Imagine a company targeting a 35-year-old self-employed Rebecca while the biggest spender on their website is a 47-year-old executive Robert.
If you’ve never run a demographic survey, this company could be yours.
Demographic survey questions help you create an accurate buyer persona. And having an accurate buyer persona helps you use better messaging and better targeting.
At the end of the day, it means more efficient marketing campaigns 💰
When you’re just getting started with a new product, you develop a buyer persona from scratch based on assumptions and the initial market research. But as you go, it’s crucial to add new data gathered from the real people who choose to become your customers.
But what exactly should you ask in those surveys?
To answer this, we’ve covered 8 common demographic survey questions and the best practices for displaying them on a website (because it might feel awkward if you pop up out of the blue asking your visitors about their income).
We’ll also include demographic survey templates you can add directly to your website within a couple of clicks. Let’s jump right in!
Wait, but is it okay to ask your audience such questions?
Yes, as long as you do it respectfully.
Here is the one issue all demographic surveys have. Whether you’re the one asking or the one responding, they do often feel uncomfortable.
Gender, ethnicity, income level, like most demographic survey questions, are very sensitive. You’ve got to be extra careful when inviting people to participate.
Your goal is to make customers feel comfortable by asking those questions at the right moment and explaining that the data you collect will in no way identify the respondents. We’ll talk more about how to ask these questions once we cover what to ask.
8 Common demographic survey question examples
Below are the most common demographic survey questions used to develop a more precise buyer or customer persona. They typically include standard wording and can be asked as a part of a bigger questionnaire or as a standalone survey.
1. What is your age?
You might be already getting some information about your website visitors’ age from Google Analytics, but no software is almighty. So, if you are trying to choose an opening question for your survey, this is a good one. It’s easy, straightforward, and it doesn’t feel that intimidating.
The most common approach is to provide age brackets just like in the example above. However, it’s up to you how wide or small the ranges will be. For example, instead of creating an 18-24 bracket, you can use brackets like 18-20, 21-23, and 24-26 to collect more precise age data.
2. Which gender do you identify yourself with?
The first question was a warm-up, and now we’re entering the land of sensitive questions.
Again, there is nothing wrong with asking your audience about their gender as long as you:
Phrase the question correctly and respectfully (it’s gender, not sex!)
Allow for typing an answer if it’s not included
Allow respondents to omit the question
If you want, instead of including pre-written variations, you can just phrase it as an open question and let the respondents type the answer.
Keep in mind that although you could use “gender” and “sex” somewhat interchangeably in the past, today, it is only correct to ask the respondents about their gender. “Sex” refers to biological differences and therefore isn’t always related to social roles and behaviors.
3. How would you describe yourself? (Race and ethnicity)
This question will help you learn a lot of valuable information about your customers. Specifically, their cultural background and thought pattern. The latter is crucial when you’re structuring your marketing campaigns and crafting the message, because even the same word choice may be perceived in a completely different way by people from different cultures.
Note, when asking about ethnicity, it’s recommended to use checkboxes for the answers because some respondents may want to select more than one ethnicity.
4. Where are you currently located?
Knowing where your customers are located in the world or in the country may help you adjust shipping options, rethink your delivery offers, or evaluate the efficiency of your offline ads.
Depending on whether your business is local or global, you can tailor the survey form and include countries, states, counties, cities, or even zip codes.
Want to get more granular? Create various survey forms for website visitors from various locations!
For example, in a survey displayed to visitors from California, you can include the cities of California. In a survey displayed to the EU visitors, you can include the EU countries, and so on.
5. What is your marital status?
If you know a little about marketing, you’ve probably heard that it’s often easier to convert a person who is singe into a customer than to entice a married person with children to make a purchase. For the latter, you might need to use completely different sales tactics.
But here is the thing. The only way to learn that type of information about your customers is to ask them directly.
Feel free to use follow-up or clarifying questions about the topic that interests you the most. For example, in this case, you can also ask respondents how many children (or other dependents) they have. No web analytics software is capable of tracking that information for you!
6. What is the highest degree you have completed?
When asked independently, this question brings little value.
However, when you ask it along with the employment status and the household income, it helps you identify a trend and visualize your average customer’s habits, values, and life situation.
Obviously, you will have to rephrase this question if a large part of your target audience consists of students who are still studying. Also, keep in mind that there are alternative education paths (such as trade schools) you should include among the survey options.
7. What is your current employment status?
Apart from the buying power, the employment status shows how much spare time the respondents are likely to have, and helps you make assumptions about their lifestyle in general.
8. What is your average household income?
Time to talk about money!
Are you still questioning your pricing strategy? Planning to launch a new product? Want to upsell more aggressively? Finding out your customers’ average income would definitely help!
Few people feel comfortable saying exactly how much money they make though, so make sure to use ranges.
If you want to get a more detailed image of your customers’ income level, you can change the numbers suggested in this template and create more narrow brackets.
How to make demographic surveys more comfortable for respondents?
First, ask yourself: which data do I need?
Would it really help to know that people buying your artisan bread have a Ph.D.?
It may turn out you don’t have to ask some of the questions we reviewed above simply because the responses will not affect your marketing strategy.
Once you select the questions for your survey, consider using the following tips to increase the response rates:
Before jumping to questions, explain the objectives of your survey on a welcome page
Make the survey anonymous and assure that the respondents’ data is not identifiable
Replace open questions that require typing with pre-written options and brackets
Allow respondents to omit questions they don’t feel comfortable answering
When is the right moment to display a demographic survey?
That depends on your goal. What are you trying to achieve with this survey? Do you want to get a clearer picture of a buyer persona or get to know a particular segment of your audience better?
For example, while you can display a survey to all website visitors, perhaps, displaying it to those who have completed the checkout process will bring you more valuable data. By surveying visitors of selected pages only, you can find out who has a higher level of interest in a particular product or a category.
You can run a standalone demographic survey on your website or you can use some of these questions as a part of a bigger questionnaire and analyze the data contextually.
Finally, you might want to study those visiting your website from a specific geographic location or a URL, such as a partner blog or a sponsored video.
If you think you need a tech degree to implement all that, worry not. All of these targeting scenarios can be easily applied in the Getsitecontrol survey form builder. Its intuitive targeting settings allow you to decide exactly who will see the survey and when. Zero technical knowledge required!
Why are demographic surveys important?
Demographic data helps you understand your customer behavior better in many ways. You may get insights about their decision-making process, their cultural references, and even marketing channels you might have been overlooking all this time.
With that knowledge, it is easier to scale and expand your marketing reach.
Think about it. Even Facebook and Instagram ads perform times better when you set more detailed audience targeting.
Go ahead and see it for yourself. With tools like Getsitecontrol and Getform, you’ll be able to conduct a demographic survey by the end of the day.