Bounce Insights

The Ultimate Guide to Online Surveys

Table of Contents


Online surveys are the future of market research, yet so many marketers are not using them to their full potential. Online surveys require a different methodology, a user-centric approach and a keen understanding of technology to succeed where traditional surveys have failed. In this blog post, we examine the rise of online surveys, explore the many common pitfalls marketers suffer from and the best tips for making the most of your online surveys.

The Rise of Online Surveys

The biggest change in surveys over the last 20 years has been the drastic decline of traditional surveys. In 1997, the average response rate to traditional surveys was around 36%. By 2003, it was 25%. By 2014, it was 9%. Now, in 2020, the completion rate for a traditional survey has fallen below 2% on average. We delve into the failures of traditional surveys in our blog post here. In the past, surveys would have been conducted through knocking on doors with a pen and paper, or relying on phone calls and transcribing results. This has spurred the rise of online surveys as a suitable replacement for failing traditional surveys. Recently, companies have moved to surveys delivered through email, but the world has already moved past this to online and mobile alternatives.

The Quality Problem of Online Surveys

Online panels may provide a cheaper, scalable solution compared to traditional survey panels, however, there are issues to be aware of. Ensuring quality responses is the largest challenge for online panel providers. 46% of the respondents you get from online panels are disengaged, fraudulent or low quality and few researchers do enough to weed out these poor respondents. The market research industry must start demanding more transparency in its online panels and take personal responsibility to incorporate data quality into your research process in order to tackle these widespread quality issues. Learn more about the quality standards of online panels here.

Improving Respondent Experiences

Despite advancements in technology and failures of traditional surveys, the market research industry has been extremely slow to adapt to online surveys. Even when they are used, they suffer from the same inflictions as traditional surveys. At Bounce, we have identified 4 key problems respondents encountered:


  1. Email Invitation: The dependence of email invitations among market researchers means that they are missing out on a whole demographic of Millennial and Gen-Z consumers who favour their smartphone over using emails.
  2. Profiling Questions & Screening Out: Many researchers ask the same monotonous screening questions at the beginning of every survey. When survey length should be kept to a minimum, spending extra time answering screening questions not relevant to the data being collected is a cardinal sin of research that must change. 
  3. Survey Quality: Survey design is not created with the respondents in mind and respondents must suffer through long surveys and complicated questions.
  4. Incentives & Rewards: Unachievable rewards are detrimental to respondent engagement. Smaller but instantly rewarded incentives that will keep respondents coming back.


For online surveys to be any different from their traditional predecessors, they must prioritize the respondent experience. Read more about fixing the respondent experience of online surveys here.

Tips For Building Online Surveys

Survey Length

The first difference that must be factored into an online survey compared to a traditional survey is that respondents have drastically lower attention spans. Mobile phones often have constant push notifications distracting the respondent and you cannot expect them to stick around and complete a survey longer than 10 minutes. Therefore, when creating your survey, you need to make sure each one counts and is relevant to your final goal. Ideally, your survey should be between 4 – 8 minutes long and have 20 – 30 questions depending on the complexity of the questions. Read about the importance of survey length here.

Survey Flow

Another aspect you should focus on when building an effective online survey is the logical flow. The survey should have straightforward questions that help each respondent understand their reason for being part of this research. Spike their interest, and group similar topics together, making the survey conversational and enjoyable to go through. A golden rule for the survey builder is to keep it simple and place yourself in the shoes of the respondent. Learn more about survey flow here.

Question Design

Projective techniques, also known as enabling techniques, are methods that can be used by skilled researchers to tap into participants’ deep motivations and attitudes. Qualitative market research has always used projective and enabling techniques for in-depth work. The rationale is to help people surface and discuss things that lie beyond their immediate conscious awareness, yet influence their behaviour. Understanding and identifying these emotional drivers is a difficult and inexact science. However, it can be aided by using a variety of projective techniques. If you want to learn more about different types of projective techniques, read our article on them.

Survey Quality

There’s nothing more deterring in research than finding out the data you’ve gathered is inaccurate or not what you expected. High quality data is not only accurate or trustworthy, but also relevant i.e. data can be reliable but still not mean anything to a business. Improving data quality increases the reliability of insights, reduces the cost of re-fielding and saves on potential time lost in an industry already plagued by slow, expensive research processes. Luckily for market researchers, when it comes to survey data there are many simple tactics we can incorporate into the process to avoid poor data quality. Read about our five tips to improve survey quality for researchers here.

Push Notifications

One of the most powerful tools available to any digital marketer in the 21st century is the push notification. In recent years, consumer psychology has fundamentally changed due to the influence of the smartphone, and more specifically, the mobile applications that ‘nudge’ and ‘trigger’ repeat engagement via push notifications, sent directly to change consumer behaviour. This is one of the keys to connecting to respondents for online and mobile surveys. If you want to learn more about how to leverage push notifications, read this blog post.


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