Five Tips To Increase Your Survey Response Rate

31 January 2021

Distributing surveys is a useful method for increasing outreach to a larger cohort of participants. Surveys are relatively easy to administer and they are more accessible in comparison to other research data collection methods. However, as with any other research methods, research surveys encounter the same issues with achieving the target sample size. Here we discuss five strategies to increase the response rate to your questionnaires.

Tip #1 Focus on the survey design

Before distributing your survey, it is essential to invest more time and effort into the survey design. Carefully considering your survey design will make it more appealing for participants and minimise any frustration or potential dropouts. Having a well-designed and respondent friendly survey is a useful strategy to boost survey participation. 

Some important design considerations include the length of the survey and the types of questions. Whenever possible, shorten the survey as much as possible. You can shorten the length of the survey by keeping the questions relevant and removing any unnecessary questions. While using open ended questions provide more detailed responses, asking too many can significantly increase the time to complete the survey. Consider using multiple choice questions or Likert scales as these are typically easier to answer. Simplify the questions as much as possible. Avoid any ambiguous questions as this ensures that the survey questions are easily understood, hence improving the respondent's survey taking experience and reducing any potential dropouts.

Tip #2 Clearly explain the aim of the survey

Every research study starts with an aim. Explain the aim of the research and what the survey aims to achieve. Let the participants know how their feedback or the survey results will be used. People are generally more motivated to complete a survey if the research can make a genuine impact. Once you have all your survey results, it is best practice to communicate the results to the survey respondents. Provide concrete examples of how their time and contributions on the survey made an impact. Communicating your survey results can be helpful to maximise future survey participation.

Tip #3 Send surveys in multiple channels

Distribute your surveys to a variety of different channels. While emailing survey links is the most common distribution method, restricting it to email distributions only may limit the target audience of your survey. After all, it is easy to miss or ignore an email invitation. There are many other avenues you can use for participant recruitment. This includes advertising your survey link in websites, online forums and social media- check that the survey is mobile friendly! Consider recruiting in person. You can try pre-loading your survey on a tablet and invite people in public to complete the survey. This method can be especially useful for shorter surveys. 

Sending your surveys via non-online mediums can be helpful to increase your survey response rates. This can be particularly useful for reaching out to participants from hard to reach populations with limited internet connectivity. If online surveys are not suitable, invite the participant to complete the survey over the phone or mail a physical copy of the survey with a prepaid envelope.

Tip #4 Follow up with your participants

Life can get busy, which makes it easy at times to miss a survey invitation. Follow up with your participants to send them a gentle reminder to complete the survey. A researchpublished in the journal of Research Policy showed that surveys involving phone follow-ups can achieve response rates of up to 40–70%.

Tip #5 Offer incentives

Many research surveys use financial incentives or prizes to encourage better survey response rates. Offering incentives for survey completion have been reported toincrease the response rate by 32%.

There are many different types of incentives used for research surveys. One of the most common incentive methods is to randomly select a small number of respondents to win a prize. Whatever type of incentive you choose for your survey, consider incentives that would be suitable for your target research audience.