When you want to improve your online sales with data, don’t just use analytics. Involve your customers through effective and actionable customer surveys.
Online customer surveys are very common. Well designed surveys that will provide actionable data to help you increase conversions are not. Effective customer surveys are designed in such a way that you can learn a ton from them.
Why create customer surveys?
There are a variety of reasons for creating a customer survey. They can change depending on the company and department but the key purpose remains the same. To better know and understand the people you serve.
Too many organizations replace real qualitative and quantitative data directly from their customers with gut reactions or stereotypes. While you might be able to get by on this for a little while, you are opening the door to lost revenue by not tailoring your offering directly to your customers most pressing needs. When your offering isn’t tailored to your customers, it reduces your conversions.
The customer survey is a powerful and simple way to get real data that can help you validate ideas, refine your processes, improve products, improve marketing, and ultimately improve conversions.
How to build customer surveys
There are many ways to gather customer data and a number of tools to help analyze the data. One popular tool is SurveyMonkey. It offers a wide array of question options, survey logic flows, and great data analysis tools. Another is Google Forms which is also a good free alternative to a paid service, but it has no built in analysis tools.
We’ve also included some other great options on our tools page that allow you to purchase responses based on detailed demographic data.
Rules for survey question design
The survey should not take a long time for your customers to complete. This means question design must be a top priority. Design each question with a specific learning goal. Ideally, the questions will reveal the unique behaviors and preferences of your customer types. If you know what you’re trying to learn, it’s much easier to design a question to gain useful insights.
Begin with classifying questions, and ensure each question is multiple-choice. This helps to keep the survey short and allows for a more detailed analysis of the survey data later on. There are times when a free textual response question is appropriate, but those should be used with caution as they’re much more difficult to analyze quickly (or at all).
When you review your survey questions prior to distribution, always check that they will help increase your understanding of customer goals with relevant, actionable information.
11 types of questions for your customer surveys
Here is the typology of questions we typically use to create customer surveys:
- Segmentation question (allow customers to put themselves into a meaningful group)
- Product ownership question (how many / which products do they own, if any?)
- Behavior oriented question (how do they buy / how often do they buy)
- Content oriented question (which content is most useful in making a purchase decision?)
- Decision making question (what factors are most important when purchasing? Durability, style, price, etc.)
- Goal discovery question (what are customers trying to accomplish on your site?)
- Goal ranking question (which goal is most important to them, most often?)
- Product use question (how frequently / for what purpose do they use your products?)
- Brand selection question (why do they buy from you? Price, quality, better functionality, reputation, recommendation, etc.)
- Unique information gathering question
- Option to participate in telephone follow-up (provide their phone number to be contacted for a brief telephone interview in exchange for an incentive offer)
How to distribute customer surveys
While it is easy to purchase survey responses from companies like SurveyMonkey or Amazon Mechanical Turk, there are two free and extremely relevant channels you can use to gather responses quickly: your brand’s marketing email lists and social media following.
For your email marketing list, sending a quick survey to a list of engaged customers will offer you the opportunity to connect with customers and build valuable business intelligence in the process. Because these are people you reach out to frequently, it is very important that you segment your list appropriately to minimize the number of people who opt out. Run a few subject line tests early on before sending out a survey to your entire list.
Two simple ways to segment your list are “engaged” (i.e., opened an email in the last 180 days) or “unengaged” (has not opened an email in 180 days) and “customer” (i.e., email obtained via past purchase).
It’s important to get enough responses to your survey to be able to confidently draw conclusions from the data you’ll receive. Use a handy survey sample size calculator to determine how many responses you’ll need in order to achieve statistical relevance with your survey responses.
How to write a customer survey email
The content of the survey request email should be to the point and free of any marketing. We have found that a plain (or minimally styled) text email with only one to two sentences works the best for getting a solid response rate. Try to be direct and grateful for the help.
Testing the subject and content of your emails before sending a final version will guarantee a greater response rate.
Here are a couple of example survey request email templates that have worked well for B2C and B2B clients.
Example B2C Subject Lines
- Help us improve our site with this brief survey
- Brief survey to improve [yourbrandsite.com]
- Get a 15% discount coupon by taking this survey
- Take our survey, get a coupon for 15% off any purchase
Example B2C Body Copy
Hi [Their Name],
We’re updating [ourbrandsite.com] and could use your help! If you are interested, please take this short survey: LINK
If you are surveying other businesses, it can be helpful to offer to share the data back with the participants (this is not always necessary). Here is some potential copy to test:
Example B2B Subject Lines
- Share your opinion and gain industry insights
- [First Name] – your opinion for our industry survey
- 2 minute survey on [Company Name]’s research process
Example B2B Body Copy
Hi [Their Name],
We’re conducting an industry wide survey to improve the process of _____ online.
If you will take 2 minutes to fill out the survey at [LINK], we will gladly share the results with you.
How to send the customer survey email
If you have been running email campaigns, you should have the timing down for when to send the email for optimal opens and clicks. If you have no idea when people are most likely to read your emails, try sending on Tuesday morning or midday Thursday.
Check out MailChimp’s resource section for some very detailed research on best send times by industry to maximize open and click rates.
If you want to gain actionable insights from your customer base but don’t have the time or team for this level of research, we’re here to help.