All posts by Rudly Raphael

Boosting Response Rates: Crafting the Perfect Survey Invitation Email

Historically mail surveys have better response rates than online surveys. But it doesn’t mean online surveys aren’t useful. In fact, online surveys have the advantage of being more cost-effective and easier to administer than mail surveys. Studies have shown that there are several ways to increase response rates for online surveys. qSample has searched the Internet, scholarly journals, trade publications, and just about everywhere else to compile a thorough list of ways to boost response rates for online surveys.

This new five-part series, will explore the topics of invitation emails, survey incentives, survey design, understanding the data from surveys, and how make decisions based on survey results.

The online survey invitation email is the first contact between survey administrators and respondents. Like the cliché states, first impressions are everything. It takes seconds for the respondent to decide to open an email, ignore it, or delete it. So there is only a few seconds that survey administrators have to convince respondents to open the invitation email.

The process of survey administration begins with the survey invitation. The subject line of the invitation email is the first step in the process. A high open rate of email invitations, leads to a higher click-through-rate, which then leads to high survey page impressions, which, of course, leads to higher survey starts and ultimately high survey completion rates.
The survey invitation consists of the subject line, the message, and the closing of the email. Each of these sections is important, and the respondent can abandon the email at any point.


The first step in creating an effective online survey invitation email that will guarantee high open rates is a great subject line. Crafting the subject line can be difficult. It can’t be too long as more emails are read on smartphones. The best subject line will include the name of the respondent, the name of the company or organization, and the perceived value for the respondent. Here are examples of good and bad subject lines:

BAD: Complete this survey and win a prize!
GOOD: Jennifer, which fall trends we should sell at Francesca’s?

The “bad” example doesn’t state the name of the organization or company, it doesn’t address the respondent by name, and it doesn’t create value for the respondent. Most importantly, the wording of the subject line would trigger email spam filters. See the word cloud below for words and phrases most commonly synonymous with spam.

Words to avoid when crafting survey invitation emails

Words to avoid when crafting survey invitation emails

Let’s look at the “good” example. What makes this a good subject line? For one it’s short, about 50 characters long, which is the general rule for creating subject lines. Using both the company’s name and the name of the respondent has also been shown to increase open-click-rates because it personalizes the email for the respondent. People respond best when seeing their name in the subject line along with a recognizable company.

What this subject line does best of all is great value for the respondent. Assuming the respondent is someone who shops at Francesca’s and is someone who is interested in fashion trends, this subject line would appeal to this respondent. The respondent will value having an opportunity to influence the store’s buying decisions. The ability to have input on what a company decides creates value for the respondent. Before creating the invitation, think about what the respondents’ value most.

Because it takes respondents only a few seconds to decide to open or delete an email, there may be pressure for survey administrators to write creative subject lines that stand out. The subject line doesn’t have to be clever. In fact, a study a few years ago proved that clear subject lines received 54 percent more open-click-rates than a clever one. Respondents will always respond better to clear and concise subject lines.

The importance of the subject line cannot be discussed without discussing the importance of the “from” field. The “from” field is the fastest way to gain the respondent’s trust. Establish trust by making sure the name of the company or the organization the survey is for is stated explicitly in the “from” field. Here are good and bad examples of the “from” field.

GOOD: Francesca’s Dress Shop “

While the respondent may recognize that the “from” field of the bad example is from a trusted company, it’s informal at best. If the respondent doesn’t recognize the sender’s email address, then sender, the survey administrator, may not establish trust. If possible, use an actual person’s name and email address, if the respondent knows the person. For example, Francesca’s could be sending a survey to past customers. Since it’s a small shop, the from field could be “Francesca, <>.”

Emails must vie for attention. The decision to open an email takes only a few seconds. This is why the subject line and the “from” field of the invitation email are the most important part of the process. If there is a low open rate, go back and tweak the subject line. The survey email invitation is always a work in progress.

Here is an example of how a successful email invitation should appear in the respondent’s inbox on their smartphone:

Jennifer, Francesca’s Dress Shop needs your opinion on fall trends
Francesca’s Dress Shop
First Line of Email Message Goes Here


If the respondent has opened the email, then the subject line completed its objective. Convincing the respondent to open the survey link is the next objective.

In order to accomplish this objective, the email message must be addressed to the respondent, if possible. Remember personalization is always the key because respondents responding positively to seeing email addressed to themselves.

Next, the email should explain the purpose of the email, the purpose of the survey, and how the results of the survey will be used. Be compelling. Don’t worry about being creative. Respondents respond better to clear and concise writing. For example, the message for Francesca’s Dress Shop could begin like this:

Dear Jennifer,

You are a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop. As such, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Below is a link to our five-minute survey.

Those three short sentences convey why the respondent received the email (she’s a customer), explains the purpose of the survey (determine which trends the store should sell), and how the results would be used (which trends the store will sell). These three sentences also convey the value for the respondent. First, the email acknowledges that she is valued. Second, she has the opportunity to influence what the store will buy and sell.

It’s also important to remind the respondent that they may have agreed to be contacted. Here is an example of how the above example could be tweaked to include this information:

Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please complete our five-minute survey.

Now that the email established value, the purpose of the survey, and how the survey results will be used, it’s time to address the actual survey. It’s important to state how long the respondent should expect the survey to take. This could be the approximate time it takes to complete the survey or the number of questions asked. Respect the respondents time by being honest. If it is a long survey, let them know. If there are any special requirements, tell them. Here’s an example:

Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys, and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please click on the link below to complete our five-minute survey by October 31, 2014.

The message now tells the respondents how long the survey will take and provides a deadline. Since the respondents of the survey are customers of the store, helping the store determine what to sell could be enough of an incentive. Incentives are important (that’s another blog post), they have to be carefully considered before administering. In this example of the dress shop, the owner could offer a discount. They could have a raffle and the winner could win an expensive item. Or the owner could think outside of the box. Here’s an example:

Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys, and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please click on the link below for our ten-minute survey by October 31, 2014.

Once the survey is completed, you will receive an evite for our invitation only spa night at the store, where we will serve wine, appetizers, and desserts. You will also receive a pedicure, manicure and facial, free of charge.. Once you arrive, you will be entered into a raffle for prizes that include some of our favorite pieces and spa products. You will also be able to shop our exclusive clearance sale. All this for helping us determine our fall line!

The incentive should be expressly stated, as well as how the respondent can claim it when they complete the survey. In the above example, the respondent knows that they will receive an invitation to the store for a spa night with wine and food. If respondent comes to the event, they will be entered into a raffle and have a chance to buy items at a discount. For customers who frequently shop at the store, this provides extra incentive to complete the survey.

The email message should always include some information about how the company will protect the respondent’s privacy. Briefly explaining the company’s privacy policy could go a long way in allaying fears about the security and misuse of personal data:
Dear Jennifer,

As a valued customer of Francesca’s Dress Shop, you stated that we could contact you about company news, surveys, and product news. Today, we need your help in determining which fall trends we should sell in our shop. Please click on the link below for our ten-minute survey by October 31, 2014.

Once the survey is completed, you will receive an evite for our invitation only spa night at the store, where we will serve wine, appetizers, and desserts. You will also receive a pedicure, manicure and facial, free of charge.. Once you arrive, you will be entered into a raffle for prizes that include some of our favorite pieces and spa products. You will also be able to shop our exclusive clearance sale. All this for helping us determine our fall line!

Insert Survey Link Here!

At Francesca’s, we understand your personal information must be protected. We will not sell your personal data to any third party. The information we obtain will be used solely for determining our Fall 2014 line.

The bulk of the invitation email is nearly complete. Establishing credibility is the next step. Providing a short company description and a link to the company website or the company’s address and phone number further establishes that the email is not spam, or that it contains malware.

The next to last step in crafting an invitation email that will lead to higher response rates is the closing of the email.

The email invitation is nearly complete. It’s always best to end with gratitude. Thanking the respondents for taking the time to complete the survey goes a long way in increasing response rates.

What also helps is closing the email with the name of a contact, their title, and email address. This also helps to establish credibility. Here’s an example of a good closing and a bad closing:


Thank you in advance for completing our survey. We appreciate you taking the time out of your day to complete it.


Owner, Francesca’s Dress Shop
111 Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, IL 60660


Thanks for completing our survey!


Market Research Department


With the survey invitation email completed, it’s now ready to be sent. But what time and what day should the email be sent? There have been numerous studies showing the correlations between picking the right day and time to send a survey invitation and response rates.

A recent research paper concluded that the best days that had the highest corresponding response rates were Fridays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, respectively. The best time of day to send the emails were between 4:01 pm and 8 pm. Second best time was 12:01 pm and 4 pm. The worst time to send the email was between 4:01 am and 8 am.

To sum it all up, the survey invitation email is one the most important elements in the survey administration process. Think of the process from the viewpoint of the respondent, and remember that it takes only a few seconds for a respondent to open the email or delete the email.

Next week, we discuss survey incentives and how the right incentive can increase response rates.

Access Over Ownership: Consumers Prefer Media Subscription

As the media world continues to focus on instant access and mobility, consumers are choosing subscription services to rent movies, TV shows, games, and music instead of purchasing them. Since the advent of the digital revolution, consumers seem to place a higher demand on access to media, rather than actually owning it. Media subscription services are more popular than ever, and qSample decided to find out why people choose the services that they do.

A survey of over 500 consumers was fielded during the first weeks of June to gauge perception, attitude, and preferences on the subject of media subscriptions. The results indicated that price and variety were the leading factors in how consumers value subscriptions. While, “more options”, was the reason that 34 percent valued those services, 38 percent picked their subscription based on price. This could suggest that consumers are much more interested in options and price, than in image, service quality, and other factors. Our survey showed that 63 percent of media subscribers pay less than $20 for their services each month, or roughly $1.50 per day. That’s less than most people pay for coffee each morning. The survey also indicated that 89 percent of consumers use subscription services at least once per week. This would suggest that the vast majority are actually paying $1.50-$5 per week for each day they use their subscription, and up to $9 each week for the days that they’re not using those services.

Media Sub 1

Consumers preferred the subscription pricing system over all others. In fact, 57 percent chose subscriptions over the free (paid for by sponsors/ads), pay what you want, and freemium pricing systems. This could be due to the simplicity of subscriptions, a lower price point, or even the negative attitudes that people typically adopt towards commercials. It’s more likely that this is indication of the consumer’s increasing desire for access to media, instead of ownership.

Sponsors and advertisements do play a key role in how many people view media. 43 percent of consumers surveyed felt advertisements devalue TV and Movies. Another 24 percent thought that ads and sponsors devalue games and music, while 29 percent felt that advertisements didn’t lower the value of media at all.

Consumers use their subscriptions on many devices, but even with advancements in smartphone and tablet technology, our survey showed that 28 percent still prefer laptops. Unsurprisingly, digital was the most popular format, and it was also the most used, but 27 percent indicated that they still use physical subscription options such as CD’s and DVD’s which are mailed to them.

Media Sub 2

Google Play was perceived as having the highest value for audiophiles, but Spotify was only used by 6 percent. It was valued highly by just 4 percent. Interestingly, Netflix was chosen for having the most value, not just for TV watchers, but in the entire category of media subscription services. According to the survey, 56 percent felt that Netflix offered the highest value over all. Amazon Video on Demand was a distant second with only 10 percent, and only 5 percent preferred Redbox. An equal number of Gamers chose Playstation Plus and Xbox Live as the service with the most value, which may indicated that Microsoft is recovering from the difficult launch of the Xbox One.

This is the age of access. Technology has grown at a staggering rate, and consumers are no longer demanding to own their media as they did before. People embrace the subscription system for its ease and simplicity, but price and options are the factors that can make or break a subscription company. No one understands this better than Netflix, the king of the industry, but for competitors, innovation and insight into what the consumer really wants could overthrow Netflix’s rule. Let’s not forget what happened to Blockbuster. No one can stay on top unless they know their consumers.
Media Sub 3

Going to the 2014 FIFA World Cup? It’s Going to Cost You!

According to the U.S. consulate in Rio, more than 187,000 tickets have been purchased by American credit cards and 80,000 U.S. visitors are expected to attend the Cup.

In the infographic below we break down a few of the costs Americans can expect to spend if they’re planning to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup in just one week. Would you be willing to pay the price?

FIFA World Cup

Infographic on travel costs for FIFA 2014

Our top 10 FREE Apps for Enjoying the NBA Playoffs!

The NBA Playoffs began on April 19th, and it’s looking to be one for the history books. For the first time since the beginning of the NBA, the Lakers, Celtics, and New York Knicks are all missing from the playoffs at once, but the fans aren’t missing anything.

With TV coverage, live streaming online, smartphone and tablet apps, forums, and much more, the list of ways that fans can interact seems endless. That’s why we looked into the best ways to stay updated and connect with everything.

For smartphones, most people opt for the NBA League Pass app. This app allows users to stream games live, and catch news, scores, alerts, stats, and much more. Usually it costs $55 to receive content, but since the regular season is over it will only cost $16.99 to catch the playoffs. Android users will need the NBA Game time 2014 app to use your league pass.

Of course, not everyone wants to dish out the big bucks for that kind of access, so we’ve also decided to put together a list of Top Ten Currently Popular Playoff Apps for Your iPhone and iPad, and since we want fans to spend their money on something useful, like tickets, snacks, and a bigger TV, all of these apps can be downloaded for free!

Top Ten Currently Popular Playoff Apps for Your iPhone and iPad

1.      WatchESPN

2.      Yahoo Sports

3.      FanFinder – Sports Bar Locator

4.      365Scores – Sports Live Scores, Results & News

5.      Yahoo! Sportacular HD

6.      Betting Odds – Vegas Lines, Picks, Scores

7.      KNBR

8.      Playoff Hoops

9.      Tickets on the Fly

10.  Beyond the Box: Real-time sports Instagram photos and


Warning, these apps may be free, but as always, some have fees to unlock features, so the full experience may still cost a few bucks!

Will Office for iPad Make Tablets the Tool for Work?

Last month, Microsoft shook the tablet world by finally launching its Office for iPad apps, and the reverberations may be felt for years to come.

While tablets have become extremely popular, with many users preferring smaller to bulky and more awkward laptops, they have yet to truly find their niche in the business world. Even with bluetooth keyboards, and writing tools like Google Docs and iWork, many businesses refuse to adopt the device as a serious business tool. In the academic arena, many students prefer tablets for note taking and research, but find it awkward to use for papers and presentations. The launch of Microsoft’s Office for iPad apps is designed to change all that.

We conducted a survey with our general consumer panel to gauge their level in the new Microsoft Office for iPad app. The survey was fielded in less than 2 days during the first week of April, with more than 400 respondents sharing their insights on this new product and what it means to them professionally.

Survey results clearly indicate that tablets are still very popular with the general populaltion. Unsurprisingly, Apple was king among those devices with  almost half (40.45%) of our panel indicated they own a version of the iPad, but a mere 26.18% claim their primary uses for those tablets are for work and school. Confirming our suspicions, we found that entertainment rules the tablet world, with a staggering 69.12% of our panel logging on for fun. As always, internet surfing, watching videos, and updating social network pages continue to be a staple of tablet use.

Clearly this isn’t a hardware issue, and many who own Apple devices, such as the iPad, prefer to use the Microsoft Office software. This suggests that the new apps will be very well received by tablet owners, but there is a lot more involved than ease of use. Our survey showed that there was a strong positive reaction to the Office for iPad apps, as 63.02% said that they plan on using the new apps now that they are available, yet 76.56% didn’t feel that the apps were worth the $99 subscription fee. This is likely due to the abundance of less powerful, but free, programs/apps that will allow users to run similar tasks. Price does seem to play an enormous role, as 64.58% of our panel is considering the free Microsoft Office smartphone apps as a serious alternative. This poses the question of whether or not smartphones may find a place as a document editing tool in the business world as well.

The smartphone apps may be free, but lack many important features that are available on the iPad and laptop versions. In addition to features, portability seems to be a factor. Today’s “on-the-go” lifestyle means that document editing on a smartphone may be preferable to carrying a bulky laptop, or even a tablet. On the down side, small screens and lack of features may discourage users from choosing apps like Office for smartphones, even if they’re free. Our panel was also concerned about storage space on their devices. These apps can take up a considerable amount of space on users’ iPads, and 67.71% claimed that this alone would discourage them from downloading the software.

Cloud services have been available for some time, but there is no question that Microsoft has arrived very late to the game. This may be due to the company’s efforts to streamline their products for unconventional devices, or a simple lack of attention to the tablet market. In either case, this is definitely an interesting move for Microsoft. One pitfall of releasing the apps for the iPad is that this may have a negative effect on the sales of non-Apple tablets, including Microsoft’s own Surface. In addition, the Office for iPad apps are significantly better looking and much more streamlined than other versions. This may influence which tablets businesses buy for their employees, and ultimately hurt Microsoft’s Surface sales as well. Apple will receive a percentage of Office 365 subscription fees sold through iTunes, which will also add to the funding of their competition. All of these factors make the late release of the Office for iPad apps a very interesting decision. Only time will tell if Microsoft’s new launch was a brilliant strategy, or too-little-too-late, but in any case, the world is taking a second look at the tablet as a serious business tool.

Microsoft Office for iPad Infographic (3)

Who’s Footing the Spring Break Bill?

A survey conducted with Campus Universe – qSample’s College Student panel,  revealed that only 26% of college students had a full time job during the academic year. 30% of students surveyed indicated they had a part time job, while 42% claimed that they did not work at all.

Yet, every single year, more than 1.5 million students go on spring break and collectively spend over one billion dollars. Panama Beach, Florida is the #1 domestic spring break destination, with an attendance of over 592,000 students recorded in 2013. South Padre Island, Texas is the second largest domestic Spring Break destination, with an attendance of 225,000 students reported in 2013.

During the month of March, the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Panama City Beach is the highest grossing Wal-Mart throughout the nation.  Spring breakers are also responsible for contributing to the popularity of the Holiday Inn Resort in Panama City Beach, as each year it reaches 250,000+ students between in-room, pool deck parties and their daily beach front activations during the month of March.

The survey also revealed that when returning home from their vacations, a large majority of college students intends to stay with their parents. Over 31% of students surveyed by qSample noted that they lived with their parents during the previous school year.


Spring is the Season for Home Improvement!

For many people, spring is not just the season for rain showers and the start of America’s pastime.  It’s also the number one season for home improvements, renovations, and home sales.

Homeowners and contractors alike will be hitting the home improvement stores multiple times to perform mini makeovers in every room of the house.

35 percent of qSample’s contractor panel prefer to buy their supplies from Home Depot. While 19 percent of contractors said they buy their supplies from Lowes. Panelists cited location, bigger selection, and pricing as the top three factors in determining where they shop.

Jade Lafleur, a realtor from Coldwell Banker, thinks making a few simple touch-ups to a house can really make a big difference. “A little can go a long way,” Lafleur said, “especially when it comes to the outside of the house. Curb appeal is crucial, never under estimate how far something as simple as repainting a front door can go. Many times potential buyers will find photos of houses they like online, and drive by them first in order to decide if they even want to take a tour inside.”

54 percent of qSample’s homeowner panel spend $1,000-$2,999 annually on home improvements, while only 17 percent of homeowners spend $3,000-$4,999 annually.

Lafleur also suggests painting the doorframe and at least the foyer or front room, as well. It’s best to use neutral colors and something that blends well into the rest of the neighborhood. Whether you are doing the work yourself, or if you have hired someone, it is important to make sure all of the prep work is done first. Be certain to wash away all of the dirt and patch any necessary surface areas before beginning to paint.

There is no time like today to start a new home improvement project just in time for spring.


How Crowd-Sourcing has Impacted the Search for Flight 370

For the past few weeks, one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind has been, “What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?” Something about this mystery has captivated the hearts and minds of people around the world, and inspired the largest search operation in history. Even with 26 countries officially participating in the effort, and French satellites spotting over one hundred pieces of possible plane wreckage in the Indian Ocean, the plane and its passengers are still unaccounted for.  But they aren’t the only ones who are looking.

Within days of the disappearance, DigitalGlobe, a commercial vendor of space imagery and geospatial content, directed a significant amount of its earth-imaging satellite resources towards the area in which the plane was suspected to be located. Then, using its geo-tagging website,, DigitalGlobe opened the search to anyone with an internet connection and some free time. This has made it possible for over 3 million ordinary people to look for possible signs of wreckage across an immense space of open ocean from the comfort of their own homes. In the first week, over 2 million pages of images were being scanned every 10 minutes, and, with nearly 15,000 square miles of ocean uploaded, every pixel had been searched by human eyes at least 30 times. When a user spotted an object of interest, he or she would tag its location on Tomnod. If enough users tagged an area, the information would be relayed to official search coordinators.

crowdsourcing infographic 1

While many praise DigitalGlobe and Tomnod for introducing a revolutionary search technique and harnessing the power of ordinary people, the project hasn’t been an entirely smooth process. experienced frequent lagging issues and occasional server crashes due to the heightened traffic. Many felt that they would have joined the effort if it had been possible. For instance, 14.23% would have participated if the site was accessible on other platforms, such as a mobile app. Some have even criticized the idea of crowd-sourcing in a search and rescue mission as the general public are not organized and trained in what to look for when searching for a crash site. These criticisms have lead to thoughts that governments around the world should be launching their own crowd-sourcing platforms in the near future. 43.49% of our panel shared this opinion, while only 26% felt that crowd-sourcing should continue to be organized by businesses and online communities. In addition to the massive scale of the search, the communication and data collection has been staggering. 52.74% said that the level of technology used in this case is invasive and disturbing. In the end, more of our panel felt that crowd-sourcing was beneficial to the search effort than harmful to it, but 49.19% remain unsure as to whether this revolutionary technique is really a good idea.

crowdsourcing infographic 2

March Madness is back!

March Madness is back! After this long gruesome winter we’ve all endured in 2014, people are as excited as ever to have something to look forward to, as the final weeks of March come to a close.
As a data collection firm, qSample is always interested in insightful data. Therefore, it only makes sense to turn March Madness into a numbers game. Let’s take a look at what we found from the infographic below.