Survey School 2: How to maximize survey response rates

Survey response rate is the percentage of people who finish filling out your survey in its entirety. Read on for research-backed ways to boost response rates.

Surveys are a treasure trove—if you collect enough responses to derive actionable insights. To help you boost your survey response rates, our team dug deep into the data to understand the factors that drive people to complete forms.

In this guide, we’ll take a research-backed dive into advanced survey techniques such as: 

  • Why surveys should be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy 

  • How to create surveys that feel like a conversation between friends 

  • How to use Welcome pages to encourage responses 

  • The most effective formats to make your survey irresistible

What is a survey response rate?

A survey response rate is the percentage of people who finish a survey in its entirety. Why does this matter? Well, surveys collect data so you can gain insight into larger groups of people. Larger sample sizes mean more reliable data, so it’s in your best interest to maximize your survey response rate

To calculate your survey response rate, divide the total number of people who have started your survey by the number of people who have completed it. A high survey response rate is great—but it’s uncommon.

Average Response Rates by Survey

Surveys for customers* 10%-30%
Surveys for employees* 25%-60%
Typeforms 57%
*Source: CustomInsight

What is a good survey response rate?

Your target response rate should vary based on the type of survey. As we mentioned earlier, the more the merrier, but it’s not always possible. We typically recommend gathering at least 400 responses, but it depends on the survey.

For example, you might need to survey experts in a niche topic, like in-house legal counsel at a company. You'll need to manage your expectations of how many responses you can gather because you’re working with a limited sample. However, working with a larger sample, such as surveying lawyers across an entire industry, allows for more responses.

The real value of an effective survey is that it allows you to collect invaluable zero-party data. This is the data that someone gives you voluntarily—as opposed to data that you collect from your website or purchase from a third-party source.

Zero-party data has always been incredibly useful to marketers—it’s your direct route to understanding your customers' needs, wants, and pain points. Today, it’s more necessary than ever because: 

Plus, the information you gather from your survey responses can be a major asset to your marketing strategy. This zero-party data can help you:

  • Create more detailed and nuanced buyer personas

  • Increase trust and build a connection with your prospects and customers

  • Improve your messaging and positioning 

  • Increase your product-market fit 

Want to learn more about using zero-party data to uplevel your marketing approach? Check out our deep-dive guide: How to Build a Competitive Edge with Zero-Party Data.

“We started using Typeform to capture user testimonials and exponentially increased our responses with over 180 in just three months.” — Andy Mowat, CEO at Gated

Factors impacting survey response rate

With Typeform, 87% of users get higher survey response rates compared to their previous survey platform. This is because respondent experience is everything when it comes to building effective surveys.

According to the Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, these are the main factors that impact your survey responses:

  • Delivery platform: Consider how you can best reach your intended sample. For example, young students might respond best to a survey they can take on their phones. 

  • Respondent attitude: How will people react to your survey? If you predict your sample won’t be willing participants, keep the survey as short as possible.

  • Topic: Survey topics that require sensitive information or niche expertise will naturally have lower response rates.

  • Survey length: If your survey is too long, you might lower your survey response rate.

  • Data privacy: Ensure that you’re transparent about how you’re using respondent data to build trust. Respondents won’t want to answer your questions if they don’t know how their data will be used.

  • Structure: A professional and engaging survey is more likely to garner a higher response rate.

Consider these factors for a better response rate and more reliable data.

How to increase survey response rate

There's an art and a science to asking questions that people are willing—even eager—to answer. Here’s what we found helps boost survey response rates: 

1. Impress from the Welcome screen

The best thing you can do to maximize survey response rates is get off to a great start. The surveys that received the most responses in our study were those with a well-designed Welcome screen.

Your instinct might be to start with a question to get the conversation going. However, our researchers found that typeforms with direct, to-the-point wording on the Welcome screen (e.g., "Join our newsletter") gained 5% more responses than those that started with a question (e.g., "Are you interested in our exclusive newsletter?"). 

Wondering how to add a Welcome screen to your typeforms? Here’s a Welcome screen walkthrough

2. Give a timeline

Keep your respondents in the know. Explain why you’re asking the questions you’re asking and tell them how long the survey should take to complete. You can also follow this up by adding a Progress bar so they can easily see how many more questions are left. This helps reduce survey fatigue and improve your response rates.

“Without analysis, data is just numbers or anecdotes.” —Christine Shimoda

3. Provide an incentive 

Ah, yes, the old “What’s in it for me?” Unsurprisingly, forms that offered people an incentive on the Welcome screen received more responses. This could be a lead magnet (a one-time offer, like a coupon or a discount, for completing the survey) or merely a sense of exclusivity (using words like “be the first,” “exclusive,” “one of the,” “only available,” “members only,” or “subscribers only”). 

4. Be transparent with data

Today’s consumers are increasingly wary about handing over their data. Being transparent about what you plan to do with the information you collect puts respondents at ease and can increase response rates. For instance: 

  • If you’re sending your survey via email, tell your respondents in the email body exactly how you plan to use their data. 

  • Add some information and context to your typeform’s Welcome Screen.

  • Add a Legal question field: this allows you to set out some terms and ask the respondent to agree or disagree with them.

5. Consider readability

Nobody will bother filling in a survey they can barely read. Start by making sure that your surveys are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. You can find the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) here. Some of the main points you should bear in mind are: 

  • Use alt texts to describe all the images included in the survey. 

  • Explain where your hyperlinks go in the main body of the text. 

  • Add closed captions to any videos you include in your surveys.

  • Make sure your questions, answers, buttons, and background have a color contrast of at least 4.5:1

Typeform’s default template is WCAG 2.1 compliant, and you can always check if your custom theme meets accessibility guidelines before publishing.

6. Ask for an email first 

Wondering what to ask first? Our research team found that surveys that asked for the respondent’s email first had 9% higher response rates than those that asked for it later. Why is this? Well, it’s possible that once the respondent has shared their email address, they feel like they’ve invested something in the conversation and are more reluctant to drop out. 

7. Ask one question at a time

To create a truly conversational experience, don’t bombard your respondents with questions. After all, nothing is more of a conversational turn-off than someone who peppers you with questions without waiting for the answer. By asking your questions one at a time, you create a more engaging and less overwhelming user experience, which boosts survey response rates.

As for how many questions to ask—our researchers found that surveys with fewer than six questions had a significantly higher response rate. Ideally, your survey should take less than two minutes to complete. 

8. Write intentional questions 

If you want to be a great conversationalist, then how you ask your questions matters as much as which questions you ask. Some best practices for writing survey questions include: 

  • Use direct and transparent language.

  • Be empathetic and reassuring. 

  • Ask unbiased and easy-to-answer questions.

You should also vary the type of questions throughout your survey. Mix it up and include some multiple choice, picture choice, and Likert scale questions to keep respondents engaged.

9. Personalize with Logic jumps and recall

Back to the notoriously inquisitive Kinsey again. In his interview guide, he cautioned his team that failing to adapt their questions to the respondents’ answers would be a serious “faux pas” that'd make the respondent feel as though you “weren’t paying attention.” 

“Customization is key. As a small company, we don't necessarily have access to all of the tools that larger companies can use for all of these customizations, but I love how Typeform was able to really work with us to deliver that experience.” — Alciian Ferguson, CMO at CurlMix

Using the Recall feature in Typeform can help you create surveys that mimic this level of polite responsiveness and put your respondents at ease. For instance, you can add Hidden Fields to your Welcome screen and subsequent questions. These hidden fields populate with data you’ve already collected to create a more personalized experience. 

You can also help create a more natural conversational experience with Logic Jumps. This Typeform feature builds a custom path for respondents based on their answers to each question.

For instance, if someone has just told you that they’re not a dog person, then you probably shouldn’t ask them three more questions about dogs. That’s just rude! Instead, you can use Logic to jump them automatically to the next non-dog-related question.

10. Prioritize design 

When it comes to maximizing responses, you’ve got to make the experience of completing the survey as appealing as possible. Focus on designing a survey that's beautiful, unique, and just plain fun to fill in. 

With Typeform, it’s easy to create surveys that are easy to optimize and guide respondents through answering the entire survey—all without sacrificing design or learning to code.

11. Make it unique and use company branding 

Don’t be boring! Create a survey that stands out by adding a beautiful, on-brand background image.

Use your brand colors and designs to reassure your respondents that they’re talking to the right person. Keep the design simple and consistent throughout to avoid creating a cluttered or overwhelming impression.

From better answers to better solutions with Typeform 

So, you know how to ask better questions and improve your survey response rate. What do you want to do with all this new information? 

  • Conduct market research and then design products that meet their needs.

  • Attract more qualified leads with conversational quizzes.

  • Improve your product offering by listening to what your customers think.

  • Fuel your growth by building a connection with your audience. 

With better answers, your business can find better solutions. Isn’t it time you started listening? Sign up for free with Typeform today to engage your audience in a great conversation.

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