So much of our work has shifted online, leading to a heightened awareness of our industry’s need for humanization. It has become clear to most that there is no longer an impersonal respondent joining a study, but a “responsumer”, i.e. an individual participating in a research initiative who is a respondent, a consumer, and a citizen, a human being. With that lens, we can think differently about how to meet their needs.
What do online research participants need?
The need to take action to improve the quality of surveys is evidenced by the results of the study entitled “Who is the respondent?” conducted by SoftArchitect and HERSTORIES in 2022 in Poland. The study collects perspectives of respondents of online communities and the results bring conclusions on how to improve the satisfaction and engagement of participants, who should be treated by agencies as their consumers.
1. Make a good first impression – Code of the First Survey
The standard should be that the first task of a new panelist always ends with success, i.e. qualification for the study. New panelists show three times more commitment to completing tasks than experienced panelists. Research agencies should appreciate this optimistic attitude and help respondents to maintain it. It will be helpful to use the Code of the First Survey and ensure that it is followed. In building a good first impression, it is also important to:
- emotional communication: based on emotional benefits, providing fun, gamification, a sense of importance, subjectivity, and respect;
- responsive blog: a community run by professionals that gives credibility and understanding of what it is to participate in a study;
- feedback communication when completing surveys: answering questions in the online formula (hotline, chatbots).
2. Struggle the boredom – the enemy of the survey
One of the reasons for not completing surveys is fatigue from completing them. They are usually uninteresting and too long. Use engaging tasks that eliminate the risk of automatically clicking on random responses.
If you monitor the respondent’s satisfaction and receive information that the survey is boring, consider other forms of research (not just surveys) that increase engagement and give one the opportunity to collect points for payment faster. Story-fying, use an engaging user interface, introduce illustrations, change the tone of the conversation, and get creative. Perhaps it is enough to adjust the language so that it is more friendly and engaging.
3. Customize technology and research tools
In the design of the study, the advantage of completing surveys outside the home should be taken into account. Currently, more than half of website traffic is generated by smartphones (55%). On mobile devices, about 35% of all surveys are completed. Tasks sent to panelists should therefore work very well on mobile devices such as smartphones and be supported by all operating systems and browsers, as well as open on any respondent’s device also offline.
“I gave up one panel because it didn’t allow me to answer via a smartphone”
Respondent 20-24 years
4. Optimize time
Surveys in panels are significantly longer than those expected by panelists, which affects the quality of data obtained. It is not uncommon for the survey to be longer than it was declared at the beginning of the survey. Such action is abuse and is classified as a violent act against respondents. This should definitely be avoided. The optimal duration of the survey should be maintained in the range of 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Start talking!
People don’t like impersonal surveys, but they love to be listened to. Introduce the opportunity to express your opinion about the task, and its attractiveness in terms of various criteria. Use personalized and differentiated communication depending on the type of tasks (different templates of invitations to different tasks). Bet on feedback and gain valuable feedback. Ask and give remarks: How was it? Did you like it? What was cool and what wasn’t? You went through the questions too quickly and answered the control question incorrectly. Be careful, because you will get a warning – now you have a second chance! Read carefully!
“Let more life into the task – it can put on the other side of the bot or AI to make it more human or a little closer.” Survey respondent, 15-24 years old
6. Monitor participant satisfaction
For the panel managers, the respondents’ departure from completing surveys is a signal to evaluate their own activities in both technical (efficiency, reliability) and substantive areas (competencies to activate and maintain panelists). Such an evaluation may be supported by feedback from participants who have actively declared their willingness to unsubscribe from the panel. It is worth implementing the mechanism of predicting the resignation from the panel – after each task. As a result of the lack of attractiveness of the tasks or the lack of other benefits, the panelist may develop bad emotions. The price of profits and costs is a continuous process, which is why monitoring the satisfaction of participants is an important element of panel management.
The effectiveness of activating the participant depends on the above-described system of monitoring one’s satisfaction (Satisfaction Management System). Maintaining a good assessment and satisfaction with completing surveys directly affects the participant’s involvement in the research process and translates into the quality of the data obtained (m.in response rate). The attractiveness index of individual tasks should be based on criteria: task duration, task type, task content (e.g. question types), and remuneration. The attractiveness index treated as a measure of the commitment of a responsument can be an additional parameter of valuations next to LOI, IR, RR.
8. Design surveys iteratively. A small change – a big result
Survey design should be more iterative than in the past. Gone are the days when it was enough to run a survey, send it to respondents and wait for data. There are currently many options for checking and gradually adjusting online surveys. Ongoing evaluation of their performance and making small changes during the survey improves the respondent’s experience. If respondents provide feedback on the surveys they complete, ignoring their voice and continuing with a suboptimal survey will be detrimental to the results of the survey. Small, incremental iterations can result in huge, positive effects.
9. Conversational surveys
The conversational survey is the future of online research, providing an exciting experience for research participants, an exciting panel design, and better data quality. Rapidly developing new digital technologies are moving towards the use of human avatars in consumer research. In the future, technology using AI elements will definitely improve the respondents’ experience by replacing boredom with entertainment, transaction with relationship, and the impersonality of the respondent with their own subjectivity.
Responsumers: both respondents and consumers
The changing technological reality around us is constantly influencing the evolution of research tools and methods. The development of the area of benefits, associated with the emotional currency, the so-called respontainment, is a key direction for improving the quality of surveys. On the other side of the panel, there is no longer an impersonal respondent waiting, but a “responsumer”, i.e. a specific person who is both a respondent, a consumer, and a citizen. Improving the quality of experience at every stage of the study – from recruitment to resignation – should currently be the overriding goal of the development of the research market as part of the Research 4.0 transformation. Thanks to the combination of knowledge, experience, and technological achievements, this is now more possible than ever.
 Statistics of 2.5 million visits to surveys in the system OnFly SoftArchitect