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5 ways to encourage people to complete your online survey

When an interviewer conducts a research interview with a respondent, the interviewer can persuade, cajole and, dare I say, make it difficult for the respondent to leave midway through an interview. When the questionnaire is being conducted online, the respondent only needs to take their mouse to the top right corner of the screen, click that little x and the interview is aborted.

Keeping respondents engaged

So, how can we encourage people to stay to the end of an online questionnaire? Psychology Today has given some ideas how we can get people to do things – effectively, what market research agencies want respondents to do. It’s important that your surveys are interesting to compete and not a chore but here’s some other ideas.

Words matter

Use nouns rather than verbs to persuade people. Charities have found that an invitation to ‘Be a donor’ works better than ‘Donate now’, so market researchers need to encourage people to ‘Be a participant’ or ‘Take an important role’.

We are good at adopting habits

Encourage people to make completing your survey a habit. Most humans are better at keeping up habits. If you have to take medicine, it’s better to be told to take it before your dinner rather than some time in the evening. Similarly, if you want people to complete a diary every day for a week, give them an anchor and some rules. If they are a panellist, try to send surveys at their most convenient time – maybe, Monday evening and encourage them to make a habit of doing it then.

Unexpected rewards

Carrots and sticks. We all like rewards and, indeed, survey respondents are often rewarded for their time and efforts. However, we are better with unexpected rewards. We are happier to receive $1 for completing 5 tasks with an occasional bonus of $10 rather than receiving $2.50 for completing every task. Or, perhaps, an occasional bonus for a completing a survey will help.

Set simple challenges

Mastering skills. When completing a questionnaire, respondents are more likely to do something that it is challenging that takes longer than something that is easier and takes less time. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive but that’s the way it is. Rating scales exemplify this. If they require some interaction – dragging to a pile or some reactive process will gain more attention than a boring grid.

We all like to be congratulated

Praise and encouragement. It’s been shown that a simple screen half way through a questionnaire encouraging people to go on and complete the rest of the survey has a beneficial effect. A message such as “Hey, you’re doing well – you’re over half way through. Thanks!” sounds a bit crass, but it has a positive effect.


None of this gets away from the fact that your survey must interesting, relevant and clear to follow etc. Surveys need to stand out as your survey is competing against others to be completed. However, a bit of psychology can always help.

The best survey software programs

The Game Changer: Snap Surveys

Phil Hearn
Author: Phil Hearn - Date posted: 23 February 2016
Category: online-surveys - Tags: online, psychology

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