A Modern Approach to Designing Survey Emails

Let’s face it, no one wakes up in the morning dying to fill in a survey.

But we can all agree that the insight they deliver can offer incredible insight into how customers use products or services; insight which you can use to inform their future development. So how do survey companies get past the apathy to improve engagement?

Some recent examples caught my eye and actually made me click-through and offer my opinion. Which made me think: have some brands discovered a modern approach to survey emails? In light of that, I’ve put together a checklist of what you need to put together such a campaign and four examples to highlight the tips.

Features of successful survey emails

Acknowledge reality

We all know filling in surveys is not the most exciting prospect, so be ready to admit that and be honest about it. The way in which you phrase it depends on your tone of voice and style, but you could try “We won’t ask for this favor too often because we know surveys take a bit of effort, but please share your thoughts with us today’.

Say why you are asking for the information

If subscribers understand and empathize with a specific need for the survey (other than gathering data) they will be more likely to click-through and fill it in. Really Good Emails infused this with their quirky and fun tone of voice which resulted in “we thought we’d take a step back to ask you “how can we make Really Good Emails better? Maybe you love us and don’t think we need to change anything. Or, maybe you think we should use our email prowess to solve world hunger.”

Specify how long it takes

Whenever I receive a survey email, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘how long is this going to take me?’. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. By making the answer to that question quickly visible, you’re one step closer to a conversion.

Keep it short

The fact that our attention span has shrunk is no surprise to anyone. It’s not just that we’re reading email on the go on smaller screens, even on desktops we will often check email as a distraction from a different task. Movable Ink showed most mobile users spend 0-3 seconds reading an email so you don’t have long to convince them! As a health-conscious person, I love Withings products and I loved this email too. It ticks off both tips above.

Increase the clickable area

Your call-to-action button will likely be the one driving most conversions, but different people need a different amount of information to be persuaded. Don’t make some readers wait for the link and don’t punish those who read more by making them scroll back. Headspace uses three real estate areas to encourage conversions – the image, the button and the linked text. Their email is also a great illustration of tip number 1.

Offer an incentive

I must admit, sometimes I need a bit more persuasion to interrupt what I’m doing. With an incentive, like some swag or a chance to win something as simple as an Amazon gift voucher, I’m that much more tempted to do it. It’s an easy tactic that might give you a big return – why not test it?


Did you glean some interesting data from the survey? Why not use it to inform those who filled it in and show them how it’s helped. The next email I received from that Really Good Emails survey used my answer to a really random question to draw my attention at the top of the email. Then, it also informed me that as a result of the survey, they will change the day of their weekly newsletter to Friday. I’m not saying you should ask people about their grandmas if your brand style doesn’t suit it, but find a way to illustrate how helpful those who responded have been.

Start with small steps

Part of the reason why Airbnb works so well is the fact that visitors and suppliers review each other. So, naturally, those who receive the survey emails are already convinced of the value of their input. What I really like about the campaign is that what looks like a review email is actually just the beginning of a survey which continues on a landing page. Make the first step hard to ignore and you’re more likely to get more responses. What’s more, the links behind each of the values (one star, two stars, five stars, etc.) actually lead to a page where the rating is pre-filled based on the person’s particular choice, which results in great customer experience.

Test the survey design

This last point is not so much related to the email, as it is about evaluating what happens after the ‘click’. Using a tool like Typeform can help you create more beautiful surveys that enhance the user experience just through design. This is important because if you make your survey cumbersome and complicated once, that contact will never fill one in again in the future.

Next time you design your survey emails, use this checklist to increase the conversions. Remember to think about the customer experience post-click and even putting together a follow-up. I dare you! Test it against your regular approach and if it doesn’t give you better results, come back and let me know.

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