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March 2013

Survey Invitation Routing

As the demand for online data collection grows it has become an increasingly challenging exercise to maintain research participation rates. Survey routing is a sampling technique that helps to match a respondent to a number of survey invitations, which he or she may then qualify for. In contacting a respondent once, it offers multiple opportunities to qualify for a research exercise rather an individual invitation to each individual research exercise. A panel member’s active response is a valuable commodity and data collection agencies therefore realise the value of matching this response to a suitable research activity if and when they decide to do so.

Matching Willing Participants with Available Surveys

Using a common screening platform survey routing directs willing participants to a range of available surveys that he or she could potentially qualify for. It offers an economy around their willingness to participate that could yield the following benefits:

  • Better engagement – Respondents will not suffer repeated rejections and screen outs as the number of opportunities to qualify are significantly increased. When they do not fit the criteria of one study, they are seamlessly directed onto the next survey and its specific qualifiers until they fit the criteria of one of the other surveys placed within the qualifier pool at that time. They may well not qualify for any but the odds are greatly increased once they have taken the time and inclination to accept an invitation to participate.
  • Improves response rate – Respondents with a diverse but regular participation history will be retained longer as a panel member and thus contribute to a higher number of research exercises.
  • Supports the fielding of surveys to low-incidence populations – With a large and consistent stream of willing participants piping into the router, it is easier to screen and match low-incidence targets to available studies.

Randomisation to Avoid Potential Survey Selection Bias

A survey router needs to be carefully programmed with the appropriate sampling considerations. Routers can introduce sampling bias if priority routers are used instead of random routers.

  • A priority router first directs willing participants to one particular survey over other available surveys to prioritise studies with a lower incidence rate or projects with more challenging quota controls.
  • On the other hand, a random router exposes the participant to a whole pool of surveys that he or she is able to randomly screen for.

A well designed router implements multiple points of randomisation to eliminate bias. Below are some important factors before a survey is considered for a router:

  • It requires a regular supply of live surveys with a diverse range and healthy number of projects running within the system at any one time.
  • Simultaneous screening – Willing participants are exposed to common screening questions from all of the projects that are currently running, before then randomly allocating the respondents to one of the available surveys.
  • Auto checking of a member’s participation history and duly limiting the number and category of surveys they are exposed to and apply within any single period of time.

In conclusion, survey router can enhance the online sampling process by optimising the use of an immediately available population to a group of simultaneously available surveys. It improves response rates because it gives willing participants numerous chances to qualify for a survey compared to single direct email invitation samples. In the online environment competition for people’s time and attention is intense and by offering an enjoyable online research experience, respondents are more willing to express their genuine opinions and increase their engagement.


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