Planning for Market Research? Here are 10 Tips for How to Write an Effective Online Survey.
Updated: Jan 7
We're a market research firm in Atlanta. Every day we counsel brands from privately owned companies to start-ups and billion dollar multi-nationals on market research study design. Collecting data using a quantitative online survey has been a go-to for many of our clients, B2B brands, whether for a brand tracking study, annual customer satisfaction/NPS, or understanding a new market segment and its customers—just to name a few.
While we work on market research studies day in and day out, we recognize that most managing B2B brands don’t and that best practices might be helpful for the planning stages.
Since the insights captured are only as good as the survey design, here are a few tips to ensure success with gathering the right data and insights with your next market research study!
1. Identify your learning objective for the research.
Having clear learning objectives ensures that the data captured will support your survey’s goals. Having these goals guides and helps prioritize the questions that are developed. It also provides guardrails for limiting the addition of just one more question (a common refrain we hear)!
Here’s an example learning objective:
The Brand Attitude, Awareness, and Usage (AAU) study will provide customer insights and quantify market awareness, the general attitude toward the brand and usage of it, along with perceptions around its competitors.
2. Include an incentive for research participants.
Depending on the size of the universe you’re tapping into (e.g., a customer list of 1,000 or 290,000), incentives help to ensure strong response and completion rates. Incentives should reflect the time asked of the participant, as well as their title or level.
Here are two examples of potential incentives: One is to offer participants entry into a drawing for a $300 egift card. Another is to offer the first 100 research respondents a $20 gift card. This second option helps create a sense of urgency in taking the survey.
3. Use everyday language with your survey design.
Questions should be clear and succinct. Upon reading a question and the corresponding answer choices, the respondent—the person taking the survey—should very clearly understand what is being asked. If needed as a point of reference, define terms or explain a product’s concept. For the most part industry jargon and technical terms should not be included in a survey, nor should your internal company lexicon.
4. Ask customer demographics.
Whether you want to know a consumer’s age and household income or a company’s revenue or marketing budget, plan to capture these seemingly personal questions at the end of the survey. Including them is essential if you’re looking to cut the data by company size or age of respondent.
5. Consider survey length and time to complete.
Be mindful of the length of the survey. Bottom line, don’t let a survey get too long. Doing so leads to abandonment, and if you want to ensure you reach a certain sample size this is critical. Expect better completion rates with shorter surveys. In general, we tend to keep online surveys under 15 minutes.
6. Deploy a mix of closed-ended questions.
While sometimes open-ended questions are valuable, they can take longer to answer and don’t provide quantitative data.
We recommend the majority of questions be closed-ended. This means having the questions prepopulated with definitive answers such as rating, ranking, multiple choice and checking boxes. These are easier for people to answer, ensure they actually complete the questions, and provide you with quantifiable data that is statistically significant.
7. Ensure research question relevancy.
Not every person who answers your survey should receive every question. Rather they should only receive questions that are relevant to them! With skip logic, the way a person answers a question determines the next question they receive. This also helps up front, with the screener, to ensure that only the right people (qualified based on pre-identified criteria) access your survey to complete it.
8. Avoid leading questions.
It is easy to ask a question in a way that provides a bias for the person answering it. When working on your survey questions, be sure the questions are neutral and will not influence the responder to choose a particular answer choice.
9. Focus each question.
Make sure that each question really is only one question, and not a double-barreled question—one that touches on more than one issue.
Here’s an example of a double-barreled question: “How satisfied are you with your payment processor and point-of-sale mobile device?”
Instead, ask it as two questions:
“How satisfied are you with your payment processor?”
“How satisfied are you with your point-of-sale mobile device?”
10. Proof and test.
Before going live with your programming survey, always test it. Test the different pathways to ensure the skip logic is accurate and that it is free of any typos or other issues. We always share ours with multiple people on our team before we share it with you!
Looking for help from a market research firm in Atlanta? We know writing an online survey or conducting focus groups requires expertise—that’s exactly why we’re here to help.
Contact us today for a free consultation – Carolyn Kopf p:404.345.6447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About C.E.K. & Partners
C.E.K. & Partners is an Atlanta-based brand and strategic communications firm. Need help with designing research or moderating focus groups? Our research lab designs custom market research studies for B2B brands. And, once you understand your customers or market better, our writing lab supports content development for white papers, case studies, websites, solution sheets, infographics, articles, blogs and more. Ready to elevate your company’s communication or just extend your team's capacity?