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Market Research Online Surveys: Best Practices & Tips

Updated: Apr 9

Market research online surveys in 6 easy steps - a hand using chalk to write the words Take our survey on a black board

Find out the best practices for market research online surveys by following the 11 top survey tips below to help you along the way. Whether you’re a beginner or you have created a survey before, you will find this post useful.

Especially now as online surveys are becoming an essential part for all businesses from large brands down to small websites, where it’s needed to gain valuable feedback in a quick and efficient way from customers or employees to help steer direction of company strategies or to settle issues.

[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through these links at no additional cost to you.]

1. Survey templates or start from scratch

Many of the survey maker platforms include survey templates for different purposes. Therefore, it’s perfect for you to use in selecting a template and customising it the way you want it instead of starting from scratch and spending endless number of hours in developing the survey questionnaire.

2. Ease into the first question

Given it’s the first question in the survey, it’s really important not to put people off from completing the survey by asking personal or sensitive type of questions at the beginning. So, if you have any sensitive type of questions like income or number of people in household it’s best, they are placed at the back of the survey.

3. Question types 

There are two primary types of questions that you should keep in mind - open questions and closed questions, which encompass various question formats. It's important to maintain consistency and incorporate a mix of these questions when relevant, in order to prevent participants from getting bored. However, it's advisable to limit the use of open questions to no more than two, as they can significantly extend the survey duration.

Open questions allow participants to answer in their own words, enabling them to express the reasons behind their brand preferences or their dislikes about a website, rather than being prompted to choose from predefined options.

On the other hand, closed questions provide participants with a range of options to choose from. This can include a simple yes or no response or selecting multiple options from a list, such as identifying mobile brands they are familiar with.

The following are the main type of closed questions you can use:

  • Single response questions

  • Multiple response questions

  • Rating scale questions

  • Ranking questions

Note many surveys use scales (e.g., 1-5 or 1-10) to gauge opinions. Ensure your scales are balanced to avoid biased responses. For example, a scale of 1-5 where 1 = very poor and 5 = very good is balanced and allows for neutral responses.

4. Routing (conditions or logic)

Routing is a set of conditions to meet criteria you have set in the survey to target an audience, where quota sampling can be used or ask particular questions that not all participants see. For example, there could be a small section in the survey asking participants who visit the cinema regularly about their most recent experience but would only apply based on answers given at previous questions about whether they visit the cinema or not and how often they go. 

In this way, it shortens the survey for many of the participants as they don’t have to answer every single question.

5. Piping

Piping in surveys takes an answer given at a previous question and places it in the question text later on in a survey like a brand or website. This can be used to make the survey more personalised based on previous answers such as asking the name of the participant, which is then included in the some of the questions later on in the survey to address the participant. 

6. Avoid technical jargon if you can

It’s important not to include jargon and acronyms unless they are used as everyday terms. If you need to include a technical term in the survey, it’s best to include the meaning of that term before the question.

7. Ways of making the survey engaging

Making the survey more engaging is key to participants completing the survey instead of dropping out. The longer the survey, the less likely respondents are to complete it. Therefore, try to keep your survey concise, engaging, and visually appealing, by being creative and use the survey features available like sliders or carousels to change any questions that you find boring like large grid of statements as well as limiting a long list of options to the most important to you. You can also use conversational style survey feature to be more engaging.

8. Online survey length you should aim for

It’s best not to exceed a maximum survey length of 15 minutes before participants significantly start dropping out of your survey. Although it’s a shorter survey length for polls or pop up surveys on your website, which should be a maximum of 5 minutes especially if they are non-customers (15 questions). For more lengthy surveys you should aim up to 10 minutes or less.

9. Online methods of recruitment for your survey

See what options you have available to invite participants to take part in your survey whether that’s through social media channels, email or within your website.

This is more for once the survey has gone live. The response rate is basically the number of people who have completed the survey divided by the number invites that were sent out. This measure helps to gage the success of your survey in terms of number of completes, so the larger the sample, the more statistically robust your results will be.

11. Communicate the value & respect privacy

People are more likely to complete your survey if they perceive value in it. This could be a direct reward (e.g., a discount) or indirect (e.g., helping improve a product they use regularly).

Also be transparent about how you will use the data you collect. Respect respondent privacy by anonymising data and ensuring you comply with all relevant data protection laws.

A couple of things to keep in mind

Be wary of GDPR laws in countries from the European Union if you are going to send surveys via email as this is around the secure storage and use of customer details, so you will need prior permission (an opt in) from customers to send them email survey invites.

Another thing to keep in mind are technical issues from the participants end as it’s dependent on the software and hardware they are using. Remember a survey will look very different from a computer to a mobile device where some graphics in the survey may not appear right. Device optimisation is key to addressing this issue.

Key take outs

Remember to keep the survey to not more than 15 minutes or 5 minutes if you are running a poll or pop up survey on your website. Also keep to the length of the survey that you said it will take in the introduction as many of the participants will drop out and fail to complete the survey. For example, you have said it’s a 10-minute survey but it actually takes 20 minutes to complete. Therefore, test it out many times with friends and family before your survey goes live.

Most survey maker platforms have templates that you can apply and customise instead of spending even more time starting from scratch, which is particularly useful if you’re a beginner.

Try out survey maker platforms like JotForm that are relatively inexpensive (free trial offers available), easy to use, consist of many useful features and serves many purposes like polls, quizzes and different types of surveys (customer, employee, NPS and chat surveys).

Alternatively, if you are just looking to assess the appeal of designs, ideas, logos, products and advertising copy then running a quick poll via PickFu will allow you to ask that question to their 15 million panellists to compare, rank or comment on. It's simple and relatively inexpensive with a starting cost of $15, so give PickFu a try (50% off first poll with this promo code: ANPAR).



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