Having run my own market research data collection call center for over 10 years, nothing was more important to a research study than the response rate. Response rates are an important measurement in survey research because they reflect the level of effort undertaken during data collection and help describe the reliability of the resulting data. Survey non-response can bias samples (and therefore survey data) by making the sample composition substantively different from the target population. Bias, in this instance, refers to the difference between the sampled units and the target population.
Within today’s ever growing fight for consumer time and head space, market research firms are having to be more and more agile in securing responses when interviewing. People have less and less time given the amount of time they spend sleeping, working, with family and friends and engaging in social media. Let’s face it, as much as we all hate to admit it, participating in a 20 minute survey is not how most of us want to spend some of our precious free time.
Less intrusive ways for interviewing need to be explored. This will be accomplished in a number of ways. Shorter but more frequent studies are one possible way the industry is adapting. Providing alternative ways for respondents to complete surveys is another. Web and mobile surveys are becoming more and more of a trend and are gaining on telephone and face to face. People are constantly on their phones and the fears of usage charges are fading with unlimited data plans. People are migrating away from laptops and desktops for the convenience of mobile phones and tablets and as a result mobile surveying will become more and more important. In many markets survey-taking is moving from telephone and face-to-face to mobile device and leapfrogging the PC altogether.
A key to achieving higher response rates is taking the survey itself to the various medium that are available to consumers today. If consumers prefer to reply to surveys online or on their mobile devices rather than on the telephone, it is up to the industry to provide those options for participants. Multi-channel data collection solutions are available and research firms are going to need to invest in them in order to achieve the response rate necessary to complete their projects. This is a fact.
Whether it be traditional telephone, IVR, internet or mobile (both online and off line) we need to make it easier for respondents to complete the study as quickly as possible.
Making the survey interesting and engaging is also important. As people become more and more easily distracted and we are fighting for their precious free time it is important to make it easy and as entertaining as possible. Shorter questions with fewer response options are where we are going to have to go. Using all the bells and whistles for interactive web surveys is something we have learned will only bias results and should be steered away from. Just because the technology allows for something doesn’t mean we should do it. Just how happy can I make this smiley face icon is trivial in respect to the results. Having said that, however, there is a fine line when engaging the consumer, especially as the younger generations make their way up the demographic scales.
Incentives continue to be a great way of enticing people to participate. Relevant incentives are key. Use incentives that assist people with their day to day lives that are tied to the study being performed. People love the idea of getting something for nothing.
It has been proven time and time again that people would rather a small change for something bigger (i.e. a draw) than everyone getting something small. Just look at how many people purchase lottery tickets in North America every day!
Regardless of how we do it we as an industry need to adapt and technology is the key. Consumers are what we are all seeking, they are changing and we have to change with them!
I welcome your thoughts and comments. Do not hesitate to contact me at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org.