Damn Those Pop-Up Surveys!

"I hate these damn pop-up surveys!" a colleague cried earlier this week as she tried to complete a transaction on a Web site. And understandably so!

With market competition up and the economic outlook down, it seems like pop-up surveys are bombarding us with increasing frequency. But in this age of permission marketing, it seems as if pop-up surveys too often cross the line.

Indeed, loyalty-measurement guru Fred Reichheld  has underscored how surveys, when abused or improperly executed, can quickly become a negative ad campaign for a product or company brand. Still, online retailers frequently unleash them to ambush you as you attempt to fork over your credit card and hard-earned money. A lot of publishers are guilty as well, flashing them in front of your eyes, introducing a new layer of clutter on top of the ads beneath. Yikes!

To gauge sentiment on this issue, I recently polled my followers on Twitter (a highly opt-in interaction venue): "What do you think of Web site pop-up surveys? 1) Love them 2) Indifferent 3) Hate them. Please reply with your sentiment."

During my 24-hour data collection cycle, 25 people responded. The tally? Fully 60% (15) replied that they hate pop-up surveys, while 40% (10) are indifferent. Not one single person voted "love them."

I know, this was not a scientific poll (if there even is such a thing). Nonetheless, it provided convincing guidance that pop-up surveys are disliked, and tolerated at best. Moreover, the majority who replied "indifferent" commented that they most often ignore them, or answer them only if relevant and there is direct benefit.

Therefore, it is my theory that pop-up surveys are becoming far less effective and even more damaging over time. Still, collecting insights from actual customers as they use your products is critical.

Which begs the question: What is the most appropriate way to solicit feedback from customers? Are pop-up surveys ever appropriate? What methods do you use for your type of business?

Please let us know. You can vote in the comments.

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11 comments about "Damn Those Pop-Up Surveys! ".
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  1. Joseph Sosa from CotterWeb Enterprises, Inc , December 12, 2008 at 9:38 a.m.

    Rewarding Users to take the Survey gives them something in return for their time.

  2. Perry Hewitt from Crimson Hexagon , December 12, 2008 at 9:56 a.m.

    Great questions, Max.

    There's no doubt in my mind that consumers are tired of "being asked" via standard interruption approaches. I always come back to this quote from AdAge: "Without transforming our capabilities into approaches that are more in touch with the lifestyles of the consumers we seek to understand, the consumer-research industry as we know it today will be on life support by 2012," Kim Dedeker, global consumer and market knowledge at P&G.

    Even if you can sway the .5% of the 40% of "indifferents" to take your pop-up survey, the question of who opts in for an incentive remains. Our approach is to go after the extant opinion found in blogs, forums, and social networks. It's a self-selected but rapidly growing sample, with no incentive other than sharing their POV.

    Finally, count me with the 60% of hating those damn things!

  3. Lindsay Richardson from Everglades Direct , December 12, 2008 at 9:56 a.m.

    I never answer them! They are an annoyance! I especially hate the ones where I can't find the blasted close button or it looks like a close button and actually launches the survey! I have left websites without shopping because of that.

    We use questions at the order point (and make them optional), follow up e-mails or letters, and questions from our sales or service team when clients call. Just one or two at a time, to keep it short and not annoying.

  4. Bart Vickers from VML , December 12, 2008 at 10:21 a.m.

    The biggest problem with popup surveys is that they are inherently at odds with a site user's objectives. The user is on a site to accomplish a task, learn information, make a statement, etc., not to provide marketing insight to the company.

    While it takes more time initially, private online advisory communities are more effective. When users check in to the community, their mindset is clearly focused on providing feedback to the enterprise. As long as the enterprise provides value (intrinsic and/or extrinsic) back to the community member, there can be great success with this approach.

  5. Donna Zelzer from Midwifery Today , December 12, 2008 at 10:32 a.m.

    Why would you interrupt your customer in the middle of a transaction in order to ask them questions?

    A survey after the order is completed, with a discount on your next order, would be OK. Or a quick question for someone who starts to check out and then doesn't complete her order, asking why (those I would answer I usually bail because shipping was too high and I'd love to tell them.)


  6. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC , December 12, 2008 at 10:45 a.m.

    As a leading publisher of high quality, Fortune 1000 sweepstakes, Sweepstakes Today has never offered to it's members a pop ad of any kind including surveys. We take the position that they do more to hurt our credibility in offering quality advertisement.

    The advertisement we do accept offers our members legit sweepstakes and contest. Thereby we turn their advertisement into entertainment and iis highly desired by the members.

    The point here is that by getting rid of all substandard data mining ads will both the standing between the consumers and advertisers.

  7. Alex Luken from Humana , December 12, 2008 at 10:46 a.m.

    I have to agree with Donna Zelzer. It's rude to interrupt anyone, especially a customer. Some of the pop-ups are especially intrusive, like the ones that creep across the page and refuse to go away. Like having to deal with offshore call centers, it's impetus to stop transactional relationships with a company.

    I have received several surveys in e-mail form that contain the messaging along the vein of "We've noticed that you repeatedly visited our site, and would like to have your feedback on how we can make the site better." I will take the time to provide feedback in those instances.

  8. Spider Graham from Trainingcraft , December 12, 2008 at 11:32 a.m.

    A few weeks ago I was taking a poll for PollingPoint (which I do periodically) and after several minutes and many screens of question I arrived at a screen which told me that in order to accurately track my response for the future they needed all sorts of PII from me (name, address, phone) at which time I decided that I was no longer interested in playing the home game and tried to skip forward. Nothing doing. So I bailed on the poll only to survive a daily email reminder for the next few days that I had an unfinished poll to take care of.

    Like most people, I'm happy to share my opinion and thought on different topics. However when the poll progresses to becoming a direct marketing data tool I'm much less interested. In this case, it's possible that PollingPoint won't be getting a favorable response from me in the future.

  9. Jeff Werner from WebVisible , December 12, 2008 at 1:23 p.m.

    Completely agree with Lindsay; pop-ups are bothersome. Anything that interupts the customer/user experience can leave a bad taste. (I'm not even a big fan of contextual 'in-text' roll-over ads in editorial content.) Call me old-fashioned, but to solicit customer input I prefer a simple SurveyMonkey or similar type effort. Customers can complete them at will, and the reporting is simple. Or, a link to a short web form positioned as 'we value your input, please help us make our service/product better' works well... make the customer feel respected and part of the experience/development/whatever and you build loyalty rather than annoyance.

  10. Jeff Skaggs from CraveOnline , December 12, 2008 at 1:23 p.m.

    The research companies need to do a better job of working with the publishers to provide a better user experience and more incentive for responses. These studies are vital to branding campaigns that cannot be as directly tied to ROI as direct campaigns, but the current method increases the likelihood of DAMAGING a brand image because a user will equate the experience to the advertiser (instead of the research company or the site). Using in-page, opt-in units will make a better user-experience and including respondents in some sort of sweepstakes (or a more direct incentive) will help with volume.

  11. Greg Wilson from specialized marketing services inc. , December 12, 2008 at 7:36 p.m.

    Interuptive ads, pop-up surveys etc. are all viewed with an evil eye. No one likes them and as we dive deeper into the new media world, interuptive tactics work even less. DVR's are slowly killing TV's holy grail of interuptive advertising but the down side is that every corner of the internet now has some form of interuptive ad. I particularly hate those green highlighted anchor tag words in copy that pops up that annoying little window trying to sell me a car when I'm reading about a music DVD. Irrelevant and aggravating.

    Surveys do work when they are not interuptive. It's OK to ask at the very end of a transaction if the customer would like to take a survey to help with improving the product or experience. I stick to no more than 3 questions and find that works the best. Surveys that take more than 2 or 3 minutes have huge abandon rates. For our clients we generally suggest they offer some incentive like a coupon or a code for a % off next purchase etc. We control the use of the promo code by generating unique codes that only work once. That way it won't end up on a coupon site.