video-game industry.

Is this the salvation to our problems? Many would say so, however, I dare to say "NO", because a "long, complex, boring questionnaire" with some gamification is still a "long, complex, boring questionnaire", even if there is some gamification in there.

I am sorry if this pops some soap bubbles, but we have got to face the fact, that the average respondent is also already overfed with games and gamification elsewhere. So don't fool yourself, there is more to do than just showing some fancy animated stuff to heighten your response- and lower your drop-out-rates. I don't say it's easy, but you will see the improvements instantly.

Don't gamify your questions, question your gamification, and make the survey YOUR game, not the respondent's!

Every game needs some ground rules

Independent from your target-group and survey content there are some basic requirements you should test all you projects against.

A survey should be:

  • Simple & intuitive.
  • Responsive & device independent.
  • Engaging & playful.

The order was chosen like this on purpose. The factor that matters the most is how simple and intuitive the questionnaire is and playfulness, the look and feel of the survey is the least important, if you have already scored well in the first two categories.

DON'T cheat and make promises you can't keep. (It is just 15 minutes, read 40 minutes ago.)
DO give visual feedback about the user's progress.

DON'T make question-texts longer than a single page on the smallest imaginable respondent device.
DO ask questions in a clear and direct way. Keep it short!

DON'T use all bolded text. It won't make up for your lack of formatting.
DO use appropriate text-formatting. Use paragraphs and indentation.

DON'T repeat the same type of question too often.
DO provide unambiguous answer options.

DON'T forget that a finger is much bigger than a cursor.
DO make your questionnaire layout responsive.

DON'T use gamification if it's making answering the question even more inconvenient.
DO use gamification where it makes the question more efficient to answer.

DON'T forget that all of them need to be downloaded, also on a mobile.
DO use graphics, pictures and other stimuli to freshen up your questionnaire.


Decreasing drop-outs can be tough, but I believe that you can improve response rates by using the tips above. 

Now that you have read how to improve your web survey response rates, the next step is to read our white paper on how to reach the most respondents via email! Download it by submitting the form on the right.


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