Research programs can succeed only with sufficient data, but what if your target demographic is the notoriously hard-to-reach 18-34 age group? It may seem daunting to engage this desirable audience, especially now that it spans two generations. But boosting survey response rates among millennials and Generation Z just takes a little planning.
You know very early on in your research process what type of respondents you’ll be targeting, and that should influence more than just who gets the email invitation. Understanding that you need to attract high survey response rates among millennials and Gen Z is key in every phase of your survey design, from writing questions to choosing incentives. Here are six tips to incorporate along the way to help boost engagement from the younger generations.
It’s widely acknowledged that attention spans are getting shorter, and to make it worse, there’s so much more competing for that limited attention. Young adults get bombarded with marketing messages and requests in email, internet ads, videos, TV ads, billboards, mobile apps, catalogs — the list goes on. In addition to making your survey invitation stand out, you also have to be sure that the survey itself isn’t overly burdensome or time-consuming. If it’s too long, 18-to-34-year-olds are more likely to simply ignore the request, abandon the survey in the middle, or, even worse, speed through just to get their incentive, putting the reliability of your data at risk. SurveyMonkey found that abandon rates jump for surveys that take longer than seven or eight minutes to complete. It also saw that the more questions there were, the less time respondents took on each one.
Be realistic about how long your survey will take to answer, and look at each question with a critical eye to decide if it’s really necessary. If you must include a lot of questions, make sure that respondents can save their progress and finish later. Or consider whether it might work better as two separate surveys.
In a survey by the IBM Institute of Business Management, three-quarters of Gen Z chose a mobile phone or smartphone as their preferred device, over laptop and desktop computers. Young people in the 18-34 demographic do all kinds of online activities and transactions from their phones, including surveys. To ensure better survey response rates among millennials and Gen Z, make sure to test that your user interface is functional and easy to navigate on mobile. If potential participants open your survey on their phone and can’t fill it out or find it hard to use, they’re not likely to complete it.
Millennials and members of Generation Z have shown themselves to be very purpose-driven and want to spend their time and money on things that are aligned with their own values. The pandemic has only increased this trend: Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey found that these generations are even more actively getting involved in political and societal issues by donating to charity, volunteering, participating in public demonstrations, and basing career and spending decisions on their personal ethics.
Younger adults are also very focused on results and competition — particularly Gen Z, who grew up in a recession and have managed to turn even social media into a competition for likes.
What all this means for your surveys is that 18-to-34-year-olds want to understand what cause or effort the research supports and how their participation has helped. They also want to see how their answers compare to others’. Assuming you’re not working with confidential information, tell them in the survey invitation email that you will be sending out the results to all the participants. Even if you can’t share detailed statistics, a high-level summary will at least give respondents an idea of the outcomes.
Survey incentives are a big driver of response rates among any audience, but especially young adults. When you’re choosing which rewards to offer, be thoughtful about what a younger audience would like. Options such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, Amazon, Apple, and Xbox are popular among that age demographic. An even better solution is to allow participants to choose the type of reward that they prefer. The 18-34 age group includes people with a wide range of priorities. An 18-year-old college student, a 27-year-old professional about to get married, and a 34-year-old mom of two would likely have very different reward preferences. Be sure to tell them in the survey invitation email that they will get a choice of relevant gift cards — perhaps even list the options available — to make it more likely they will respond. You may also want to include the option to donate the reward, for those mission-driven participants looking to make a difference.
Once you’ve determined the best type of reward to attract younger respondents, you must determine how much those rewards should be worth. Your budget obviously is a contributing factor, but you have to make sure to offer enough to grab young people’s attention. For more guidance, check out these tips on how to determine the right reward value — including a suggested formula to use as a rule of thumb.
Millennials and Generation Z grew up in a digital world and have come to expect instant gratification. From entertainment to customer service, they want it now. Give them the best reward experience possible by automating delivery, allowing respondents to receive their digital incentive in their email immediately upon survey completion. This also helps build their trust so they’re more likely to respond to future survey requests.
To improve your survey response rates among millennials and Generation Z — or any particular target demographic — you have to adapt from the very beginning. It’s much easier to design your survey with 18-to-34-year-olds in mind from the start, so you won’t need to try to catch up and track down more participants when you don’t get enough data.
For more tips on increasing response rates, download our Survey Optimization Checklist!