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What is an Acceptable Response Rate for Online Surveys?

Chandni Pandya
Sep 13,2019

There is no such generalized number. It depends on several factors. Like it’s design, audience, distribution process, distribution time, collection method, type, and more. But there is a way to calculate your survey campaign’s response/success rate which can help you identify the loopholes in your system for further improvement. But before putting our math whiz caps on, let’s start with the basic understanding.

What is Response Rate?

The survey response rate is the number of people who answered the survey divided by the total number of people you sent the survey. Then multiplying that number by 100 is your response rate.

How Do You Calculate Response Rate?

Formula: (responses/sample size)*100

Ergo, if you’ve sent a survey to 700 people, and 250 of them filled out the surveys, then your response rate would be (250/700)*100 = 35%

Are Response and Completion rates the same?

The basic definition of completion rate is the number of surveys filled out and submitted divided by the responders who have actually entered your survey regardless of whether they completed it or not. So, it’s a different statistic than the response rate.

It doesn’t rely on the number of people contacted. It is solely based on people's interaction with your survey. You can measure the completion rate for any type of survey including email, pop-up, embedded, and others.

Why Response Rates are Important?

The response rate is one of the important aspects. It indicates the quality of the survey. A study says that surveys with lower response rates(20%) have accurate measurements than the ones with higher response rates (near 60 or 70%).

However, higher response rates are always preferable compared to lower ones.

Consider this example. Acquiring the sample of 250 from the 500 respondents is better than getting the 250 responses from the 1000 respondents. The reason? In the first case, you have 50% of the response rate which gives you more accurate and presentable data. Whereas, in the second scenario, it is 25%. Which means that those responders are atypical and would not give you accurate results.

The Universal Truth

For external surveys, you can keep the target between 10% to 15%. For internal surveys, your target should be around 30-40%.

For a well-distributed, optimized survey campaign the highest response rate would be as high as 85%. And the lowest could be 2%.

What Causes Lower Response Rates?

Branding matters

Does the respondent feel the connection with the brand while taking your survey? A well-known brand is more likely to get a higher response rate than the survey from an unknown brand.

The Survey - Length, Design, and Purpose

Unless the responder understands the purpose behind the survey, they aren’t going to have that connection. And it results in a lower response rate.

Visuals are everything. Make sure the design of your survey suits your brand. Another factor is the length of the survey. Your survey should not contain more than 10 questions.

Pro Tip: Always tell them at the beginning of the survey how many minutes it will take to complete the survey.

 Survey Questions

There are a number of options available - multiple-choice, open-ended, close-ended, ratings, NPS and more. It is up to you, how you make use of different formats. But make sure that there aren’t a lot of them.

Mobile Optimization

People open emails more on mobile than the desktop according to a study. So, if you are sending your survey through email, most of the users will be opening your survey on mobile only. You will have to make sure that they don’t end up getting the scroll bars in the mobile view. Your surveys should always be mobile responsive. And if you are sending through social media then you go with the mobile-first concept as well.

Survey Distribution

Know your customers. If you want to take a survey of digitally savvy users, sending them surveys through their social media will get you a better response rate. In the same way, if your audience is of older age, try sending the survey through a text message or a call can also get you good results.

Action Items to Improve Survey Response Rates

Step 1: The Design

It should be interactive, user-friendly, and not lengthy. Include only necessary questions as fewer as possible; this step will bring in better response rates. Your survey should not consume more than 5-6 minutes of the user. Try taking your own survey after creating it.

Step 2: The Value

Suppose your survey is 2 minutes long. You are sending it to 200 people. Which means in total you are consuming their 400 minutes. Hence, as a return gift do not miss to offer them incentives. If you are a service website, it can be free support hours, for eCommerce store: coupon codes, prepaid money or anything; which brings value to the table. You can share your final findings with them as well.

Step 3: Sending the Survey

Creating an effective survey is an only half struggle. The other major step is to identify the different segments and dividing them into the right groups. You can divide them based on their age, food preference, the device they use, etc. After that analyze the right time for sending that survey to these users. For instance, you should be sending customer satisfaction roughly after 15 days of the purchase. It will give you maximum responses with relevant data. Again, it’s not a set standard, it varies based on the industry you belong to.

Step 4: Reminders

Once you get some reverts, send nudges to the remaining ones (to those who haven’t responded). You should send up to 2 follow-ups, ideally, to achieve the desired response rate. Shuffle the time/day, the medium of the survey to test if they respond.

In the fewest possible words

We all fall into that dilemma of what should be an adequate response rate. But the truth is that you just have to pay attention to small details while creating any survey. And you will always get the desired results.

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