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Five Tips to Rock Online Survey Research

Smart companies are kicking up the volume and quality of their research data with well-designed online surveys. Dial in better response rates and data collection with these five tips for online surveys.

From Fortune 100 businesses to mom-and-pop shops, smart companies are kicking up the volume and quality of their research data with well-designed online surveys. In this age of the Internet, gathering data from current and potential customers, employees, vendors and other business relationships has never been easier or more efficient. Now, that’s some sweet music to the ears of a marketing professional! However, extracting useful and relevant information from respondents can be challenging if online survey design isn’t up to snuff. Dial in better response rates and data collection with these five tips for online surveys:

1. Warm up with a rehearsal. Although it sounds obvious, make sure that the actual survey program is working properly for your particular needs. Not only can a technical glitch drop a willing respondent during the actual survey process, this sour note is a frustrating experience that may lessen his or her interest in ever responding to a future survey invitation from your company. In order to prevent these types of performance problems, run through the survey yourself from every platform of potential access such as various web browsers and mobile devices. Pull in your information technology department to play back-up.

2. Provide options for those marching to an alternative beat. For multiple choice questions, don’t assume you have provided an exhaustive score of answers. Due to the unique circumstances of some respondents or an unfortunate oversight on your part, there will always be a small percentage of participants that want to answer in a manner not listed below the question. To address these needs and keep your data collection methods in a good light, always allow for an “other please specify” or “none of the above” option at the end of each multiple choice question. This will prevent respondents from dropping out of the survey or randomly marking an answer because of an inability to answer a compulsory question. Providing a closed-ended “none of the above” choice makes post-survey analysis easier; however, an open-ended “other please specify” can draw out important qualitative information and insights you may not have been privy to otherwise.

3. Keep in synch with cutting edge. Take advantage of the multi-media possibilities an online environment offers for your project. Gone are the days of simple paper form or phone surveys; today’s savvy researchers can incorporate photographs, sound clips, sliders and videos into online surveys aimed to keep respondents engaged and on-task. The judicious use of media within your survey creates a more interactive, stimulating format that may actually lengthen the participant’s attention span, meaning a longer survey can be administered without any additional perceived effort by the user. However, as in most everything, moderation is the key. Too many extras or sensory loudness can be a turn off.

4. Tune out duplication. While it is sometimes necessary to repeat a question from another angle in order to validate the answer, too much duplication will feel like a waste of time to the respondent. Not only might participants become annoyed or bored with the survey, numerous repeated questions lengthens the total completion time; all reasons respondents have been known to exit mid-stream. For maximum efficiency, only include questions that directly provide data that address survey objectives, avoiding redundant questions or “nice to know” but not essential questions.

5. Audition your survey before going big time. Before sending your survey out to the masses, plan a “soft launch” within your organization or with a key test group in your target market. Have participants keep their eyes open for a variety of potential problem areas such as the obvious typographical errors and missing options but also illogical ordering and other issues that could affect the integrity of data collected. Additionally, participants can be asked to provide overall feedback on the ‘participant journey’ and how well the survey addressed any stated objectives. Incorporate this feedback into your online survey before shooting it out to final markets. The extra time and effort spent on the front end design will ultimately yield a higher response rate with more accurate data or, in other words, your survey results will rock!


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