Email Survey Best Practices: Actionable Tips from Chuck E Cheese’s, Humana, and Mastercuts


In order for us marketers to do our jobs really well, we first have to understand our audience. What are they thinking? What do they want? How can we engage them at the right time and place?

People are complex, and so is this challenge.

But fortunately the solution is often straightforward—if not always easy. If you have questions about your customers and prospects…well, ask them!

A simple poll or survey can provide invaluable information about individual consumer preferences, overall audience trends, and key insights about your brand.

Email is one of the most effective ways to directly ask your customers questions. And with a combination of email survey best practices and dynamic email technology, it’s never been easier to make an inquiry and start a conversation with subscribers.

Email Survey Best Practices

There’s no shortage of helpful advice for designing a great survey online. But there are a few email survey best practices you should pay particular attention to.

Keep It Simple

Resist the urge to overload email openers with a flood of questions all at once. You’ll discourage immediate responses and turn off subscribers from opening future messages.

email survey best practices

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Most people don’t open marketing emails expecting an interrogation, so don’t blindside them with a huge poll. Instead, limit yourself to just one or two questions at a time. Remember; you can always follow up with more polls in future messages!

Here’s a great email survey example of a simple-yet-effective in-email poll for moviegoers from Chuck E. Cheese’s with just one field and two possible responses.

email survey best practices

Use Interactive Email Survey Tools

One of the traditional problems of using email for polling and questionnaires was the technical limitations of the inbox experience. Polls couldn’t easily be put into emails themselves, so brands typically linked out to another landing page with a web-based survey.

Fortunately, new innovations make it possible to seamlessly embed interactive polls into email. These email polls can evolve over time and even adapt to user responses to display real-time results or new content.

Offer an Incentive

If you’re going to ask your mailing list for input, you need to offer them something in return. What are they getting out responding to your survey?

This incentive can come in many forms, and more generous offers typically generate more responses. Your offer could be as simple as the potential for a better, more relevant customer experience. Or it could be something more tangible like a discount, free sample, or other motivation. Base your offer on what you know about your audience, and test different variables to find out what works best.

Sun Tan City emailed an interactive poll element asking customers about their music preference so the company could provide a better on-location experience. To sweeten the deal, they offered a free sunbed visit to respondents with great results, including an impressive 31.5% response rate. Read the complete story here and see how they did it.

Survey Says…

One great way to incentivize responses and build community is to show the results of a survey. People love seeing what others thing and finding out how their own thoughts compare to others’

Perhaps the most engaging way to do this is simply have your email survey tool set to display polling results before or after an opener responds. You can even design your element to update with real-time data as more responses come in, giving your subscribers a reason to come back and re-open the email!

Humana inserted this clever adaptive poll as a way to build excitement and engagement around a loyalty program that encourages health and fitness.

email survey advantages and disadvantages

Update Those Profiles

If you’re fortunate enough to earn some responses to your poll, don’t just push all that information into an aggregate data set! This is an incredible opportunity to learn about your individual customers and what they want.

When an email opener responds to your survey, make sure to record their response in the user profile assigned to that email. This data can be used to provide specially catered message and highly personalized experiences in the future.

Mastercuts added a simple poll asking its audience about their hair type. They can use the data responses to serve more relevant content and product offers depending on how customers answered.

email survey tools

Email Survey Advantages and Disadvantages

Sending surveys and polls via email comes with both benefits and detriments compared to alternative options. These email survey advantages and disadvantages should influence your strategy and the decisions you make with your data.

Advantages of using email survey tools:

  • Email is one of the most cost-effective channels for mass communication, and deploying surveys is usually straightforward and fast
  • Using email as the medium for surveys makes it easy to attribute and tie responses to a specific user to build up their behavioral profile
  • It’s easy to deploy a positive, convenient user experience that stays under your control and direction

Potential downsides of using email:

  • Your dataset can be skewed because you only get responses from the fraction of your audience that signs up for and engages through email
  • Heavily dependent on subject line to get opens and responses
  • Traditional technical limitations make it hard to embed user-friendly and attention-grabbing survey questions without real-time email technology

Weigh these email survey advantages and disadvantages to make sure this tactic is the correct approach for what your program needs.

The Best Email Survey Tools Available

Want to see interactive, adaptive, fully embedded email polls in action? You don’t have to wait; contact us now for a demonstration!


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