Office of Strategic Marketing & Branding

How to use "appended data" for more insightful survey results

May 25, 2021
Market research

The more we know about survey respondents, the easier it is to organize them into key segments that help generate more insightful and actionable results. And the good news is there’s a way to find out more about respondents without having to ask them more survey questions: it’s called appended data.

Most survey tools (whether you’re using something basic like the forms and survey tools in Webtools or something more advanced like Qualtrics) allow you to append values to a survey URL to allow collection of additional respondent data. For example, in a recent study that SMB conducted with The Grainger College of Engineering, we were able to segment the respondents by the student’s year in school, undergraduate vs graduate, resident vs non-resident, and the degree program the respondent is enrolled in – all by using unique respondent data values added to the end of the survey URL. 

While working with the Division of Management Information (DMI) to generate the respondent list for the Grainger study, I learned that some of the key segments we needed could be added as additional columns in the respondent list. As a result, we were able to capture all of these values in a consistent way, while cutting several questions off the survey. 

Web Services has a blog post that explains how to easily append this data (what they call Hidden Fields) to the URL for either forms or surveys in Webtools. Qualtrics has a slightly different process for grabbing the data on the back end, but the results are the same: more data with no additional survey questions.

So, the next time you run a survey, think about your key segments and some of the questions you want to ask, then see if there’s a way to capture it as appended data instead of adding more questions to your survey.