This is just one of the insights from the research-on-research* we have recently conducted into the online survey user experience. It shows that the simple act of letting people know what other people think about certain issues can be an extremely powerful way to motivate people to participate in research.

In our test, we shared with participants the answers to a number of attitude questions from a previous wave of the same study, which we thought people might be interested in seeing. To make the data more relevant for the participants, we shared decided to share data back by age group based on the age of the participant. Our test proved that sharing this type of information back with participants significantly improved both the user experience of participating in the research AND the significantly improved the impression participants had of the sponsor of the survey. This sharing of data was particularly appreciated by people who participate in surveys in order to influence products they care about, as well as those who do so to share their own opinions. Just as importantly, even though reading about other people’s opinions in this way increased the interview length, it even increased satisfaction with the survey amongst those motivated to participate in research for the money, showing indeed that the incentive, whilst important, is not everything. As one participant told us after the survey: “It gave me an opportunity to give my opinion and you provide feedback on what other people in my age group felt about things.” By age group, it is the +65 year olds whose experience is most improved by getting to see the opinions of their peers. As one participant put it: “I found it most interesting that you provide the participants with the results of the various survey sections. I do not know that I have seen this before. I found it interesting to see the concerns of people in my age group.” Also interestingly, our research suggests that sharing back data in this way improves the user experience most among those who are not particularly interested in the subject matter. This suggests that data sharing can be used as a mechanism to help ensure that these people make it through to the end of what could be for them a somewhat long, tricky and even boring experience, therefore reducing drop-out and improving data quality. This could be of particular importance in surveys were the researcher needs to get an accurate measurement of the whole market and not just the opinions of people who are very interested in the subject at hand. Our research indicates that the sharing back of data is a great way to motivate people to participate in research again, with as many as 6-in-10 respondents saying they are very interested in seeing other people’s answers to certain questions in future surveys (top 2 box on a seven point scale). Interestingly this type of data-sharing motivates people who have been answering surveys for more than 2 years, suggesting that it could be a good way to maintain interest among these more experienced survey-takers.
Participant Engagement Handbook due out in October: Watch this space
This is just one of the many tips we will be including in the Participant Engagement Handbook, which we will be issuing in October. The handbook will contain a wide range of practical tips across a number of methodologies, which can be used to not only improve the user experience, but to also create a positive impact on the reputation of the client company sponsoring the survey. This is important, since data sharing in this way will need to be set up in close co-operation with the client. Here are the key things researchers will need to discuss and agree on with their clients:
  1. What information, related to the research topic, are people are interested in?
  2. Does the client have data from previous surveys which could be of interest?
  3. Do any of the planned questions in the questionnaire serve this need?
  4. If so, is the client willing to share the data?
  5. If not, what extra questions can be added?
Obviously, this will require some extra effort on behalf of the researcher and the client, but the same data-shares can be used across multiple surveys. If you have experience with this type of data sharing, we would love to hear from you. If you haven’t, we suggest you engage your clients on giving it a go on their next surveys, and not only measure the impact you have on the participant’s experience, but also on your clients’ reputations.
Many thanks to our partners
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners on this research-on-research. In particular, we would like to thank the team at Critical Mix for stepping in last minute and doing a fantastic job programming the questionnaires, hosting the survey and managing the sample partners. I would also like to thank Cait Wilson, Ph.D. Candidate at University of Utah, who helped with the questionnaire design and is assisting with the analysis of the data.   * Source: GRBN Participant Experience AB Testing Study An online study to test how people’s experience taking online surveys can be improved by changing the way we engage with them. The study was conducted in the US in July 2017, with a total of 7475 persons participating in the study.