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Increasing Response Rate by How You Contact the Potential Respondents

In order to complete a survey, there are multiple steps that respondents have to take. For example, with web surveys, respondents must receive an invite to complete the survey, read the invite, decide if they are going to /remember to complete the survey, access the first page of the survey, begin to fill out the survey, and finally complete the entire survey. Continually, researchers have found that the step when potential respondents are contacted is when you can have the most impact on response rate. 


Some important things to consider at this step are prenotification, personalized invites and follow-ups. With the increase of surveys and emails that an individual receives, all three of these areas will help increase the likelihood the individual doesn’t forget about the invite and help motivate individuals to take part in the study and complete the survey. 



·         This should include information on how the subjects were identified, the objectives of the study, confidentiality, and appeals for participation. 

·         Research has found that using these pre-notes can lead to increased response rate as well as increased click-through rates. 


Personalized Invites

·         Personalized invites is one way to increase both response rates and completion rates. 

·         Research has even looked at various salutations and found that ‘Dear <<individual’s first name>>’ increases the odds of a response over other salutations (everything else being kept constant). 

·         This has also been found to decrease feelings of anonymity, so it is important to combat this feeling through assurances of confidentiality. 



·         Follow-ups have been shown to have the most impact on response rate.

·         Studies have found that each follow-up could increase response rates by 3-7%

·         At a point follow-ups can actually decrease response rate due to overwhelming or annoying the potential respondent. Research suggests that no more than 3 follow-ups should be sent.


Within survey design, there are many areas that can and should be focused on. When working on response rate, understanding and improving how the potential respondent is contacted has the potential to have the most impact on your response rate. However, it is important to remember that response rate is only one of many things we should be focused on in a study. Other things include sample representativeness and non-response bias. It is important to remember to weigh these decisions against how it will impact all parts of the study not simply response rate.

Becca Lewis
Stat Analyst, Marketing Sciences

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