Online Surveys Are Not Enough
By Tim Gorham
Online will remain the #1 survey channel for the time-being, and deservedly so. The channel offers the ability for respondents to privately complete surveys on their own time. For researchers, data can be processed immediately, and there are no additional costs for interviewers.
But because of the simplicity and efficiency of online surveys, the market is quickly becoming oversaturated and respondents are getting overwhelmed. Online survey invitations are everywhere, and the surveys they link to are often sloppy. And the resulting online survey clutter leads to survey fatigue, which leads to a range of data collection issues, none of which are good news for researchers:
- Declining response rates. Many online surveys see single-digit response rates as low as 2%. And respondents who do complete the surveys generally have an extreme opinion: they’re either ecstatic or livid. It’s difficult to get a balanced opinion when you’re only talking to outliers.
- Reduced respondent attention span. For respondents who still complete surveys, the increased frequency can affect their in-survey attention span. The more survey questions they see, the higher their tendency to burn through questions too quickly without adequate thought.
- Market saturation. With so many surveys vying for a respondent’s attention, how can one organization get their survey noticed and completed?
So are online surveys doomed? Of course not – but researchers tasked with deploying them are certainly being challenged. We’ve discussed numerous times in the past how to make online surveys more engaging. Here is the TL;DR version:
- Design surveys well. A no-brainer, but so important. Keep online surveys short and sweet on the surface. Nowadays, if your survey looks cheap or takes longer than five minutes, you’ll start losing a portion of the respondents who were willing to click on the link in the first place.
- Listen and Adapt. Surveys are a two-way conversation. Ensure that the respondent knows you’re listening to their answers. Use logic to skip irrelevant questions or pipe in past responses. If a respondent feels like they are being heard, they’re more likely to share.
- Incentives increase response rates which offsets your sample cost. Unincentivized survey requests are a primary target in the rising pushback against online survey invitations.
- Personalize the invitation. Ensure that survey invitations speak to the right people, and acknowledge the respondent situation. Use a clean sample source and personalize the message to clarify why they were chosen (eg. “Thanks for your purchase of X last Tuesday…”).
- Create a community. Cut to the heart of your customer base and nurture your own panels of your loyal consumers. It’s a lot of work to create and manage, but an incentivized, permanent panel will give you a constant finger on the pulse of your most important customer segment.
Online surveys are an essential part of any Voice of Customer or research program. But in today’s industry reality, you need to accept that getting a respondent’s attention online is extremely challenging. Get your surveys noticed by complementing well-designed online surveys with surveys conducted via alternate channels.
Break through the heads-down, clutter-ignoring patterns of an average respondent’s daily routine. Think differently about how to get your survey noticed by respondents. Taking your survey project out of your own comfort zone can take you into a new zone where respondents actually notice your surveys.