How to Make Online Surveys More Engaging for Respondents

someone taking an online survey

"Yay another survey". Not said by everyone but said by a lot of people.

As an online survey agency, this is a daily problem for us. Surveys can be fun, we promise - but they do often require 10 to 15 minutes out of someone's day.

Our job in market research is largely about getting respondents to spend that time taking a survey rather than the other laundry list of tasks they have facing them. 

So, to improve data quality and earn more full completes, it's important to make online surveys fun and engaging for respondents.

In this article, our market research company shares insider tips and tricks for how to create an engaging online survey.

Why Make Online Surveys More Engaging?

Making online surveys more engaging for respondents can result in more accurate data, deeper insights, and a positive perception of your brand.

  1. Increased Response Rates: Engaging surveys can lead to higher response rates. If respondents find the survey interesting and enjoyable, they are more likely to complete it. This can result in more accurate and representative data.

  2. Better Quality Data: When respondents are engaged, they are more likely to provide thoughtful and honest responses, leading to more accurate and reliable data.

  3. Improved Insights: Engaging surveys can also provide deeper insights into respondent behavior, attitudes, and preferences. By making the survey interactive, you can get a better understanding of how respondents think and feel about a topic.

  4. Positive Perception of Your Brand: Lastly, making an engaging online survey can also help to create a positive perception of your brand. If respondents enjoy taking your survey, they are more likely to view your brand in a positive light and may be more likely to engage with your brand in the future.

Tips for Creating Engaging Online Surveys

Creating an engaging online survey can help increase response rates and improve the quality of data collected. Here are some tips for creating engaging online surveys:

Tip 1: Keep the survey short

We find a survey in the range of 3 to 5 minutes maximum for non-customers and up to 5 to 7 minutes maximum for customers is optimal.

This buys you about 10 to 15 questions for non-customers and 20 to 25 questions for customers. Anything more than this and you significantly increase the likelihood of drop-off in your survey.

Tip 2: Change survey scales

No one likes repetition. It's great for practicing free throws, tennis serves, and shooting a hockey puck but it's not great for survey takers.

In fact, repetition in survey scales results in doom for your market research.

For further context, a survey scale is a series of response options that are used in a questionnaire to measure or quantify participants' opinions, attitudes, feelings, or behaviors on a particular topic.

Survey scales typically consist of a set of predetermined categories or levels, such as numbers or words, which are used to rank or rate the participant's response.

Here is an example of a Likert survey scale.

Example survey scale question

It's okay to use back-to-back 1 to 5 scales, but 3 in a row? 5 in a row? 10 in a row? Back-to-back grids of scales? Forget about it.

Drive Research makes it a point to vary scale questions as a technique to make online surveys more engaging for respondents.

1 to 5 scales are more useful in the mobile world than 1 to 10 scales. Even think about working in a slider scale or 2.

Additionally, changing between open-ended questions and closed-ended questions also helps. 

Recommended Reading: 36 Types of Questions from Our Market Research Company

Tip 3: Ask questions you can take action with

Our market research team tells our clients to not waste questions they do not plan on using the data for.

A simple example here is gender.

Although gender is commonplace in the demographics section of a survey, will your organization actually care about how males vs. females respond?

Will you create separate marketing strategies based on gender moving forward?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, it is not worth asking and wasting time for the respondent. Use the question for something else.

Tip 4: Insert some lighter language

Have some fun with survey language. Those who take our Drive Research surveys know a few of the instances where we've used lighter language.

We might add some fun sarcasm, a few lighter comments, or have some fun with an age question. At the end of the day, if a survey respondent is reading questions more carefully to find a hidden nugget of humor, in our book, that's a win.

⚠️ The important part is not overdoing it. ⚠️

If your respondents don't take your survey seriously, they might not report accurate data, skip questions, or think it's not important.

That's the worst of all cases, but we find there is plenty of room to include some lighter language and friendly-up a survey in hopes of making it more engaging for respondents.

For example, here is a question from our market research panel sign-up form.

Example engaging survey question - drive research

Tip 5: Encourage the respondent

This is as simple as adding in a few lines of text here and there to help encourage the respondent to continue.

  • "Almost finished, just a few demographic questions."
  • "Just a few more questions to make sure we have the right mix of respondents."
  • "You're doing great, thank you for your feedback."

Little text additions like these can make a large difference.

Tip 6: Use a progress bar

Progress bars help respondents know exactly where they sit on a survey.

Are they 10% done? 50% done? 90% done?

Offering this at the top or bottom of the survey page keeps respondents aware of how close they are to the finish line.

Some may argue progress bars actually hinder completion rates because it keeps the time to complete too top-of-mind for the survey taker (i.e. "I am 5 minutes in and I am only 50% done?")

Tip 7: Offer respondents an incentive

There may be no better incentivization for respondents to remain engaged in an online survey than offering rewards such as gift cards or discounts on services.

People are more likely to take the time to complete a survey if they feel they will receive some kind of reward or benefit for doing so.

Better yet, higher rewards can equal lower market research costs.

With greater incentives, more people are likely to take the survey. Therefore, it will take an online survey company less project management time to find survey respondents. And these savings are passed along to you.

Lastly, offering incentives can create goodwill and show that you value respondents' time and feedback. 

woman holding cash

Tip 8: Be accurate with your time to complete

Do not mislead the respondent on how long the survey takes to complete. This is a major problem in the market research industry.

For too many years, market research companies have been promising that 15-minute surveys only take 2 to 3 minutes. It has created a poor reputation among survey takers.

Be as accurate as possible with survey takers. It goes a long way in keeping respondents engaged.

Tell them the survey contains 10 questions and will take 3 minutes. Or if it is longer, tell them that too.

The worst thing is telling a survey taker it will be much faster than it actually is. If the respondent spends a lot of time answering an open-ended question, in most cases they will realize the increased length of time to take the survey is on them.

Tip 9: Send them off on a good note

The thank you page at the end of a survey is often an afterthought. It's overlooked. It's the standard blah end page you use on all of your surveys, isn't it?

Here's another opportunity to further engage respondents and have them end their survey-taking experience on a good note.

We like to thank participants, invite them to join our panel, and tell them exactly how much cooler they are for taking our survey. 

Final Thoughts

The market research industry and online surveys often get a bad rap for being boring and stuffy. At Drive Research we like to challenge the status quo of the industry by working to make our online surveys more fun and engaging for respondents.

Making online surveys more engaging for respondents is always top of mind for our team. If respondents are not willing to offer feedback and take part in online surveys, our industry would not exist. It is important to keep these tips in mind when you launch your next online survey.

Respondent engagement must stay top-of-mind when writing and designing your survey. If the survey is engaging respondents are more likely to complete the entire survey, offer truthful responses, and type more.

Contact Our Online Survey Company

Drive Research is a national market research company specializing in online surveys such as customer surveys, employee surveys, PR surveys, brand equity surveys, and more. Our team completes full-service online survey projects including survey design, programming, fieldwork, and analysis.

Working with a third-party online survey company is the best way to create professional, yet engaging questionnaires. 

Interested in learning more about our online survey services? Contact us today.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

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