5 Practical Strategies To Avoid Survey Abandonment

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Survey Abandonment

Featured Image: iStock/ipopba

The last time I let an online survey take my time was a Facebook privacy survey. The company was rolling out some new privacy features and I immediately jumped on the chance to let Zuckerberg know what I expected.

As somebody who does not initiate or finish a lot of online surveys, I feel quite confident in my position to tell you the things that will encourage me, and others like me, to take your surveys seriously. So read on and learn how you can avoid some of the most common survey mistakes that result in your surveys being ignored.

But before we jump to that, let’s understand the two basic kinds of survey abandonments:

  • Survey abandonment due to survey-taking fatigue
  • Survey abandonment due to survey-response fatigue

The first takes place at the start of a survey. You see the invitation popping up and you go ‘No, not another survey!’ The second is when you leave the survey in the middle, half-done, and you decide you have better things to do.

To combat both these types of fatigues, you’ll have to incorporate different strategies. The five strategies I’ll share with you will contain solutions for both, so stay tight.

1. Be Respectful Of Their (And Your) Time

This is a multi-layered strategy. When you are being respectful of people’s time and your own, you will realize that nobody has the time to fill a 20-minute online survey no matter how valuable it seems to them. Being mindful of that, you’ll design your survey more consciously.

First: keep the survey short. Word your questions smartly so instead of asking the same thing in three different questions, you’re taking care of the matter with just one question that’s cleverly-worded.

Second: known when to survey. The right time for the cart abandonment survey, for example, is right at the moment when the cart is being abandoned. Again, keep the survey short and include all possible responses.

Third: people are time-poor. To entice them to spend time on your survey, be very upfront about how long will it take. Display the time as well as the number of questions left in the survey.

The first two points take care of the survey-taking fatigue while the last one manages the survey-response fatigue.

2. Show Them The Value & Purpose Of The Survey

When your audiences know the value of the questions they are answering and the value of their responses, they’ll take a keener interest in the survey. There will be a sense of ownership and responsibility. A desire to be helpful. Or at least a desire to let you, the company, know what they expect from you.

Much like what I had in mind when taking that Facebook survey.

So word your survey invitation in a way that communicates the purpose and value of the survey to the survey-takers immediately. Tell people why you need them to answer these few questions and how will their responses help you bring about a new change, write a research paper or launch a new project.

For this strategy to work, history must be on your side. If you’ve gotten yourself into a habit of launching surveys and then doing nothing about the results, well, the lack of action can be a huge turn-off for your customers.

As per Culture Amp CEO and Founder, Didier Elzinga, people don’t get a survey-fatigue, they get lack-of-action fatigue. To combat that, take the new survey as an opportunity to tell people what you did about the findings from the last. Show them what they helped achieve. If people know their opinions are being listened to and the responses are making actual change, you stand a higher chance of your surveys never being abandoned.

This takes care of both the survey-taking fatigue and survey-response fatigue. You’re energizing the respondents to take part in another impactful survey.

3. Tailor The Survey Questions

Isn’t it such a bother to keep choosing the ‘Skip’ or ‘N/A’ button in response to questions that don’t apply to you? I mean, I don’t have a dog (yes, a miserable life situation that I hope to remedy soon), so stop asking me if I let him run on the furniture or which areas of the house he’s allowed to go.

For one thing, you should send me a questionnaire that’s tailored to my life; or at the very least, design it in a way that I can skip all the 20 dog-hair related questions in one go. Better yet, make it so that the whole section is not visible to me.

For another, when I get a dog, he’ll be allowed to go anywhere he damn well pleases. And I’ll be grateful to him for existing.

Coming back to tailored questions, use a technique called ‘filter questions’. Instead of assuming a situation, insert a question where the respondent can tell you clearly if that situation applies to them or not. If not, all the questions relevant to that will automatically be skipped for that respondent, giving you highly precise survey responses and user-data.

Plus, if you are sending out a survey to your existing customer base, chances are you already know some of their behavior patterns (shopping habits, etc.), so make use of that information and send out tailored-questionnaires that they’d like to answer. Again, if a section doesn’t apply to some of your audiences, don’t display it to them. Skip and snip. Skip and snip.

4. Display The Results

Displaying the results of the survey in real-time can be a powerful reinforcement for survey-takers. Seeing how other people have responded to this survey can encourage more people to take part in it.

If the nature of your survey allows, display the results of the previous question as the customer lands on the next question. However, if displaying survey-results like that can put your response validity in jeopardy, then choose to do it at the end of the questionnaire. Use interactive graphics, illustrations, and imagery to communicate the results more engagingly.

This way, you’re combating not only the survey-taking fatigue but the response fatigue as well.

5. Ask Sensitive Questions Sensitively

Look, being completely candid, eCommerce surveys are no place for asking sensitive questions. Don’t go asking for people’s incomes and drug uses and what-not when they’re innocently just purchasing dinner from your site.

Sensitive questions most often than not result in nonresponses, and even when the responses are given, the measurement errors are too high to let the data be valid and generalizable.

So the number 1 tip I can give you here: Do not ask sensitive questions in your online surveys.

However, if the nature of the survey demands to ask a few sensitive questions, do so sensitively. Hire a third party – usually a research organization – that will professionally word your questions to ensure that there’s nothing in them that’ll put a respondent off. Also, make sure not to ask sensitive questions at the start of the survey. Keep them for the last. It will ensure that your surveys are not being left half-finished.

And always protect people’s privacy and ensure complete confidentiality.


While it’s true that no one likes to take part in surveys, it’s also true that consumers are increasingly more interested in having tailored customer experiences when conducting their business online. Tailoring personalized experiences is impossible in the absence of user-data.

So what’s the solution to this vicious circle? The solution is in survey designs that are devoid of common mistakes, present genuine value to the user, and can prove that they’re result-oriented.

To find out if your survey fits this bill, take a few minutes out and see how you respond to the survey yourself.

About The Author

Kelvin Stiles is a tech enthusiast and works as a marketing consultant at SurveyCrest – FREE online survey software and publishing tools for academic and business use. He is also an avid blogger and a comic book fanatic.