Can behavioural insights improve survey response rates?

At the Asia Research Seminar, 2CV presented a paper looking at how their knowledge of consumer behaviour relating to areas such as consumer decision-making can be applied to encourage better response rates to surveys.

2CV pointed out that an increasing challenge in market research is participation, and achieving good representation in samples is crucial to delivering useful insights. As more clients look to tap into customer databases for participants, the challenges are shifting. Samples sourced from these databases have inherent biases that need to be mitigated as much as possible. 2CV argued that the key bias is brand enthusiasm: those who associate with the brand the most – usually the most frequent users – are far more likely to respond to a survey.

To counter this, the research industry usually looks to incentives to give participants a reason to respond – but these don’t guarantee success, and at worst can increase costs with minimal impact.

2CV wanted to look beyond incentives to see what else might help, so they decided to experiment with a little nudging. What if we used behavioural science to make participation feel more inviting and to increase survey completion rates? What if a simple shift, like changing the content of our script for email survey invites, helped to increase clients’ return on investment for survey work?

The 2CV test

2CV used six variants of a key line within their standard email invite text: one control line and five test lines, each inspired by a different behavioural insight. Six randomly selected cells of 22,000 contacts were used to complete the test. The six variants were:

1. Control

We’re always trying to improve our products and services for our customers. That’s why we’d really appreciate it if you filled in our short survey about your experience of [BRAND].

2. Endowment

We’re always looking for ways to improve the products and services you own. Your views and opinions are a vital part of this process – that’s why we’d really appreciate it if you filled in our short survey about your experience with [BRAND].

3. Loss aversion

We’re always trying to improve our products and services for our customers. Don’t miss out on great [BRAND] experiences. Make the most of our products and services in the future by filling in our short survey.

4. Personalisation

You have been chosen to take part in our survey. Help us improve our products and services in the future by sharing your thoughts about [BRAND].

5. Social proof

We’re always trying to improve our products and services for our customers. The feedback we receive every day from customers like you helps us do this. Join the many customers who have let us know what they think about their experience with [BRAND] by filling in our short survey.

6. Endowment + social proof

We’re always looking for ways to improve the products and services you use. Your views and opinions are a vital part of this process. Join the many customers who have let us know what they think about their experience with [BRAND] by filling in this short survey.

The results

2CV found that personalisation provided a significant uplift in completion rate above both the control and the other test variants.

With this inexpensive intervention, 2CV discovered that language emphasising personalisation is most effective in this case. The uplift of +1.6pts in survey completion amounts to +25% on the control cell, which can be used to increase the breadth of the sample, reduce bias, or reduce the number of contacts required by 20% to achieve the same sample. Either outcome is a huge gain, making clients’ money go further.

There is one caveat that 2CV pointed out: these findings may not apply to other categories and situations, so it pays to test your own variations to see where improvements can be achieved!