Thursday, 8 May 2014

How to Reach a Maximum Number of Respondents in Online Survey Data Collection

In the conduction of online surveys there are several important parameters you as an investigator need to specify, such as the content, design and phrasing of the questionnaire, the scheduling of your survey and how to reach your respondents. The decisions you take about these parameters should be wisely matched with the target group you are planning to study as well as to the topic you are going to explore. In regards to the distribution of your online survey you can choose from a range of different data collection methods.

Online data collection if you don’t have a register to send out the survey to

  1. Public link: First of all you can simply create a public link of your survey and place it onto all possible virtual public spaces that you know your target group visits frequently, for example, your homepage, social media, related homepages and blogs or the intranet of your organisation. Make sure you cover all possible sites where your target group might be around.

    Tip: To attract more respondents you should hide the survey link visually behind an eye-catching button or sentence that says, for example, “Take the online survey now!” It is also highly recommended to provide a nice incentive, such as a prize drawing.

  2.  QR-code: In order to spread your public link not only in virtual places you can use a QR-code to publish it in paper magazines, brochures or other haptic material that you know will be read by your target group. Respondents can simply scan the code with their smartphones and complete the survey via their smartphone browser. In case you do not have a specified target group but would like the broad public to answer your survey you can even put the code onto outdoor advertisement.

    Tip: On paper material you should give a short instruction on how to install a QR-code scanner on a smartphone to raise your response rate.

  3. Tablet survey: An innovative method that has become very popular over the recent years is the tablet survey that gives you instant feedback. Tablet surveys work best for short questionnaires and are most effective in locations where your target group will pass by during the time of your survey. This is especially the case for the evaluation of events, congresses or management trainings etc., where you can locate tablets right at the exit points of the function. Also for in-store surveys in retail shops as well as for employee surveys in organisations, the tablet method is a very efficient alternative.

    In order to raise your response rate you can also employ friendly and outgoing people to motivate potential respondents to take part in your survey. This way you can also influence and narrow down your target group to certain characteristics like age group etc.

Online data collection with a register and contact details

  1. E-mail survey: If you have a very specific target group and have a list of their e-mail addresses your way to go is the e-mail survey. You can personally address your respondents with their name and an individual cover letter. You can also include the survey into one of your regular newsletters, but make sure it attracts visual attention (in case people do not read the whole newsletter…).

    For higher response rates make sure you keep your cover letter short, let readers know of how much worth their time is to you and that their results will be kept anonymous – this is really important since you have reached them via their e-mail address.

  2. Mobile survey: If you have the mobile phone number of all members of your target group, you can conduct a mobile survey. Simply write an SMS that contains the survey link. This is most effective for regular surveys that people are comfortable with. This method should not be applied when you need to give important information as you only have very limited possibilities to make the invitation look appealing.

    The same rules apply here, for a higher response rate make sure people know that it is anonymous.



Laura Buchholz
MA International Development
Customer Support and Training Manager, Webropol Germany

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