Preventing Non-Response Bias in Market Research

We have all been there – working our way through a winding questionnaire only to abandon it halfway through. There is often a correlation between factors such as a respondent’s age, sex, and social status, and whether they finish the survey. These factors can also determine if an individual chooses to participate in the first place. Market research analysis that ignores the ramifications of nonresponse factors runs the risk of producing inaccurate conclusions. By employing these three low-effort and low-cost strategies, you can avoid this pitfall.

Use a Variety of Platforms

Millennials, Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers – each demographic is characterized by certain communication preferences. Older people, for example, may faithfully complete a mail-in survey which will rarely see high response rates from the younger generations.

Today, most of us have the ability to fill in an online survey on our smartphones, no matter where we are. However, an online survey will receive far fewer responses from lower-income individuals whose only access to the internet is at the public library. In the same way, Millennials and Gen Z are notoriously unresponsive to emails.

Once you understand these preferences, you can formulate a survey outreach strategy that covers each group’s preferred method of communication.

Factor in Time

This refers to both the average duration of the survey and the response window for receiving completed forms. The most common reason for respondents abandoning a survey is the length of the questionnaire. Design your form and the questions in such a way to minimize the time required to complete it. Consider breaking it up into two surveys, with a follow-up coming a week or so after the first. This strategy may also help you add or modify questions based on the responses to the first survey, improving the accuracy of your results.

A company that produces food for infants learned that factoring in time when designing a survey is critical to receiving accurate feedback. After making significant revisions to their products based on survey responses, the changes were met with overwhelmingly negative feedback, and they discovered that busy moms – who constituted the majority of their clientele – simply did not have time to complete the survey properly.

Avoid Excessive Specialization

It can often seem that one particular subsection of your target demographic is the most important. Without adequate data, though, targeting that section alone may lead to failure instead of success.

The recent layoffs at some of the most popular media sites like Buzzfeed and Vox allude to this idea. The general consensus after the fallout is that they focused disproportionately on subsections of the community that simply were not large enough to lead to increased views (which translates to increased revenue). If you can avoid an overly narrow spectrum, the responses will be more in line with your overall brand message and targets.