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February 1, 2021

Getting Ghosted? In-Product Surveys Are the Key to Higher Response Rates and Continuous User Research

In-Product Surveys

Customer insights are like gold: They’re incredibly valuable and, unless you’re looking in the right spot, difficult to find.

While surveys are a great way to listen to and learn from your customers, sending surveys can feel like shouting into the void. According to PeoplePulse, traditional surveys sent via email typically result in a 10–15% response rate. And “when the respondent population is less-targeted, when contact information is unreliable, or where there is less incentive or little motivation to respond," that rate drops below 2%.

If you strive to be a customer-centric product manager but have struggled to deeply (and efficiently) understand what your customers want, consider in-product surveys.

Compared to traditional (e.g., lengthy email) surveys, in-product surveys ask fewer questions at a better time. This reduces survey burden, boosts response rates, and improves the quality of responses. You can also bake in-product surveys into your product to create an ongoing, undemanding, and fast source of qualitative user insights.

In other words, they’re the ultimate tool for the customer-centric product manager. Here’s how they work.

What are in-product surveys?

In-product surveys are bite-sized user surveys that take less than two minutes to complete. Because they’re so quick and easy to answer, in-product surveys offer an efficient and reliable way for product teams to collect targeted, real-time user data.

Most in-product surveys are between one and five questions and are focused on a single topic, such as a specific product feature. They often combine closed-ended and open-ended questions to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. That way, you can get a snapshot of general sentiment as well as novel ideas and unrestricted feedback.

The best surveys are deployed as in-product pop-ups rather than sent via email. This has two major benefits:

  1. The in-product survey feels like a seamless part of the product experience, not an additional task piling up in the user’s inbox.
  2. The in-product survey catches the user while they’re immersed in the product experience, meaning they have more context to give specific, thoughtful responses.

You can even set up triggers so that in-product surveys appear at key moments, like when users (or certain segments of users) perform a particular action. This triggering allows you to collect user insights about specific features and stages of the user journey, not just general sentiments.

Why lengthy email surveys don't work (and in-product surveys do)

When you send a lengthy user survey over email, don’t hold your breath while you wait for responses. Surveys — especially long ones — can sit untouched in inboxes for weeks without any sign of when (or if) you’ll get responses, let alone quality ones.

The longer the survey, the lower the response rate

Some product teams still send product surveys with 30-40 questions. This impulse makes sense: When you conduct user research periodically, you want to cover all your bases and collect as much qualitative insight as possible. However, data shows that the longer the survey, the lower the response and completion rates.

Not only do longer surveys hurt participation, but they also result in lower time-per-question ratios. As a general rule, the first question of a survey gets the most time and attention, the second question gets the second most, and so on. Once survey fatigue kicks in, respondents tend to rush to the finish line with short (and more uniform) responses or abandon the survey altogether.

In-product surveys avoid survey fatigue and drop-off by keeping questionnaires brief and to-the-point. By asking fewer questions, you increase response rate, reduce drop-off, and avoid rushed responses.

Inboxes are too crowded

In 2021, 320 billion emails will be sent every single day. Vying for time and attention in inboxes is an uphill battle: You’re asking your users to prioritize your survey over the other 120+ emails they received that day and commit 10, 15, even 20 or more minutes to answer questions about a product they may not have used since last week.

Of course, the intentions behind surveys are selfless: You want to collect user insights to create a better user experience. But when users receive an email asking them to spare some time to fill out a survey, it often feels like additional work.

By putting in-product surveys in app, you reduce the barriers associated with providing responses. Instead of a time-consuming (and easily skippable) task, your in-product survey feels like a seamless element of the product experience.

Traditional surveys are taken out of context

If you send a survey via email, the message is divorced from the product experience; your product isn’t necessarily top of mind when users are catching up with their inbox.

Out-of-context respondents can give gut reactions and assign a Net Promoter Score (whether they would recommend your product). But if you ask what users thought of a particular product experience, there’s no guarantee they’ll understand which specific feature you’re referring to, let alone remember what they liked, didn’t like, and would change about it.

in-product surveys eliminate the need for this type of context switching. By catching respondents when your product — even specific aspects of your product — is fresh, in-product surveys enable respondents to give more relevant, detailed responses.

Traditional surveys are periodic, not continuous

Rather than approaching user research as a once-in-a-while project, in-product surveys continuously collect user insights. That way, you get real-time user input as you iterate your product.

Business and technology move at a faster pace, and product teams that can identify and deliver on customer needs are becoming more of a competitive differentiator. You need to make decisions fast and can’t always wait weeks to reach out to customers for surveys and interviews.

With a steady stream of user insights, you no longer have to choose between waiting for customer insights or operating without it. Instead, you can approach product (re)development with fast, open-ended input.

And when you deploy or tweak a product feature, you don’t have to conduct a brand new survey to receive updated customer sentiments. Since in-product surveys are baked into the product experience, you’re always collecting insights about the latest iteration of your product, meaning you can spend less time chasing insights and more time making the most of them.

How Sprig helps you get the most value out of your in-product surveys

In order to maximize the benefits of in-product surveys, you need to know what questions to ask and how to manage a high volume of responses.

Our team of user research experts put together a gallery of over 75 plug-and-play surveys to help you gather user insights around some of the biggest issues product teams face, including acquiring more customers, developing new features, and finding product/market fit.

Here are a few examples:

Understand Churn targets users who cancel their subscription, helping you understand how to make users less likely to churn in the future.

Improve the User Experience targets users interacting with a product feature for the first time, helping you understand how to make the feature more user-friendly.

Check out our gallery of templates to see the broad range of questions you can spin into in-product surveys and answer with user insights.

Because in-product surveys collect a high volume of qualitative insight, it can take weeks to parse through those raw, open-ended responses and come up with actionable takeaways. Without survey expertise, you can also ruin that survey data with faulty analysis and confirmation bias.

But the fact of the matter is that most product teams don’t have a full-time user research expert to conduct high-volume data analysis. This exact problem is what inspired us to build artificial intelligence tools that can comb through thousands of responses in the snap of a finger.

How does it work? Sprig’s text analysis tools comb through your qualitative survey data in real time, pulling consistent themes from overlapping responses and similar wording. Once one of our experienced user researchers reviews and quality-assures each of those themes, you receive concrete suggestions you can act on immediately:

Continuous in-product surveys are a no-brainer for customer-centric product teams

Customer-centricity is more than just a buzz word. The secret ingredient to customer centricity? A reliable way to listen to and learn from you customers.

Traditional methods of collecting user input are too slow and limited to provide the rich, consistent user insights necessary for truly customer-centric product development. In-product surveys offer a new approach — one that’s always on, agile, and scalable.

Want to learn how to make the most of your surveys? Check out 3 Rules for Writing Effective Survey Questions.

About the author

Allison Dickin

Survey fanatic and customer experience advocate. Former Research Director at Yale School of Management and Senior Research Manager at Etsy. Bucknell and University of Chicago alum.

Allison Dickin Headshot

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