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Using surveys for decision making? Five ways to improve the experience

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Using surveys for decision making? Five ways to improve the experience


Surveying your target audience can be a valuable and cost-effective way for SMB owners and other decision makers to better gauge consumer sentiment about their brand or product offering. But, that’s only the case if consumers actually make it to the end of the survey. As organisations ramp up their usage of online surveys, the rate at which respondents abandon the survey must become a major consideration.

The official term for this is, “drop rate” and it measures the number of respondents who are never redirected from the survey platform with a “final status” (complete, terminate, or over quota). This is one of the most important performance metrics to watch when running an online survey.

Why pay close attention to drop rate or survey abandonment?

In order to gather high-quality data from your respondents, you need them to complete your survey in its entirety. High drop rates due to people abandoning the survey can impact your study by limiting the amount of data you’re able to collect in your desired timeframe and slow down the process.

Monitoring your survey abandonment rate is critical to understanding how your survey is performing and what changes you can make to increase response rates. If respondents aren’t completing your survey, you have an opportunity to take a second look at your survey and determine the reasons for their abandonment.

Why do respondents abandon surveys?

The rate of survey abandonment is reflective of your respondent’s experience with your survey. A high drop rate could indicate that your survey is difficult to complete for one reason or another, and losing respondents in your survey can result in lower-quality data. As a result, your final data may be unintentionally less representative.

The most common reasons for survey abandonment include:

  •  Poor survey design or usability: Respondents are more likely to abandon your survey if it’s unappealing or difficult to navigate. Things like technical errors, unpleasant colour choices and confusing buttons could result in a poor user experience that drives respondents away.
  •  Survey length (LOI): A survey that has too many questions or requires too much click-through will be taxing to respondents. Your survey shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes to complete.
  • Complicated or repetitive questions: When questions are long or complex, respondents may give inaccurate answers or abandon the survey altogether. Questions that are rephrased and repeated throughout the survey can also be frustrating for respondents.
  • Frequency of surveys: Sending too many surveys too close together can be overwhelming for your respondents, and they may be less likely to respond.

Beyond some of the more survey-specific reasons for abandonment, functionality of the survey is also one of the most-cited and often overlooked element. In today’s world, optimising your survey for both desktop and mobile use is an important part of ensuring your respondents have the smoothest possible user experience when working through your actual survey.

How to increase your online survey response rate

Surveys with a high abandonment rate can be tweaked a number of ways to increase the likelihood of a complete. Determine what can be improved by testing your survey for usability so you can identify any issues — and address them to launch a new survey guaranteed to get the responses you need.

Below are some tips to increase survey completions for an underperforming survey:

  1.       Consider Your Respondents

When drafting a survey, consider your respondents’ identities. Create a survey with questions that make sense to the respondents you expect to answer. A survey about a specific product should only be sent to people who’ve purchased that product in the past. If sent to a consumer who doesn’t own that product, they won’t complete the survey because it’s irrelevant to them.

  1.       Revise Your Questions

Make sure your questions are clear and concise. If a question is too complex or confusing, people may abandon the survey or give you an answer that doesn’t accurately reflect their thoughts. Additionally, make sure the questions aren’t too invasive. Asking questions that can be perceived as sensitive in nature may cause respondents to become uncomfortable and abandon the survey.

Also, for the easiest user experience and highest response rate, choose multiple-choice questions or short-answer questions, rather than open-ended questions that require considerable consideration from your respondents.

  1.       Work On Your Invitation

A survey invitation is an opportunity to make a first impression and convince consumers to answer your questions. The invitation should be clear and well-designed, letting respondents know exactly what to expect from the survey and how their responses will be used.

Include information like how many questions they’ll need to answer and how long the survey will take. If possible, embed the survey in the invitation to give respondents easy access without having to navigate elsewhere.

  1.       Add an Incentive

Respondents are more likely to complete your survey when you reward them for their efforts. Using incentives gives them a good reason to dedicate their time to answering your questions. Incentives can include entries into raffles for a chance to win a prize, coupons or discounts or an immediate prepaid prize like snacks or gifts.

  1.       Optimise your formatting

Conduct a survey usability test to catch any formatting errors or technical problems that could cause trouble for your respondents. Be sure your survey is optimised for both computer and mobile use, since your respondents could be using either platform to answer your survey.

In an age where consumers are often time-poor and inundated with a myriad of digital distractions, it’s more imperative than ever that you’re able to develop an online survey that is concise and easy to understand. Doing so can capture your desired respondents full attention from start to finish,  avoid the pitfalls of high drop rates and deliver more valuable insights in the end.

Lamia Lee is the regional director, ANZ, Lucid.


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