5 Critical Lessons to Learn from Your Survey Drop Rate

Drop rate is one of the most important performance metrics when running an online survey. Here’s a simple definition for anyone who isn’t familiar with drop rate: it measures the number of respondents who are never redirected from the survey platform with a “final status” (complete, terminate, or overquota). In a nutshell, it tells us if respondents are abandoning surveys.

While it’s important to know if a survey is being abandoned, does drop rate really have an impact on sample buyers? It absolutely does – more than you might think.

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The Importance of Drop Rate or Survey Abandonment

In order to gather high-quality data from your respondents, you need them to complete your survey in its entirety. Also known as survey abandonment rates, high drop rates could impact your study by limiting the amount of data you’re able to collect in your desired timeframe, slowing down the process.

Monitoring your survey abandonment rate is critical for understanding how your survey is performing and what changes you can make to increase survey response rates. If you know your respondents aren’t completing your survey, you can take another look and try to determine the reasons for their survey abandonment.

Here are five reasons why high drop rates are bad for both researchers and respondents.

1) Drop rate reflects respondent experience.

Drop rate should be valued for its correlation to respondent experience and data quality. Of all of the metrics available when running an online survey, drop rate is the most helpful for understanding the respondent journey. 

Drops can happen for a variety of reasons – respondents abandoned the survey due to fatigue, got stuck on a broken page, or were redirected incorrectly due to a setup error. Check your survey data to see where you are losing respondents. Or, better yet, test the survey to see for yourself.

2) High drop rate could mean your survey is having technical issues and hurting data quality.

Respondents may drop from a survey when they encounter technical issues, such as a broken video, a missing button, or a mistranslated question.

Furthermore, respondents who decide not to drop when facing these challenges are often completing the survey with incomplete information, lowering the quality of their response.

3) Drop rate also tells us if a survey is designed poorly.

Similarly, drop rate may be tied to bad survey design. Repetitive questions, too many open-ends, excessive grids, and long LOIs can each cause respondent fatigue. Surveys that are not mobile optimized will also lead to poor mobile respondent experience and high rates of abandonment. Those who manage to withstand these conditions may end up rushing to finish out of frustration, resulting in poor quality responses.

4) Losing people in the survey makes your final data set less representative.

Losing lots of good respondents means the data you get from those who complete may not be representative of your intended audience. Those who get to the end only represent those with the strongest will to finish your survey.

5) Suppliers are less likely to send respondents to your survey.

Finally, as you might expect, a high drop rate hurts your survey performance because suppliers do not want to waste their respondents on a broken or frustrating survey. So, the better your survey performance metrics are, the more likely suppliers are to send respondents, and the faster your study will fill.

What Impacts Survey Abandonment?

The rate of survey abandonment is reflective of your respondent’s experience with your survey. A high drop rate could indicate that your survey is difficult for your respondents to complete, and losing respondents in your survey can result in lower-quality data. As a result, your final data may be less representative than it would be with a larger number of completed surveys.

Here are some of the main reasons for survey abandonment, leading to an unacceptable drop rate:

  •             Poor survey design or usability: Respondents are more likely to abandon your survey if it’s unappealing or difficult to navigate. Things like technical errors, unpleasant color choices and confusing buttons could result in a poor user experience that drives respondents away.
  •             Survey length (LOI): A survey that has too many questions or requires too much click-through will be taxing to respondents. Your survey shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes for your recipient to complete.
  •             Complicated or repetitive questions: When your questions are long or complex, your respondents may give inaccurate answers or abandon the survey altogether. Questions that are rephrased and repeated throughout the survey can be frustrating for respondents.
  •             Frequency of surveys: Sending too many surveys too close together can be overwhelming for your respondents, and they may be less likely to respond.

Often, one of the most-cited reasons respondents abandon surveys is related to functionality. Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of smartphone users mainly access the internet from their phones, and we’ve found that in the Lucid Marketplace, more than 44% of all traffic is from mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. Optimizing your survey for both desktop and mobile use is an important part of ensuring your respondents have the smoothest possible user experience to complete your survey.

When you determine why your survey has a high drop rate, you’ll want to address the issues as soon as possible. Frequent respondent abandonment can hurt your data quality and extend the amount of time it takes to get the data you need to complete your research. If you’re reaching your respondents through a supplier, know that they’re less likely to send out a survey that has a high drop rate, making it harder for you to reach your intended audience.

What Does This Mean for You?

High drop rate is direct feedback from respondents that your survey should be redesigned to improve the respondent experience and increase engagement. This could also result in higher quality in your final data set, so it’s a win for you and the respondents.

Listen to your respondents – they are dropping out for a reason! This feedback should be used to help you track down the source of the drops. When a survey has a high drop rate (>20%), test it end-to-end. Walking in your respondent’s shoes is the best way to understand their experience (even if you are sure that your survey is perfect).

Bottom line: if you were a respondent, would YOU want to take your survey? If the answer is no, then it’s time to reconsider your survey design.

If you want to learn more about how to prevent a high drop rate, check out our post on respondent experience!

What Is an Average Survey Response Rate?

Survey response rate is a metric used to understand how many people responded to your survey out of who received an invitation. Generally, the average survey response rate is about 30%, meaning 30 out of 100 recipients will respond to your survey. This average can vary widely depending on your distribution method, industry, incentives and respondent relationships.

For example, research has shown a steady decrease in average response rates for telephone surveys over the past several years, with the average plateauing at 9% from 2012 through 2016. Often, a more effective way to analyze your survey response rate is to consider your own data and determine what would be the most acceptable response rate. An acceptable response rate should be one that provides the data you need to make valid, research-backed decisions about your business.

How Can You Increase Your Online Survey Response Rate?

If you find your survey has a high abandonment rate, you’ll need to determine what can be improved to make respondents more likely to complete your questions. Test your survey for usability so you can identify any issues — and address them to create a new survey that will get the responses you need.

The following are tips to increase survey completions for an underperforming survey:

Consider Your Respondents

As you work through your survey, consider your respondents’ identities. Create a survey with questions that make sense to the respondents you expect to answer. If your survey is about a specific product, you’d want to send it to people who’ve purchased that product in the past. If you send it to a respondent who doesn’t own that product, they won’t complete the survey because it’s irrelevant to them.

Revise Your Questions

Read each of your questions out loud to ensure they’re clear and concise. If a question is too complex or confusing to your respondents, they may abandon the survey or give you an answer that doesn’t accurately reflect their thoughts. Additionally, make sure your questions aren’t too invasive. Asking questions your respondents perceive as sensitive in nature may cause them to become uncomfortable and abandon the survey.

For the easiest user experience and highest response rate, choose multiple-choice questions or short-answer questions, rather than open-ended questions that require considerable consideration from your respondents.

Work On Your Invitation

In most cases, your survey invitation is an opportunity to make a first impression on your respondents and convince them to answer your questions. The invitation should be clear and well-designed, letting respondents know exactly what to expect from the survey and how their responses will be used.

Include information like how many questions they’ll need to answer and how long the survey will take. If possible, embed the survey in the invitation to give respondents easy access without having to navigate elsewhere.

Add an Incentive

Respondents are more likely to complete your survey when you reward them for their efforts. Using incentives gives them a good reason to dedicate their time to answering your questions. Incentives can include entries into raffles for a chance to win a prize, coupons or discounts or an immediate prepaid prize like snacks or gifts.

Optimize Your Formatting

Conduct a survey usability test to catch any formatting errors or technical problems that could cause trouble for your respondents. Be sure your survey is optimized for both computer and mobile use, since your respondents could be using either platform to answer your survey.

Get more Survey Respondents With Lucid

Get Your Survey to More Respondents With Lucid

After you’ve created, optimized and tested your survey, you’ll need to find a way to reach respondents who can answer your questions and provide high-quality data. When you work with Lucid, we’ll help you gather responses by sending your survey to the right audiences in our sample Marketplace.

Find out more about our services and how we can help with your research by browsing our website or getting in touch with our team online.

Want to learn more about Lucid’s solutions? Get in touch with our team.

Lucid sits at the center of the programmatic insights ecosystem. While we’re not a survey platform or a market research firm, Lucid’s sampling Marketplace operates between the two. 

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