3 key elements to achieve higher participation rates in research

The main issue many clients face when trying to understand their stakeholders, both internal and external, is gathering a big enough response to their research to provide a statistically accurate representative sample. 

While it is hard to estimate the exact response rate an online survey should expect to receive, it is becoming harder to encourage people to complete online surveys in a time of information overload. 

Response rates of online surveys tend to fall behind in-person collection methods – with research from Monash University suggesting online participation was 17% lower than in-person. While more surveys are being produced, less people have the time to provide their valuable insights. 

Below, we outline some of the key factors in driving participation rates as high as possible, helping us to achieve robust and representative samples that accurately reflect stakeholder sentiment. 

Survey design 

Selecting the right question type for analysis is often a tricky element. While asking participants to give their thoughts on a topic through an open-text response can seem all-inclusive, it often leads to long survey times, misinterpretation, and a whole lot of data to clean! Asking pointed questions with tailored responses or Likert-style questioning not only helps to provide rich data when it comes time to analyse, it respects the respondents’ time and prevents drop-off. 

Focusing your survey on a specific goal assists the clarity of questioning. Asking participants questions on a variety of different areas of interest may prevent the need for multiple different sentiment projects, but also causes fatigue when survey times become too long.  

Survey length directly impacts the time taken to complete it. The number one reason non-respondents in a recent study of participation chose not to complete online surveys was forgetting about it due to their own busy schedules. 

Using high-quality tools helps add a professional look and feel to your survey. Online survey platform, Qualtrics, allows us to tailor the user experience to the needs of each client and providing participants with a smooth, sleek user experience. 

Picking the right time 

Choosing the wrong time to conduct research is a quick way to miss out on valuable feedback and contributions. Many factors go into the careful planning of when to release your survey out to the world, maximising exposure. Surveys sent out on Mondays can collect roughly 13% more responses than the average, while Fridays are particularly bad for external customer surveys. 

Understanding the times that users are most likely to engage, their work or family commitments, the way they interact with a product, or the structure of their industry is critical when considering when to release a survey to your target audience. Typically, most responses come when the survey lands in their mailboxes or newsfeeds, so picking the right time of day is vital. 

The time of year is also important to keep in mind. Are you more likely to complete a survey when you are rushing to complete your end of year deadlines or EOFY commitments, or when you are in a quiet period after completion of a major project?  Different target audiences will have different pressures of life keeping them from participation. 

Receiving feedback as soon as reasonably possible after the completion of a task or interaction with a product helps to gauge the feeling of stakeholders when the topic is fresh in their minds. This is preferable to weeks or months down the line, relying on them to accurately recall those experiences in the future. 

Allowing a longer time for response collection can also assist in increasing response numbers over time, as does maintaining longer periods between follow-ups to prevent survey fatigue.  

Proactive communication 

It doesn’t matter how well-crafted your stakeholder research is if no one knows why it needs to happen in the first place. Effective, consistent communication through a mixture of delivery methods tailored to the target audience is essential to motivating stakeholders to participate. Simply using the word ‘survey’ in the title of your email can lower response rates by 10%! 

Helping potential participants understand the importance of the research, and how it benefits them, gives them a reason to help you. For example, is the survey helping to tailor the participants’ future experience? Is it helping to improve a product or service? Or is it enhancing your understanding of the participants’ needs? 

Specifically targeting those groups that you wish to collect information from is key to increasing engagement. Asking teens to give you feedback through promoted Facebook posts is about as effective as asking their grandparents through TikTok. To this point, knowing stakeholder roles, their preferred methods of communication and current contact details saves time and makes life significantly easier when reaching out. 

Selecting multiple appropriate communication channels and prompting participants at multiple times during the collection window helps collect responses from those that may have not had time or desire to complete at the initial launch. 

Also make sure to point out how you have tailored the survey to your stakeholder’s needs. Let them know if you have aimed for a short survey to value their time or are providing anonymity if looking for honest or negative feedback. 

Connect with us 

At Phillips Group, we use a variety of research and communication techniques to source data and consumer insights, driving research participation and enriching analytical insights to help our clients truly understand their stakeholders. Connect with us today.