By Mylena Vazquez

Twitter user @LeslieO annotates an undesirable survey invitation email [source]

Asking someone to fill out your survey is kind of a big ask. After all, what you’re asking of them is to take time out of their busy day to help you and your company out. And let’s be honest—you’re not the only one sliding into their inbox with a survey request. How are you going to draw your recipient in? How are you going to differentiate yourself from the competition? Before you even think about hitting send, let’s look at a case study straight from my personal inbox.

I received the above survey invitation from Ulta Beauty earlier this month. Out of curiosity, I opened the email, took a quick glance at it, and immediately closed out. Why?


To start, the greeting was highly impersonal. I am a registered Ulta member. The company has all of my information, including my name, yet they failed to address me personally in an email where they are asking something of me. A generic “hi there” just doesn’t cut it.

Unclear expectations 

What does “brief” mean? How many minutes does “a few moments” entail? When is the deadline for submitting the survey? What is the survey even about? If your respondent doesn’t know what to expect, chances are they won’t be motivated to participate in your survey.

WIFM? What’s in it for me?

Why should a customer help you? As a marketing researcher, it is irresponsible to assume that most respondents are going to take your survey out of the goodness of their hearts. Even saying that “it’ll help us…make you happy” doesn’t give prospective respondents any real incentive to fill out your survey. And it’s also a bit presumptuous to thank invitees for sharing their thoughts before they’ve even clicked to open your survey!

Ulta failed to include all of the above-mentioned elements in their survey invite email. It resulted in me not even clicking through to see what the survey was about or if I would get rewarded in some way for completing it.

Now let’s compare Ulta’s invitation to a survey invite email I received around the same time from Sephora—Ulta’s biggest competitor. 

Sephora strikes gold

Sephora not only called me by my name but also referred to me as a “valuable client.” 

They explicitly stated how long the survey would take to complete and when the window for taking it would close. They made it clear that they would only bother me with this request a maximum of two times per year. They also asked me for my time rather than assume I would give it to them.

Sephora clearly stated what the survey would focus on—in this case, how I shop for beauty products. They didn’t just make a nebulous claim that my answers would help them make me happier with my shopping experience, they showed me the value they placed on my feedback by offering me a tangible reward in the form of 200 points (and even told me when I should expect to receive those points).

Needless to say, I did click through to this survey. And I’m not the only one who has felt inclined to do so. One person even wrote a primer on taking the Sephora survey, telling her readers what to expect, revealing that it took her half the stated time to complete, and encouraging others to keep their eye on the then-100 point prize. I have not seen this same advocacy from anyone for taking Ulta surveys.

As you can see, it is vital to carefully consider the elements to include in that initial invite email. Think about it this way: would you send someone a party invitation that only read, “I’d like you to come to my event,” with no further details provided? No! You would specify the type of event, the event’s start time and duration, how the invitee should respond to your invitation, the RSVP deadline, etc.

It’s not so complicated: communication, consideration, and compensation will draw survey participants in time and time again.


Have you completed any online surveys to which you were invited via email? What is it that made you click through to the survey?

This Post Has One Comment

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