Imagine spending hours designing your survey, selecting respondents, and setting research objectives. Then when the zero-hour finally strikes, the responses aren't flowing in as expected; you're sat wondering what went wrong.

Getting your respondents to pay attention and fill out your survey can be the biggest hurdle to overcome. It's vital to engage your audience the right way to collect more answers and increase your respondent's overall engagement. Here's some need-to-know on boosting your response rate.

Table of Contents:

1. What is response rate and how to calculate it?

2. What is a good response rate?

3. Ways to maximize your response rate

4. The takeaway

What is response rate and how to calculate it?

Response rate is one of the most critical quality indicators for your survey research.

It indicates the number of people who replied to the survey divided by the number of people who viewed it.

Response rate, in general, indicates the percentage of people who decided to take the survey. At Survicate, we will automatically calculate this data for you. Go to your analytics panel for website and mobile surveys to check on these statistics:

What is a good response rate?

Response rate is an essential indicator for the quality of survey analysis. A higher response rate means that your sample is representative and more accurate, but it is worth noting that response rate and accuracy are not necessarily linear. A response rate of 20% for a large sample for instance will be much more accurate than the same rate for 100 respondents.

A low response rate creates a potential for bias in the results, this could occur if the answers from non-respondents would differ significantly from the actual submitted results. According to the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research results are reliable once a survey achieves a 25% response rate. This is calculated based on the correlation of +0.98 between the results after the first 25% and the final outcome - whereas the score of +1 means the results will remain very much the same even with a higher response rate.

Generally, a response rate tends to peak somewhere around 30% for an average online survey. The final survey response rate will vary depending on multiple factors, for instance:

  • Research interests of participants,

  • Rewards associated with survey completion,

  • Length of survey,

  • Assurance of privacy and confidentiality.

We looked at the data from surveys created using Survicate, which were distributed via different channels: by email, in a mobile app, on a website.

A survey response rate of 50% or higher should be considered excellent in most circumstances.


The findings show that website surveys reach the highest response rate of 56%, followed by mobile and email surveys with around 30%. This makes website pop-ups one of the most effective methods of collecting customer feedback. Survicate enables you to use multiple advanced targeting tools for your online site surveys so that you can reach the right people at the most relevant moment of their customer journey. With many feedback collection methods to choose from, it's essential to pick one that best fits your study's objectives. Overall, the most typical survey response rate will be between 5-30%, but you can still pull various levers to maximize it. ⬆️

Ways to maximize your response rate

Here, we have collected the best practices for you to optimize your survey response rate.

Survey Invitation

Your respondent's survey experience starts with the invitation. 📩 As the demand for user feedback grew and online survey research is the primary way of collecting insights, getting your respondents' attention became more challenging. If you're inviting respondents to your survey per email, spend the time putting together a well-crafted invitation - this way, you will engage your respondents and increase your response rate.

For best results, your online survey's invite should be personalized, trustworthy and explanatory enough, without being too wordy. Make it stand out and show the recipient that you value their time. Think carefully about the email subject line you use and how you construct the email body.

Let's take a look at some examples.

This invitation didn't generate a high number of clicks:

Source

Although the message contains all the necessary points, it comes across as lengthy and generic. As a result, it doesn't create much excitement on the recipient's end. Few quick fixes to make this message more convincing could be:

  • Including recipient's name for a personalized experience

  • Embedding the first question into the body of the email

  • Underlining the gift card information

  • Making instructions in the last paragraph more convincing

Let’s look at a different survey invitation example - one with more potential to attract more respondents:

This invite contains several key points to increase survey participation:

➡️ Headline

Clearly announces the main interest of the email as a feedback collection.

➡️ Personalization

Addressing recipients by their name in an email is not a new thing but particularly important when establishing a connection with a potential survey respondent.

➡️ Exclusivity

Explaining why the person has been selected to participate in the survey adds the exclusivity angle. You want the respondent to know their opinion, in particular, is valuable to you.

➡️Time sensitivity

Be sure to mention the expected (and realistic) time it takes to complete the survey. If your questionnaire is 20 minutes long, be honest and say this. Manage the expectations beforehand, in order to avoid respondents getting frustrated and dropping the survey mid-way.

➡️ Incentive

Often the deal breaker. Monetary or not, this can be your ace card for a high response rate. Make this information stand out.

➡️ Urgency

Be sure to mention the expiry date, such as two business days in this case. Sometimes people start and leave the survey or postpone the start to a later time. Sharing the timeline creates urgency and emphasizes the limited availability (if there are vouchers or a prize draw).

➡️ Assuring anonymity

When collecting personal or sensitive information, this is a critical step that adds credibility and trust in how the survey is conducted.

➡️ Gratitude and regards

A good sign-off: the words of appreciation and the sender's name rather than a generic "team" signature leave an excellent last impression.

The key takeaway from these examples is to make sure to cover the main points in the survey invitation:

  • What's the survey's purpose?

  • How long will this take?

  • What's in it for the respondent?

✏️ Finally, here are some other good subject lines you can use to engage your audience:

We want to hear from you!

Please take a moment to let us know how everything went

Deep thoughts? We want to hear them all

Help us with a survey and you could win a prize

We’d love your help! Fill out the quick survey and help us improve

Be honest - what do you think of?

Have a moment?

Can we ask you something?

Got a sec? Give us feedback on…

$50 for your thoughts.

Find the right target audience

Each respondent will approach your survey differently, and this has a significant impact on the results. Therefore, choosing the right target group is of utmost importance - this will help collect the most valuable data.

When determining the right target group consider the relevance of the topic:

How much does it impact my audience and how well acquainted are they with the subject of the research? 🚹 🚺

People with emotional involvement and interest in the topic are more likely to take the survey. Additionally, respondents who are aware and knowledgeable about the subject will provide you with better answers - translating into valid and reliable data collected.

If your running website surveys you can use some of the advanced targeting options in your Survicate panel to get very specific targeting conditions:

Pre-contact

Letting somebody know that you’re going to be inviting them to a survey could be an excellent warm-up call. This could be particularly efficient for specific target groups such as busy professionals, high-net-worth individuals, or in B2B research. It is the opportunity to let particular respondents know that they are unique, and their opinion is precious to you. Pre-contact can increase the survey response rate by a few percent, while this might seem like a little impact combined with other methods, it works well.

It’s helpful if the sender is known to the respondents, for instance, is the person they’ve already been in touch with. This could be a customer support manager, account manager, or someone who has been onboarding the users earlier. Use the already created connection with the customer to encourage them to share the feedback. A strong relationship between a brand and the customer results in better motivation to complete the survey - questionnaires sent to unknown recipients typically receive the slightest response.

Get the timing right

Be careful about the timing of your survey. 📆 The day and time you send it out is an essential factor influencing successful data collection. The right moment can vary depending on the weekday, time of the year, holidays, seasonalities in a given country, but most importantly, the time of the day.

If you send an invitation to your survey by an email, getting it out on a weekday might be your best shot. Many emails never even get opened before ending up in the trash bin, so waiting until the right moment is vital. ⏱️

Mailchimp researched email open click rates which revealed that Thursday is the optimal day for sending out an email. This conclusion comes from the data on the highest open rate percentage and lowest number of unsubscribes.

According to the analysis run by Zendesk, which looked at customer satisfaction survey response rates, the timing of the day plays an even more critical role than the day itself. During the week, respondents answered most surveys outside regular working hours (response rate was lowest between 8 am-6 pm). Early in the morning or after work is when people have more time on their hands to complete a survey and when it’s less likely that it will get lost among work emails.

Source: Zendesk

🚀 Moreover, you can display the survey after a specific transaction or interaction occurs. You can trigger a website survey based on particular events such as trying out a new feature, completing a purchase, or cart abandonment. One of the most common ways to use event-driven surveys is to measure customer service satisfaction. Strike the iron while it’s hot to get immediate feedback directly in chat after a conversation is conducted. In case of unsatisfactory feedback, it’s great to practice to follow up with customers fast.

Try to think specifically about your respondents, industry you target, if your audience is country-specific, what timezone they are located in, and how they interact with your product. Make the communication and targeting as precise as you can with the information available. The most appropriate methodology and time to reach out to your population will be unique case to case.

Provide incentives

While some people will take the survey without incentives, offering a little bonus in return is the best way to maximize your survey participation.💰Additionally, it is a great way to thank your respondents for putting in their time and effort.

Without a doubt, cash incentives are the number one method to boost the response rate, but a reward can come in different forms:

  • Bonus points

  • Vouchers, gift cards

  • Sweepstakes

  • Raffles

  • Discounts

  • Offering premium content/ privileges

  • Ability to donate to a charity of respondent’s choice

Researchers use incentives to attract responses from niche audiences (for instance, if the target respondents are busy professionals who are unlikely to answer the survey otherwise) or the survey topic is more sensitive. Rewards will work well, especially for encouraging responses on lengthy surveys and making sure participants don’t drop out midway.

Overall, a review of several studies proved that using incentives did not lower the data quality noticeably but it’s essential to be aware of the cons that come alongside offering incentives. Your data quality can be marginally affected due to survey bias. As a goal to an end, the survey might receive less attention, or it might make participants feel more positive about your business and, as a result, submit biased answers.

Imagine a scenario where you offer a discount to your beauty salon. The customers who were happy with the service will be keen to fill out a survey and get a lower price next time, but you might miss out on the negative feedback that your business could benefit from to improve. By making things transactional, you might attract some respondents interested in the prize and less in the research itself.

Every researcher needs to weigh the draws and cons of introducing incentives to your survey research. They come at a price of higher budget spending and a slight risk of biased results but boost response rates significantly.

Embed the first question

Inviting your participants through email is one of the most widely used data collection methods. There are different ways to go about this; you can share the link, hide it under the call to action button or embed the first question into your survey email.

Research run by Survey Practice proves that embedding the first question directly into your email is more effective at encouraging survey response. The results compared included embedded NPS (32% click rate) vs. hiding the link to the survey under a CTA button (26.2%).

The question in the email captures respondents’ attention faster, and they are more likely to click on it instead of the link or a button leading to a survey. In short, removing the unnecessary steps or friction will both make the experience smoother and faster as well as boost your response rate.

On top of that, while running Survicate surveys, your respondents don’t need to finish to save their answers. Even if they only click in the email, we will record their response. It’s a win-win.

Confidentiality and security

The rising importance and awareness of data security is another factor that will affect your survey response rates. Understandably, your respondents might have some concerns especially if the topic is sensitive and they are sharing personal information with you.

👉 It’s always good practice to disclose your privacy policies and share how you are planning to use collected data. You might want to include a consent question at the start of the survey, a brief explainer in the email invite or a footer note:

Survicate is GDPR compliant. For more details about Survicate and GDPR, click here.

Internet users highly value privacy and are more likely to take the survey if assured that their answers would remain confidential. To get more people to answer the survey, ensure your respondents that their data will be protected and be transparent with them about how you're going to use it.

Questionnaire length

Think of your survey experience as a key touchpoint with your customer.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the response rate is directly correlated to survey length. Long surveys require more time and effort to complete. So, keeping the survey short and focusing on collecting actionable feedback is important. A quick 1-2 minute survey is typically more appealing than a 20-minute long one. We analyzed data from Survicate surveys and found a notable drop in average completion rate with each additional question (1-3 being the optimal number). Find your golden mean between collecting enough information and not scaring your respondents off. ⚖️

Let your audience know beforehand what the expected timeframe is and make sure this is realistic. Add this information to the invitation or survey introduction. You can also enable the progress bar to your survey to manage the time expectations: ⌚

Determine a clear goal of your survey and focus on collecting the most relevant information. Using skip logic will enable you to remove the unnecessary questions to keep your survey concise and to the point, as well as personalise the survey experience. If you include open-ended questions, try to limit them to the minimum and intersperse them between more effortless, quick-to-answer ones for the best survey experience. Those questions are super valuable but use them wisely.

Send out a reminder

Email reminders are one of the most common strategies survey creators use to boost response rates. ✉️ If clients ignore the first invitation, don't assume that they don't feel like sharing their feedback. Be persistent in getting more data and more people to answer.

In the first instance, you need to filter out the non-respondents from your audience base. To send reminder invitations to only those who haven't taken the survey yet, make sure you send a tracked respondent link when you send the invitation initially. To do this, you need to select one of the available distribution methods for the link survey:

Afterward, check the distribution history in the respective software you used and send out the reminders to only those email addresses who haven't opened the survey link yet.

It's best to keep the content short and crisp, giving the right amount of context so that your participants know what you're approaching them about.

It might take a few follow-ups to get the response rate higher. A good rule of thumb is keeping the reminder short and sending it out within the first 48-72h after the initial invitation. ⏲️ Try sending the later reminder at a different time than the original invitation; people tend to have the same habits around their working week. If they haven’t replied at first, another time of the day might be more convenient.

The takeaway

Having enough people respond to your survey is essential for the successful statistical validity of your research. The numbers matter, and if there’s a will, there’s always a way to achieve the response rate you want. A little bit of survey tweaks and targeting strategy optimization will help ensure your results are most accurate.

💡 There are many different ways to maximize your response rates; in this article we looked into the proven methods:

  • Adding a personal touch to the invite

  • Embedding the first question into the email (making sure it’s mobile-friendly too)

  • Express genuine appreciation for your respondent’s time

  • Targeting your surveys to the right audience and at the right moment

  • Offering incentive, if possible, and aligned with your research objectives

  • Keeping the questionnaire relevant and concise

It’s worth going the extra mile to collect more valuable and trustworthy data. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods to find the most optimal and effective ones for your surveys.

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