Increasing Web Survey Response Rates in Innovation Research: An Experimental Study of Static and Dynamic Contact Design Features

33 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2010 Last revised: 29 Oct 2015

See all articles by Henry Sauermann

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael Roach

Cornell University

Date Written: April 30, 2012

Abstract

Web surveys have become increasingly central to innovation research but often suffer from low response rates. Based on a cost-benefits framework and the explicit consideration of heterogeneity across respondents, we consider the effects of key contact design features such as personalization, incentives, and the exact timing of survey contacts on web survey response rates. We also consider the benefits of a “dynamic strategy”, i.e., the approach to change features of survey contacts over the survey life cycle. We explore these effects experimentally using a career survey sent to over 24,000 junior scientists and engineers. The results show that personalization increases the odds of responding by as much as 48%, while lottery incentives with a high payoff and a low chance of winning increase the odds of responding by 30%. Furthermore, changing the wording of reminders over the survey life cycle increases the odds of a response by over 30%, while changes in contact timing (day of the week or hour of the day) did not have significant benefits. Improvements in response rates did not come at the expense of lower data quality. Our results provide novel insights into web survey response behavior and suggest useful tools for innovation researchers seeking to increase survey participation.

Keywords: web surveys, response rates, experimental method, scientists, dynamic strategy, incentives, personalization, timing

Suggested Citation

Sauermann, Henry and Roach, Michael, Increasing Web Survey Response Rates in Innovation Research: An Experimental Study of Static and Dynamic Contact Design Features (April 30, 2012). Research Policy, Volume 42, Issue 1, February 2013, Pages 273–286. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1618295 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1618295

Henry Sauermann (Contact Author)

ESMT European School of Management and Technology ( email )

Schlossplatz 1
10117 Berlin
Germany

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Michael Roach

Cornell University ( email )

Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
SC Johnson College of Business
Ithaca, NY
United States

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