What is a typical survey response rate?

Survey response rates refer to the proportion of people invited to take part in a survey who actually go on to complete it. The response rate is not the same as an Incidence Rate (the proportion of a population who meet required targeting criteria and could participate) or the Strike Rate (the number of interviews completed in a set time period e.g. per hour).

Response rates differ significantly across market research surveys and can range from less than 1 in 20 (low response) to 1 in 2 (high response) depending on a number of factors outlined below.


1. Research Methodology

typical survey response rate - research methodology

Online surveys have much lower response rates than telephone due to the lack of personal contact or engagement with an interviewer. We therefore require much larger sample sizes for online surveys to achieve similar numbers of responses to telephone.


2. Whether the survey sponsor is revealed or not

Respondents are generally more willing to take part in surveys when they know who the research is on behalf of and what the overall topic is. Surveys where the client or sponsor name is not revealed are likely to have lower levels of response.


3. Engagement with the sponsor or subject matter

Willingness to complete a survey is influenced by a respondent’s relationship with a company or the topic of interest. For example, there will be considerable variance in response rate between:

• Current customer who may see more value in giving feedback;
• Dissatisfied former customers with little interest in ‘helping’ the company;
• Non-customers with no current or past relationship, or where they have never heard of the sponsor in the first place.

Likewise, if the topic is more emotive or important to the respondent, the survey will achieve higher response rates than those where the topic is less relevant or where the link to the respondent’s day-to-day activities is less clear.


4. Pre-notification or awareness of the survey

Response rates are stronger where respondents/customers are made aware of the study in advance by the sponsor. This raises the profile of the research and the research agency contacting on their behalf and reassures respondents that it is a genuine and worthwhile activity.


5. Inclusion of an incentive

Incentives do not have to be monetary – they can be a synopsis of research results, information on actions to be taken as a result of research or a sharing of interesting learnings – but showing respondents their feedback is valued by acknowledging and ‘rewarding’ their participation can encourage higher levels of response.


6. Survey length and complexity

Shorter surveys typically have higher response rates as they place less pressure on the respondent to take time away from their working day – conversely, more complicated surveys that require additional thought, time or consideration for the respondent can be more onerous to complete which affects the level of engagement and response.


7. Quality of contact information available

Surveys where named contacts with accurate, up to date contact details e.g. direct telephone numbers, named email addresses, correct job titles etc. can be provided are more likely to yield stronger responses than lists with out of date or duplicate numbers, no contact names or more generic ‘sales@’ or ‘info@’ email.

8. Likely completion of other/similar surveys

typical survey response rate - likely completion

Respondents who receive invitations to multiple surveys can become fatigued and less likely to participate as can those who may have recently completed similar studies or do not see the value in providing their feedback.


9. Cultural/geographic nuances

typical survey response rate - cultural geographic nuances

Attitudes towards research and likely response can differ between countries and we must not assume that what holds true in one market will do so in all others e.g. telephone response rates in the USA are far lower than in Europe due to a tendency to favor voicemail.

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