The Power Of Online Surveys And How You’re Messing Up Bigtime

You want to provide your visitors with the best digital experience possible—that’s a given. In doing so, you increase the likelihood that your visitors will take their relationship with you to the next level: from visitor to customer. And with the right design and copy in place, maybe you’ll even get them to go steady, making you their brand of choice.

However, in order to be able to provide your visitors with the best digital experience possible, you need to have an intimate knowledge of your customers, including their concerns and points of friction with your ecommerce business.

To gain this knowledge, an online survey is your best friend.
Shana Rusonis: “Online survey tools are essential for collecting qualitative feedback from your visitors and users, coloring in the full picture of what you know about their behavior from website analytics.

To determine whether you’re addressing their pain points, test changes to your checkout funnel informed by online survey feedback. You’ll be able to determine just how much value addressing those pain points will drive for your business.”

Additionally, with A/B testing serving as an essential component of ecommerce success, online surveys are a powerful method of creating A/B testing ideas. And the reason for this is because you’re too close to your website or offer to assess all its problem areas, an occurrence referred to as “proximity blindness.”

It’s the same reason why writers shouldn’t edit their own work. They need an impartial set of eyes to get the most judicious feedback.

And survey results grant you those impartial sets of eyes, providing you with the insights you need to make your business more user-friendly.

Online Surveys Helped Teespring And They Can Do The Same For You

The ecommerce industry is growing increasingly competitive. Consequently, more creativity and rigorous A/B testing are necessary to track your progress and help you stay ahead of the curve, which is why Teespring, a platform designed to create and sell products online, turned to online survey tools as a way to discover how to improve the conversion rates of their checkout funnel.

And the results were enlightening. Optimizely’s Shana Rusonis reports:

shana rusonisShana Rusonis: “When conducting user surveys and collecting feedback, they heard anecdotes like: ‘Not sure if I should give my credit card information,’ and, ‘Not sure if I’ll get my shirt.’

The second feedback point raised red flags. The team realized that their innovative model—only shipping shirts once reaching a minimum order size—was creating anxiety with so of their potential customers. Many visitors were standoffish about placing an order because they thought they might be charged, even if their shirt was never made.

To counter this problem, the Teespring team ran a subtle test with a not-so-subtle result.
Changing the language below the CTA on the product page to resulted in a whopping 12.7% conversion increase.

Don’t undersell the importance of establishing credibility and trust with your customers at every turn; follow other e-commerce best practices around social proofsecurity badges, and additional copy to assure your customers that their information is safe. And, of course, make sure that you’re getting direct customer feedback whenever possible to understand how you can improve their online shopping experience.”

There Are 3 Types Of Customer/Traffic Surveys You Can Use

Exit (Traffic) Surveys

Exit surveys invite fleeing, non-converting visitors to answer a few questions about their experience as a way to discern what it was that made them want to leave.

DepeshDepesh Mandalia: “Exit Intent is another method of firing up survey questions to try and find out more about your visitors. In this situation, you can identify high exited pages…and serve customers an exit survey to understand [their] reasons for leaving.

It is likely to be these visitors that are going to give you the insights to help find those little nuggets of conversion blockers you may not have thought about. Whilst response rates are likely to be lower than those that are engaged with your website, it is often the silent majority where your golden insights lay.”

Here is an example of what an exit survey might look like:

exit survey

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On-Page (Traffic) Surveys

On-page surveys are great for gathering quick responses from your visitors while they’re still engaging with your site, letting you know how their experience is going thus far.

Mike Lopez: “A small box will pop up automatically below in a certain page and it would let your customers speak out their objections or feedback when the box swiftly appears.

A great tool that you can use to conduct on-site surveys is either Qualaroo or Queryz .

Here is an on-page survey looks like:

on page survey
No interruptions, no page loads needed. Your customer[s] can easily put down their answers to your questions’ template.”

Ad Hoc (Customer) Surveys

Ad hoc surveys are administered to a group of respondents who have been identified primarily through advertising, “cold-calling” techniques, or because they have purchased from you in the past. The person administering the ad hoc survey possesses the email address for each participant.

“Respondents should receive an email inviting them to partake in the survey (with suitable privacy and other links). They should be able to follow the link to a survey web page and begin answering questions…with minimal problems. They should be able to leave the survey at any time and return via a bookmark or by revisiting the link in the invitation email,” John Norman explains.

SurveyMonkey is a popular platform for ad hoc surveys and one that I have personally had success with. I used SurveyMonkey to gather data about the portrayal of female protagonists in modern cinema, and the platform allowed me to design my own survey template and distribute my survey to a group of targeted audience members.

The downside to ad hoc surveys, however, is that your respondents’ perception of anonymity may be compromised on account of them knowing that the survey is being issued to a select group of people, and you, the surveyor, possess all the participants’ email addresses.

Why Surveys Work

According to FluidSurveys, the “average response rate for email surveys = 24.8%,” meaning if you were to email your customers or prospects with a link to take a survey right now, roughly one in four people would be willing to respond to questions about their preferences and experiences (without needing an incentive).

Shanelle MullinShanelle Mullin: “Through customer/traffic surveys, you can find out…

  • Why they are. This will help with creating personas.
  • What their intent is. What are they trying to do or achieve? Do they think your product or service can help/has helped?
  • How they shop. Did they compare you to competitors? What were the major benefits of your product or service, in their own words? How long did they weigh the decision?
  • Where the friction was. What fears did they have about giving you their money? Did they have doubts about your product or service? Where did they have trouble within the conversion funnel?

Furthermore, not only are surveys useful for data-gathering purposes; they can also be highly useful in terms of generating more leads for your business, an idea presented by Ryan Levesque in his book Ask and one that we’ve successfully used here at Conversion Fanatics.

Manish Punjabi: “One thing we did that got about a 10X boost in response was to take a normal web form with maybe 6-7 questions and change it to a survey style, asking one question at a time. So that confirmed the idea that Ryan popularized that surveys are incredibly effective for lead gen and not just gathering data.”

Don’t Make These Mistakes! 4 Ways You’re Messing Up Your Surveys

1. You Don’t Consider Your Business’ Goals

True: Surveys can provide your business with valuable feedback that will help it to grow and prosper.
False: All you have to do is jump on the bandwagon and copy the survey templates and questions of your competitors.

First of all, other people’s survey styles may be completely random. You don’t have any hard evidence that their decisions are backed by research and A/B testing. Second, what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you.

As Jeff Bezos says, “Don’t focus on the competition; they’ll never give you money.”

What you need to do instead is ask yourself the following questions as they pertain to your business:

  • Why are you conducting surveys, what’s the purpose or goal?
  • How are you going to use the responses?
  • Will the survey widget be distracting or encumber your web page’s objective?
  • Does the survey add value to your website?

Jen Havice of Make Mention Media weighs in.

jen haviceJen Havice: “I’d say a common problem centers around businesses or organizations not having goals they want to achieve or at least insights they’re looking to gain. This goes to relevancy.

Don’t [waste] your time or your respondent’s patience with questions you’re simply [interested] in knowing the answers to versus ones that you need the answers to. You run the risk of having to survey them again unnecessarily and being ignored.”

2. You’re Surveying The Wrong People

Blasting your survey out to anyone and everyone might seem like a good idea. Casting a bigger net means catching more fish, right? Well, yes and no. Sure, you’ll catch more fish, also possibly more marine debris, but many of the fish you catch won’t be the right kind of fish—too small, too bony, the game laws say throw it back.
Similarly, if you don’t have a specific target about you should survey—one that also factors in your business’ goals—then you won’t receive the right kind of insights.

ott niggulisOtt Niggulis: “Who you survey will be largely dependent on the outcome you’re looking for [and] the customer segments you’ve set up.

If you want to improve your buying process, survey brand new buyers (and the people who didn’t buy). If you want to start a loyalty program to improve customer retention, survey frequent buyers. If you want to start a VIP program for top spenders, survey customers who spend a lot of money with you.”

As Ott alludes, don’t underestimate the power of surveying people who didn’t buy from you—that is, anyone who opened your email, clicked on your email, but still didn’t make a purchase.

How One Online Survey Produced Knockout Results for Monthly1K

On his blog, Noah Kagan scribed a case study about an email campaign he sent out promoting his Monthly1K product. Unfortunately for Noah, however, his campaign yielded only 30 sales in spite of excellent product feedback and the campaign being highly targeted.

So, what gives?

Noah decided to get to the root of the problem by issuing a survey to anyone who showed interest in his offer by opening and clicking on his email but who ultimately did not make a purchase.

noah kagan 2Noah Kagan: “I sorted the top reasons (by frequency) of people who WANTED to buy but didn’t.
The top four reasons were:

  1. I’m afraid.
  2. Will this work in my country.
  3. How will I know that this will work.
  4. I’ve failed before, what’s different this time.

This survey produced insane returns for the product. Those who were interested in using How to Make A $1,000 a Month Business to start their own businesses provided the answers.

Here is how I used the survey to better serve customers

#1 I used the customer’s LANGUAGE on the landing page. It’s not about my words but how the potential customer is thinking about starting their business.


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#2 We reordered the page so that the top questions people were asking were being answered in the most logical progression.

#3 We added answers to the questions that people were asking but we were not addressing.

#4 The “Failure Olympics” was added to address the fear that people kept stating about their fear of failure.

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#5 We added more individual support and accountability to help people when they hit tough times.
This one survey literally changed the product overnight.”

3. You’re Not Asking The Right Questions

You need to identify the right people to survey. Absolutely, I 100% agree. If, however, you ask the right people the wrong questions, you’re still going to receive irrelevant insight.


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Keeping with the case study from Noah Kagan, not only did his survey target the right people, it also asked respondents the right four questions:

“A) Were you at least interested in buying? YES or NO.

  1. B) Be specific about your answer.
  2. C) What’s holding you back from starting your business?
  3. D) Should we make our support sumo do a dance video?

As previously discussed, with these four questions (B in particular), Noah discovered the top four reasons that were hindering people from purchasing his product.

Alex Birkett of ConversionXL recommends the following selection of 9 question templates that can help you gain a better understanding of your audience and the reasons why they did or did not convert:

  • “Who are you? (Get the demographical data and see if there are any trends)
  • What are you using [your product] for? What problem does it solve for you? (Understand [the] problem, and uncover unintended uses)
  • How is your life better thanks to it? Which tangible improvements in your life or business have you seen?
  • What do you like about our product the most?
  • Did you consider any alternatives to our product (prior to signing up)? If so, which ones?
  • What made you sign up for our product? What convinced you that it’s a good decision? Why did you choose us over others?
  • Which doubts and hesitations did you have before joining?
  • Which questions did you have, but couldn’t find answers to?
  • Anything else you would like to tell us?”

Furthermore, no matter what questions you ask, make sure your questions are clear and easy to understand. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation. Otherwise, you’ll get lots of unhelpful, irrelevant responses.

4. Your Surveys Are Biased

Each and every one of us is subject to and affected by cognitive biases.

Don’t think so?

That would be the voice of your bias blind spot, which allows you to believe that you aren’t as biased as other people. The truth is, however, that you are just as biased. And that’s okay. The trick is to become aware of the various cognitive biases so you can better understand how biases impact your business and decision-making.

With regard to surveys, bias occurs during every phase of the research process, from planning to data collection to publication. And while you cannot eliminate bias from your surveys, as some level of bias is almost always present, you can assess the extent to which bias is present and try to minimize its effects.

Here are three common biases you should be mindful of with your surveys:

Confirmation Bias

“Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your previous notions.” – Dave McRaney

Backfire Effect

“That’s when, in light of new information that opposes your existing view, you double down on the prior and strengthen the inaccurate belief. You might recognize this in a testing context: results say one thing; HiPPO wants to do another. It’s disconcerting.” – Alex Birkett

Self-Selection Bias

“Self-selection bias is a significant problem when users volunteer to be in a study…You’ll also never be able to study people who don’t want to participate in studies. Look out for real customer motivations for giving feedback.” – WiderFunnel

How To Do It Right

We’ve just covered four of the biggest mistakes people make when conducting surveys and how to overcome those pitfalls. Now, let’s check in with Alex Terry, the former General Manager of Zoomerang, an online survey business, as he divulges his top survey-conducting suggestions:

alex terryAlex Terry:

  • “Give back to your customers. Don’t just post polls and sell all the time. Share your survey or poll answers with customers who participate or visit your site.
  • Make intelligent follow-ups a part of the survey process. Enable customers to opt-in to hear more from you about the specific topic in the poll. This lets you respond to the survey answers provided.
  • If your business process or product changes based on survey results, be sure to let customers know their input was a direct factor in making the change.
  • Customers like to see results and will visit your site looking for answers to polls they have participated in. Make sure you let them see recent results.
  • Use your data to write about the topics in your surveys and polls on your blog (or website). This data will help you create new, fresh content for your site.
  • For best results, avoid surveys that require more than ten minutes of the customer’s time unless you have a specific marketing campaign the survey is related to—or you offer an incentive for completing the survey.
  • Asking for personal information can be a turn-off. If these types of questions are a part of your survey objectives be sure to keep those questions near the end of the survey. Some companies provide a quick survey and then offer an incentive for the customer to provide personal information, such as a name, gender, age, or email address.”


Conducting surveys is a powerful strategy, allowing you to communicate directly with the people you want to impress most—your visitors—in order to gain valuable insights about what’s working well with your website, offer, and sales funnel and what’s not.

Surveys enable you to start a dialogue with your prospects and customers. And you can use the feedback you gain to improve the user experience and as a result, increase your conversion rates.

Many people, however, make mistakes with their surveys, mostly due to undefined objectives, inappropriate audiences, and asking unclear or irrelevant questions. Don’t be that business. Take whatever time and energy you need to create straightforward, highly targeted, and goal-oriented surveys. Then, don’t waste any time putting the insights you gain to good use.

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