By some estimates, companies can only hear from 4% of their customers, making it challenging to answer and meet their needs. Thus, consistently conducting online surveys can help companies hear more from their customers and implement strategies that correspond to their needs and expectations.
Here, we provide the top 12 online survey best practices for attracting respondents and designing a survey.
Top 12 online survey best practices
1- Find a representative sample
A representative sample represents the population with high accuracy. So the results are representative of the general population. By the same token, if you ask the right questions from the wrong people, then misleading results are unavoidable.
Be precise about who your target population is, and focus on how to find the most representative sample of that target population. If you have a specific target audience, you can create focus groups for data collection.
You can also use platforms with diverse participant pools to answer the survey questions to increase the representativeness of the survey sample.
For those interested, here is our benchmarking study on the top survey participant recruitment services.
2- Prescreen the respondents
By pre-screening the participants, companies can avoid taking the same survey twice from the same IP address or those who’ve taken the web survey from suspicious IP addresses. This can help increase the validity of the study.
3- Avoid sensitive topics
Figure 1. An example of a survey question that targets a specific race.
A study found that the most sensitive questions are about one’s financial state and contact information, such as phone numbers.1 As the sensitivity of the question increases, people are more reluctant to answer.2 Thus, companies must be careful in question selection and should avoid questions that may discourage respondents from answering for either ethical, personal, or security reasons.
4- Ensure reliability and confidentiality
One factor that affects how likely a participant is to respond to a survey is the reliability of the surveying process and the sense of privacy. If the respondents feel either is violated, they may prefer not to answer. Thus, ensuring confidentiality (i.e., assigning random numbers to the respondents and not identifying their profiles with their answers) encourages higher response rates.
Also, if anonymity is not ensured in the survey, let the participants know who can see their answers.
5- Determine a mode of distribution
There are multiple modes to conduct survey research and reach a target audience, such as through email, telephone surveys, face-to-face interviews, paper surveys, or online/web surveys. Marketers may want to conduct online surveys as they are cheap, easy to prepare, and useful. However, publishing the survey online may result in failing to reach people who prefer not to give information about themselves online. Thus, before distributing the survey online, ensure it is the right channel for your target population.
For those interested, here is our benchmark on the top 6 market research software.
6- Choose the right data-collecting method
There are two types of data: quantitative and qualitative. The former is measurable, and the latter isn’t. So, while quantitative data represents the numerical correspondence, qualitative data explains why and how a phenomenon occurs. Determine the right method for the right questions. If you are interested in why a specific marketing campaign did not get high engagement, you strive for qualitative data more. If you want to know when people check their e-mails, then you should be gathering quantitative data.
7- Have a clear question format
It is important which wording marketers choose while asking the questions. Here are some examples of bad survey questions:
Figure 2. An example of a bad survey question
Figure 3. Another example of a bad survey question with unusual faces embedded
Figure 4. Another example of a bad survey question that response options are incompatible
Asking open-ended questions with binary answer choices or inconsistent language format (see Figure 4) confuses the respondents and can reflect poorly on the brand.
8- Ask for a single information at a time
While preparing a survey, do not ask for detailed information, or a long answer, in a single question. Rather, split them, and provide different response options, such as multiple choice answers or the Likert scale, to ease responding to the survey.
This helps respondents not to feel overwhelmed and focus on one answer at a time. Providing questions in a logical order can also keep the respondents engaged and help them easily follow the flow.
9- Incentivize for survey participation
Figure 5. Example of an incentive offered by Pizza Pizza to the customers filling out the survey
Studies show that 60% respond to questions randomly without paying attention when not incentivized3. This challenges the validity of the surveys. The good news is incentives are positively correlated with survey responses without decreasing data quality. Thus, encouraging respondents with incentives could increase the response rates.
10- Add “attention check” questions
Figure 6. An example of an attentional check question to embed in surveys
Companies can embed “attention check questions” into their surveys to detect those who respond without paying attention and remove them from further analyses.
11- Analyze the survey results
Analyzing the responses requires ease of mind as it is a demanding process, given the number of questions and responses, different modes of distribution, etc. As the quantitative data is more structured (i.e., it doesn’t require a coding scheme or a dictionary), it is better to start the analysis with quantitative data.
You can also check our comprehensive guide on survey analytics.
12- Create visually appealing survey reports
Turning all the insights gathered from the survey into visually appealing reports help decision-makers understand the results faster and more easily. Thus, they can spend less time making inferences from the survey and start turning them into actions.
- Market Research: Benefits, 3 Use Cases & Tips
- SurveyMonkey Audience Evaluation & 4 Alternatives
- Amazon MTurk Survey Recruitment Services Review, 4 Challenges & Solutions
If interested, you can check out our data-driven list of survey participant recruitment services and survey tools.
Here is also our data-driven list of market research tools.
Don’t hesitate to reach us for your further questions about conducting online surveys:
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