Tips to Increase Mobile Response Rates

High response rates are key to capitalizing on emerging technological tools for data collection. Bamba manages 2 million+ panelists and has run over 15 million surveys in Africa. Through this experience we’ve had the chance to test various ideas and methods to better connect with our Participants. Some ideas work better than others, but on average we have come to expect a response rate of 60%-70% across our Participants. Below, we have distilled some of the immediately usable best practices.

While these tips can be used immediately, we recommend also using them to inform overall strategy over time.

1. Shorten your surveys

In comparison to face-to-face survey participants, mobile participants are significantly more likely to lose focus during a survey. This can be attributed to both limited attention spans and interruptions on the mobile device – such as a message or call from a friend. When using a mobile platform to conduct a survey, researchers must adjust to the connectivity of the device.

In the industry, conventional wisdom is that an optimum in-person survey should take 10-15 minutes to complete. By contrast, a comprehensive mobile survey should take at most 8 minutes and have less than 12 questions; and a rapid mobile survey should be no more than 4 questions that take at most 1-3 minutes to complete. We have included tips to shorten your mobile surveys below.

2. Apply Survey Branching and Skip logic

When a person takes a Face-to-face survey the survey is administered by a thinking competent human being.n Although it may not be obvious, speaking to a competent human being significantly improves the survey experience. One of the primary reasons for the pleasant experience is because followup questions are contextual. If a participant says he/she has not been married in response to a question about marital status, a competent human would not follow up by asking for the length of marriage, even if it is the next question on the survey form.

Mobile surveys must emulate this type of decision making. No participant likes to answer unnecessary questions. In fact, unnecessary questions often cause confusion and display a lack of sophistication of the surveying party. Furthermore, ensuring the survey reacts to previous input by automatically skipping disqualified questions:

  • Shortens the length of the total survey;
  • Conveys a respect of the participants’ time and efforts; and
  • Also has the key benefit of slowing down participant exhaustion.

Professionalism and directness are valued by participants, especially in markets such Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.

3. Customize the time your surveys are sent out

Timing your surveys to your participants’ preference is an easy way to increase response rates. It may take a little work to find out the best times to send a survey and remind a participants, however, the extra legwork of researching the target demographic and its preferences can pay great dividends.

For instance, Bamba found that the late hours of 21:00-03:30 are best for contacting blue collar workers in Uganda. This was because many in this demographic are on long commutes back to their villages. During these times, Response rates were 19% higher than any other time of day.

4. Individual Participant Profiles

In addition to the best contact time, there are many other things that can be learnt about participants to better evaluate when they may fall within the target demographic of a survey. One of Bamba’s most effective methods of raising response rates revolves around investing in our participant profiles. Bamba profiles take several key pieces of information such as all answers given and engagement rates to track and build ideal surveys for our participants. We can categorize participants by their interests, requests, preferred incentive rewards, and the time of day they prefer to receive surveys Bamba has found that response rates increase by 15% if the research topic is targeted to the participant. Some key profile data points that we compile are:

  • Age/Gender/Location
  • Profession/Parenthood
  • Savings goals – What large goal is the panelist working toward?
  • Socio-political groups – Church, Cricket League, Voting Party
  • Main source of news – whatsapp groups, facebook news, national newspaper

5. Build a Relationship With Your Participants

This tip applies to a participant anywhere in the world, but is especially important in emerging countries. Building a strong relationship with your participants goes a long way in differentiating yourself in markets filled with potential scams and consumer traps.

Panelists today understand the power and value of their data and this trend will only increase as data literacy spreads. How quickly you connect with your participants will determine their life-span with you.

Tools Bamba has used to great effect:

  • Privacy policy – Our privacy policy is formulated to protect and reassure our panelists, not take advantage of their data. We convey this clearly and always make it easy to access
  • Ease of Contact and Receptive feedback – Our participants know they can get in contact with us directly at any time. They are encouraged to get in touch with Bamba whenever they have issues or ideas. Their communication is always met with fast responses and satisfying resolutions.
  • Participant highlights – This idea came from our participants themselves. Bamba routinely features highly active and unique participants in its monthly updates. These participants gain exposure, extra incentives, and help put a face on our panel communities, both to the participants and to our clients.

All this and many other strategies contribute to healthy and active panels, and more importantly, limit panelist turn over and exhaustion.

6. Incentivize

At the end of the day, nothing speaks like money. Providing incentives for participation is an easy and powerful way to increase response rates. While give-aways and raffle prizes can be motivating, smaller guaranteed payments hold much more tangible value for panelists.

Bamba offers a variety of incentive types depending on the study, but has consistently found that our instant incentives have the best and most ubiquitous effect.

With experimental panels, Bamba has seen an average increase of 28% in response rate between panels that were incentivized $0.10 as opposed to control panels that were not incentivized for the same series of surveys.

Also, it may not be as obvious as it seems, make sure you communicate your intent to incentivize when you solicit a participant!

7. Incentivize Quickly!

In the time we live in, the time of social media, the speed of incentivization can largely influence response rates. When Bamba launches a survey, we see a flurry of activity on our Facebook page and a lot of it has to do with incentives. We have found thatincentivized response and follow-up rates fall up to 15%* without instant payment and up to 45%* if not paid out within 24 hours.

Delivering on your incentive promises swiftly ties into building a relationship with your participants. With internet access increasing sharply in emerging markets so are data collectors. Participants gravitate towards the data collectors they can trust and speedy payouts will play a large part in establishing that reputation.

*For a 10 question SMS survey experiment conducted with panels in Nigeria and Kenya.


Despite their untapped wealth of consumers and data, the emerging markets are rife with pitfalls for the unwary researcher. From completely new cultural nuances to high fraud levels, there is much to learn and account for.

All of the above is applicable across the emerging markets, but Bamba highly recommends looking deeper into the specific country you wish to conduct your research in. With so many countries across the emerging markets, there are a host of legal, cultural, and practical considerations to account for. To name a couple, be sure to have all the major languages and local dialects covered, and know the security and political situation before starting (especially Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Brazil!). You don’t want to be caught unsurprised by elections or other events that shut a country down for some time (like Kenya or Uganda!).

Finally, with all this in mind, work to design your research with the target in mind. Newly connected or empowered consumers in the emerging markets are unique and valuable sources of data that need a considered hand.

Bamba routinely conducts research and internal experiments to better understand and interact with the emerging markets. If you have an interesting experiment or idea to share with us, please contact me at

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