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Key Definitions & Marketing Examples [2023]



Key Definitions & Marketing Examples [2023]

Streaming video is an increasingly popular and effective way of reaching modern viewers and is the ideal choice for brands that want to engage potential customers in the discovery phase of the consumer journey.

Streaming video advertising provides an effective connection between a brand and an interested consumer through the trinity of sight, sound, and motion. Streaming also allows brands to optimize their ads with modern machine learning and future proof them with first party data.

Today, ad-supported services within the video landscape include some of the most recognizable names on the market, including HuluTubiParamount+, Peacock, and Discovery+ just to name a few.

As marketers, we know that video has been notoriously hard to measure compared to traditional display and search ads. But those days are behind us now.

Here’s a breakdown of OTT advertising and how brands are buying, targeting, and measuring the success of their OTT video campaigns. In the following blog article, we will discuss

What Is OTT Advertising?

OTT (over-the-top) advertising is advertising delivered directly to viewers over the internet through streaming video services or devices. The channel allows media buyers to target precise audience segments and provides the advanced measurement capabilities that digital marketers have come to expect.

The term “over-the-top” comes from the ability to bypass traditional TV providers that control media distribution, helping advertisers reach their audiences directly. Going over the top allows media companies (and advertisers) freedom of movement without pre-planned broadcast schedules or geographic limitations.

Connected TV (CTV) vs. OTT

While we often see marketers use OTT and CTV interchangeably, the two concepts are not the same. However, they are closely related. OTT is a method of ad delivery that can take place on a number of devices. A connected TV refers to an internet-connected television that supports OTT ads. 

You may see OTT ads served on Connected TVs, but other devices can serve OTT ads as well. For example, you may see an OTT ad while watching Hulu on your mobile phone – in this case, there’s no television required.

The Benefits of OTT Advertising

Using OTT in advertising is crucial for several reasons. It helps target ads accurately, adapts to privacy changes, makes ads more relevant and engaging, and ensures brand safety while offering top-tier inventory without fraud. 

Precise targeting that eliminates waste

One of the powerful components of OTT is that it offers multiple layers of audience targeting. Depending on the platform and your approach to buying OTT, you can target based on the provider’s audience data, or in some cases, with layering your own customer data.

Most of the larger OTT platforms allow you to target against:

  • Interests and behaviors
  • Demographics
  • Location
  • Custom audiences (based on your first and third-party data sources)



Additionally, if you take a cross-channel approach to OTT, you can target and retarget the same audience across multiple channels and screens.

For example, with the right OTT strategy, you could reach your audience on their TV screens, then retargeted across OTT, audio, display, and more, creating a truly connected cross-channel ecosystem that moves the needle for your brand.

Resilience against privacy-led industry changes

With major data privacy-focused changes expected to heavily impact the ‘how’ of performance marketing targeting and measurement, many advertisers are seeking fresh solutions that allow them to shift some of their marketing dollars into areas that will continue to be highly targetable and measurable. 

In this moment of privacy, the TV screen is becoming one of the most targetable devices in an advertiser’s toolkit. Because the TV screen never had cookies or IDFA to begin with, their deprecation doesn’t affect TV screen targeting in the same way.

“Data is and will continue to be a big piece of the conversation going forward. With this ever-evolving space and with the way data is changing (and as we see cookies going away) first-party publisher data will be more important and deterministic data overall. Specifically in programmatic exchanges.” – Kayla Yee, Account Executive, Sling TV at Dish Media

Enhanced ad relevance and increased engagement

OTT advertising boosts engagement by tailoring ads to individual viewer preferences through data analysis. It offers precise targeting based on demographics and interests, ensuring ads reach the right audience. Interactive elements and varied ad formats make ads more engaging and encourage viewer interaction. Timing ads during relevant content enhances engagement, and frequency capping prevents ad fatigue. Detailed performance metrics help advertisers refine campaigns for better engagement results.

Better brand safety measures

For ensuring brand safety in OTT advertising, it’s crucial to employ precision in targeting and real-time reporting. Contextual targeting and transparent reporting capabilities play a pivotal role. By combining contextual data and categories, advertisers can establish finely tuned targeting criteria for their ad placements. This approach helps prevent the display of ads on channels deemed inappropriate for specific audiences, thereby avoiding association with “fake content” or unsuitable content.

Support for focused advertising strategies

Build and supplement base campaigns with focusedcomplementary strategies: incremental reach, manage frequency, target competitors, and focus on lapsed customers. Over the top video is a channel that can meet a wide variety of marketing and sales initiatives, thanks to growing capabilities in scaling, measuring, and data-driven targeting.

Many places talk about over the top in just the context of upper-funnel awareness or oversimplify OTT goals as being the same as TV goals. You can leverage OTT video as a full-funnel performance channel that does more than just build your brand; it can engage and move customers through the entire funnel.

Improved accountability

The landscape of advertising has evolved significantly, with OTT ad campaigns becoming highly measurable and optimizable. Unlike traditional TV advertising, where gauging effectiveness was challenging, OTT platforms provide precise metrics. Advertisers can track viewer engagement, click-through rates, and even demographic insights in real-time, allowing for data-driven decisions. This wealth of data empowers advertisers to optimize future campaigns, refining targeting, content, and ad formats for maximum impact.

OTT can be a full-funnel performance driver. What makes Tinuiti unique is that our approach focuses on the right fit for each brand. This can include traditional goals of reach and frequency. Or it can mean digital measurement, programmatic, or sponsorship — it all depends on the brand’s needs.

OTT Stats: Viewership, Ad Investments, Apps Continue to Grow

Brands with advanced digital strategies are adopting OTT advertising as part of their performance mix because the future of TV is becoming more digital and data-driven.

Streaming video stats show that viewing has gone mainstream in recent years, especially for younger audiences, whose viewing habits have shifted from cable viewing to streaming services and OTT apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Crackle, Plex, PlutoTV, Vimeo, Vevo, and more.


ott apps

According to the most recent data, 83 percent of consumers in the United States were using a subscription video-on-demand service in 2023, an increase of over 10 percentage points in five years. 

Where viewership consolidates, so does ad spending. Between October 2021 and January 2022, U.S. OTT ad spend reached $4 billion and accounted for 13% of the $32 billion total digital ad spending.

Beyond growing OTT video viewership, over-the-top marketing platforms are becoming more sophisticated, giving brands full-funnel targeting and attribution capabilities that weren’t available just a few short years ago.

At Tinuiti, we see OTT video as being ripe for two kinds of brands: TV advertisers that are looking to recapture some of the impressions and reach that are no longer available through traditional channels, and challenger brands that don’t have direct broadcast budgets but can play in the TV space for the first time through OTT. Consumers are moving to OTT channels and Connected TV. So brands need to start from the perspective that it can work; they just need to understand how to use it to their advantage.

How to Create an OTT Advertising Strategy

When it comes to making an OTT advertising plan, it’s usually best to rely on experts who know the ropes. But if you want a quick peek into how it’s done, here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

  • Plan the Campaign: First, figure out who your target audience is – who they are, what they like, where they live, and more. This helps you plan your advertising campaign for OTT effectively.
  • Pick Your Audience: With OTT ads, you can choose who sees your ads. You can group people based on their interests, what they do, or where they’re from.
  • Choose an OTT Platform: OTT platforms are where your ads show up, like Hulu or Roku. You can work with advertising professionals to configure where you want your ads to show across various streaming services.
  • Make Ad Content: Create interesting and relevant ads that your target audience will like. These could be commercials, promo videos, or short clips.
  • Buy Ads: After you’ve picked your platforms, you need to buy space for your ads. You can do this directly through the platform or use AI to automate the process.
  • Set a Schedule: Once you’ve bought ad space and sorted your audience, set up when and where your ads will appear on the OTT platform.
  • Check Performance: Keep an eye on how your ads are doing. Look at things like how many people watch them, click on them, or buy something.
  • Make Improvements: Based on how your ads are doing, you might need to change things. This could mean adjusting your ads, when they play, or who sees them.
  • Review Success & Mistakes: When your campaign is over, put together a report that shows how well it did (or didn’t do). This report helps you plan better for the next campaign.

Which Devices Display OTT Ads?

Over the top video advertisements can display across a myriad of devices (such as Roku or connected TV) and streaming services (such as OTT apps). Basically, if the device streams video over the internet, it can support OTT ads. Here are a few of the most popular OTT delivery channels:

  • Mobile devices
  • Personal computers
  • Smart TVs/Connected TVs
  • Streaming devices (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV)
  • Gaming consoles

However, OTT ads don’t just “appear” on any of these devices — content delivery is facilitated through a number of OTT distribution channels.


ott advertising ecosystem


Key Types of OTT Platforms & Distribution Channels

Keep in mind that OTT channels deliver ads as well as content directly to customers. Viewers can access a wide array of on-demand movies, shows, and original content on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. These channels also insert targeted ads, ensuring relevance to individual viewers through data-driven insights. This shift in content delivery and advertising caters to modern consumer preferences and challenges traditional TV models.

But here’s where things can get rather complicated. The streaming video landscape is complex and fragmented among devices, channels, platforms, and publishers.

It’s important to remember that the term ‘OTT’ is not a catch-all for the industry. Those who are super familiar with the concept are likely to use terms like AVOD/SVOD. So if you want to uplevel your knowledge, it’s helpful to know what these terms mean and which services fall into each category. Let’s dive in.

Subscription Video Streaming (SVOD)

Subscription video on demand (SVOD) streaming services require viewers to purchase a subscription. Some SVOD providers are entirely ad-free, but major platforms like Disney+ are beginning to offer ad-supported services at discount rates to subscribers. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are three well-known SVOD services.

Ad-Supported Video Streaming (AVOD)

AVOD streaming services provide free content to consumers and are supported entirely by ads. Viewers typically are shown ads before, during, and after watching content. Crackle, Tubi, and Vudu are three of the most popular AVOD services among consumers today.

Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (vMVPD)

Similar to a traditional cable package, vMVPDs are streaming services that offer subscribers a small number of live TV channels delivered over the internet. For example, YouTube TV subscribers can stream live sports from a local station and over 100 national channels are available on Sling TV.

Types of OTT Ad Formats

Here’s a list of pros and cons based on different ad formats available: 

Banner Ads: These are small ads that appear at the top or bottom of the screen while watching content.

  • Pros: Non-intrusive and don’t disrupt the content. Constant visibility while watching content.
  • Cons: Limited space for conveying a message. May not grab as much attention as other ad formats.

Overlay Ads: These ads appear on top of the content without interrupting the viewing experience and are usually clickable, leading to a landing page.

  • Pros: Non-disruptive and maintain the viewing experience. Typically clickable, allowing for user engagement.
  • Cons: Limited screen space for content and branding. Effectiveness depends on viewer interaction.

Pre-roll Ads: These brief ads typically last for 15-30 seconds and show up before the main content begins.

  • Pros: Ensure high visibility as they play before the main content. Provide a captive audience.
  • Cons: Can be seen as interruptive and may annoy viewers. Limited time to convey a message.

Mid-roll Ads: These ads pop up in the middle of the content, often after a specific time, and are generally longer than pre-roll ads, ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

  • Pros: Reach viewers during a content break, often when engagement is high. Longer duration allows for more comprehensive messaging.
  • Cons: Can disrupt the viewing experience and lead to viewer frustration. Placement timing is crucial to avoid annoyance.

Post-roll Ads: These ads appear after the main content ends, often longer than pre-roll ads, with durations ranging from a few seconds to several minutes.

  • Pros: Capture viewers’ attention after content completion. Extended duration provides space for storytelling.
  • Cons: May be skipped by viewers eager to leave the platform. Limited control over viewer engagement after content ends.

OTT Advertising Platforms

 Brands that invest in OTT video do so using a variety of different OTT distribution channels:

  • TV publishers
  • OTT native services
  • Streaming linear services
  • OTT devices


ott advertising platforms list including tv publishers, ott natives, streaming linear, and ott devices


While we won’t mention all of the platforms in this article, we’ll briefly dive into some of the more popular OTT channels and streaming devices that you’ve probably heard of, which include:

  • Roku
  • Hulu
  • SlingTV
  • Vimeo
  • Tubi
  • Amazon Fire
  • Twitch
  • Disney+ 
  • ESPN+ 
  • Peacock 
  • HBO Max 
  • Paramount+ 
  • Pluto TV 
  • DirectTV Now 
  • Crackle 
  • Vudu 
  • Freewheel 

Roku Advertising

Roku is unique in that it is both a streaming device and platform. In 2023, Roku reported a total of 71.6 million monthly active users in the United States. Not only is Roku popular with cord-cutters, but it’s also considered one of the pioneers and leaders in OTT advertising.


tv with roku homepage

Source: Roku


Roku’s native ad platform offers 15 and 30-second ad spots in addition to interactive video, overlays, and sponsorships.

Hulu Advertising

Hulu’s on-demand streaming service has over 48.3 million subscribers as of 2023.


Like Roku, Hulu’s ad platform includes a robust set of options for bidding, targeting, measuring, as well as different ad types.

Sling TV Advertising

Sling TV is a live TV streaming service that started in February 2015 – the first such service in the world. With it, viewers can use their tablets, phones, and computers to watch the same live and on-demand programs that would normally be limited to cable and satellite TV. As of 2023, it’s reported to have about 2 million subscribers.

Sling TV’s advertising model combines elements from traditional cable TV and that of more modern digital marketing techniques. Like traditional cable TV, brands are charged by impression and they can choose to advertise on a range of different networks with different content. Also, ads are not skippable, and cannot be fast-forwarded or blocked. 

But Sling TV also makes use of programmatic advertising, which allows brands to bid on desirable TV inventory in private auctions. This inventory is divided into live, linear, and on-demand programming. 

Tubi TV Advertising

Not far behind Hulu is another major OTT channel: Tubi TV. With over 74 million monthly active users (worldwide) and content rights that span over 250 partners, Tubi’s ad platform offers 15 and 30-second ad spots that are non-skippable.

Tubi is one of the last remaining truly free OTT platforms, supporting themselves entirely on ad breaks. This business model is clearly working for them – in 2020, they only had 33 million monthly active users, meaning their viewership has more than doubled in a 3-year period.

tubi tv homepage on smart tv

Source: Tubi

How Do You Buy OTT Ads?

Accessing OTT ads can also be complicated for newcomers, simply due to the fragmentation of platforms and the many different business models that distribute inventory.

In general, there are two ways brands buy OTT advertising: Guaranteed IOs (insertion orders) and Programmatic.


ott advertising ecosystems closed versus open


Breadth vs Depth: there are trade-offs to different OTT purchasing models.

Guaranteed IO (insertion orders) buys are set-priced, set impressions, usually based on reach and frequency.

Data-Driven Programmatic buys are based on a real-time bidding environment that allows the advertiser and the agency to maintain control of targeting but does not guarantee set impressions or frequency.


the two ways to buy ott advertising


Buying OTT Ads: Closed vs. Open Ecosystems

An important consideration for buying over the top inventory is what distinguishes as open versus closed ecosystems.

When you buy through Amazon OTT, for example you get access to all OTT inventory served through Amazon devices.

Open ecosystems, such as NBC Universal, enable brands to access inventory across multiple publishers.

When planning your OTT buying strategy, the conversation is about open ecosystems versus closed ecosystems. Amazon is a closed ecosystem in terms of inventory, measurement, data, and buying entry points. For some brand initiatives, it might make sense to work within a closed ecosystem such as Amazon or Google to access their data and measurement. However, for others, it might make sense to buy programmatically from Universal to access inventory and reach audiences across multiple devices and channels.

The truth is that there’s no one platform that sells everything. Ad inventory in any given hour can be split among several publishers, which is why it can be difficult to stay close to your audience if your inventory is consolidated with a single publisher. There are trade-offs with each.


example of Discovery fragmenting ad inventory between hulu, roku, and other streaming services


OTT video ads on a given channel can be split between multiple publishers in a single hour-long segment, which is why it can be beneficial to diversify your OTT across multiple services to ensure your message is reaching your audience.

OTT Video Content Best Practices

OTT ads are essentially video ads, but for a much more advanced audience. OTT audiences expect top-notch ad experiences.

Here are a few best practices to consider when creating and deploying your OTT ads.

hulu tv ad promoting live sports

Make sure video can be formatted for multiple devices

 When OTT ads are inserted into video segments, they can appear across multiple device types. Don’t assume that your ads will fit on a large screen TV. Identify sizing best practices so that your value proposition and call to action is immediately apparent on all screen types.

Keep it 30 seconds or less for non-skippable ads

 While you may want your ad to evoke the high-quality of a premium television channel placement, don’t fall into the trap of making it as long. Remember, OTT viewers have different expectations when it comes to streaming content. Keep it short and to the point (think 15 to 30 seconds) for non-skippables.

Leverage dynamic creative to deliver relevant, personalized experiences

 The look, sound, and feel of your videos should reflect that of where your audience is. This can include the day of the week, time of the day, geo-location, weather, and behavior signals. All of these can be combined to inform the creative of your OTT content.

Measuring Your OTT Ad Investment: Metrics & Methodology

 Like any digital channel, a measurement plan is key to determining the success of your investments, which means you need to take various KPIs into account.

  • Ad Impressions – Ad impressions are a metric that quantifies how often an advertisement is displayed to users. Each instance an ad loads, it counts as one impression, providing advertisers with a measure of their campaign’s visibility and potential audience reach.
  • Reach – This metric refers to the total number of unique individuals or households exposed to a particular marketing or advertising campaign within a specific timeframe.
  • Frequency – This refers to the average number of times a person or household is exposed to a particular advertisement within a specified time period.
  • Gross Rating Point (GRP): Gross Rating Points are a metric used in advertising to measure the total impact or exposure of an advertising campaign. It is calculated by multiplying the percentage of the target audience reached by the number of times they were exposed to the ad. GRP helps advertisers assess the overall reach and frequency of their campaign in relation to the total potential audience.
  • Cost per Point (CPP): Cost per Point is a metric that calculates the cost of reaching one percent of the target audience with a specific advertising campaign. It is derived by dividing the total cost of the campaign by the GRP achieved. CPP helps advertisers understand the efficiency of their advertising spending in relation to the size of the audience reached.
  • Target Rating Point (TRP): Target Rating Points are a variation of GRP specifically focused on the desired or target audience for an advertising campaign. TRP measures the percentage of the target audience reached and the frequency of exposure to the campaign. It helps advertisers gauge the effectiveness of their message in reaching the intended audience.
  • Video Completion Rate (VCR) – VCR simply describes how often a viewer watches your entire ad. VCR is usually between 90% and 100% for OTT ads because most devices and platforms feature non-skippable ads that are always in-view.
  • Cost per Completed View (CPCV) – This is a digital advertising metric that calculates the cost an advertiser pays when a viewer watches an entire video ad. It helps advertisers gauge the efficiency of their video ad campaigns in terms of viewer engagement and completion rates.
  • Cost per Acquisition (CPA) – An acquisition can mean that someone immediately purchased an item, or completed another specific desirable action, like visiting a particular website or landing page, downloading an application, or even visiting your brick-and-mortar store.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) – ROAS is a metric used in digital advertising to measure the effectiveness and profitability of an advertising campaign. It is calculated by dividing the revenue generated from the campaign by the total cost of the campaign.

The nature of OTT viewing means that most ads aren’t clickable; however. That means that tracking these metrics often requires a third-party attribution solution. This can mean working with a company such as Nielsen or Oracle to track device IDs and across platforms as well as offline touchpoints (such as entering a physical location, like a store)

Challenges of OTT Advertising

Beyond being a very fragmented landscape with competing business models, OTT is still a channel with inherent challenges for any brand looking to make the leap to the big screen.

1. Transparency

The number one way brands access OTT inventory is through a reseller or an aggregator. Unfortunately, this means that many brands are losing out on transparency because it’s difficult to determine whether their ads are showing on premium channels or less-than-popular segments. By using an OTT agency like Tinuiti, on the other hand, brands have more control, transparency, and access to data with first-party OTT publisher partnerships.

At Tinuiti, we own and operate all of our deals directly with virtually every TV and OTT publisher and platform. This gives us—and you—full transparency into each dollar spent, and the ability to granularly optimize for performance.

2. Measurement

Because OTT campaigns are delivered via television, there are challenges when it comes to attribution tracking. Unlike other digital channels, tracking clicks or in-store traffic isn’t as straightforward and can require a third-party to understand the full impact of your OTT ads.

Tinuiti’s OTT partnerships and technology ensure that you are tracking post-OTT exposure in terms of digital performance (such as website visits and conversions) as well as offline impact (such as brick and mortar visitation).

Whether you’re looking to measure visits and sales on your website, foot traffic to your stores, brand lift, or something else, it’s not a question of if OTT will work for you, but how.

3. Media Planning & Targeting

Buying OTT media is one thing, but understanding how your OTT campaigns fit into your larger media mix to impact your audience’s decisions requires a sophisticated strategy helmed by subject matter experts.

The real magic of our OTT program lies in our strategic cross-channel approach, which unifies your data strategy with sequential messaging across your media mix. This cross-channel strategy enables a unified audience experience across all channels and screens, and a sequential retargeting strategy that surrounds the consumer and drives conversion.

Examples of High-Impact OTT Advertising Campaigns

OTT advertising campaigns can significantly influence your overall marketing effectiveness. Let’s dive into two success stories from Tinuiti: Avocados From Mexico and OLLY.

How Avocados From Mexico Is Using OTT To Create Disruptive and Effective Ads

avocados from mexico logo


Avocados from Mexico know a thing or two about Super Bowl snacks. In the two months leading up to the Super Bowl in 2020, Avocados from Mexico put 240 million pounds of avocado out into the market — the equivalent of a football stadium covered with 30 feet of guacamole or the amount of guacamole consumed during the Super Bowl. 

Super Bowl advertising has done wonders for Avocados from Mexico’s brand. From 2016 to 2021, their brand recognition rose from 23% to 55%, and they’ve been the only brand in the history of the Super Bowl to be in the top one and top two places as a top digital performer among all of the brands that participated in the Super Bowl.

“We think that the worst thing that we can do as an organization is to just continue to do things just because we have done it in the past. So we say, let’s try other things, let’s try other avenues. Let’s reinvent ourselves and discover other territories,” Ivonne Kinser, Head of Digital Marketing and eCommerce for Avocados from Mexico says.



“Based on our experience, our most disruptive campaigns have been those that overlap two or more different technologies. And I think the reason why technology, innovation, disruption is moving today at a much faster pace than it did in the past is because of that. Because there are more technologies and because marketers are discovering different ways to bring those together,” Kinser says.

One recent example of disruptive ad technology? OTT advertising. Kinser explains that she sees over-the-top (OTT) advertising technology as an evolution of traditional advertising and a great opportunity to personalize the ad experience for consumers.

“We can now target households based on the consumption habits of that specific household,” Kinser says, noting that personalization is more important than ever before — and first-party data lets advertisers use OTT to create more personalized ad experiences,” she says.

To learn more, check out Kinser’s full interview on Tinuiti’s podcast “OffMute”

How OLLY is Destigmatizing Women’s Health Through OTT and Out-of-Home Placements


out-of-home placement for OLLY OTT campaign


OLLY partnered with the Tinuiti team to bring their latest campaign to life and to drive brand awareness while eliminating the shame around taboo topics like gynecological well-being.

After brainstorming with the OLLY team and getting inspiration for the amazing creative—Tinuiti strategically selected a multitude of partners to help get the masses ‘Lovin’ Their Libido.’

The media mix included wide-reach OTT activations such as Amazon Fire TV and Hulu, Audio spots with Stitcher/Pandora and Spotify, Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) placements, YouTube, custom content through partnerships with Healthline and Bustle, such as sponsored editorials and an interactive quiz, and even flashy High-Impact Display activations through Big Happy.

“Despite being relatively new to the OLLY business, Tinuiti brought innovative ideas and a unique approach to this campaign that showed us that they truly understood our target market and OLLY’s values.” -Emily Zwerner, Sr. Marketing Director, OLLY

Want to learn more about the campaign results? Check out the full case study here.

Conclusion: The Future of OTT Advertising is Bright

OTT is disrupting the industry for good. As traditional TV continues to lose viewers, more consumers will use streaming apps and ad-supported OTT services like Hulu, Sling, and Pluto. By adding this new channel to your media mix, you have an unprecedented opportunity to target new audiences in new ways — and to do so ahead of competitors who aren’t as ad-savvy.

As OTT viewership continues to explode, so will the opportunities for brands adopting OTT video to support their sales and marketing goals.

If you want to learn more, get in touch with one of Tinuiti’s OTT experts here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips



How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Take back your ROI by owning your data



Treasure Data 800x450

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Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.

Click here to view more MarTech webinars.

About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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Revolutionizing Auto Retail: The Game-Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai



Revolutionizing Auto Retail: The Game-Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

In a groundbreaking alliance, Amazon and Hyundai have joined forces to reshape the automotive landscape, promising a revolutionary shift in how we buy, drive, and experience cars.

Imagine browsing for your dream car on Amazon, with the option to seamlessly purchase, pick up, or have it delivered—all within the familiar confines of the world’s largest online marketplace. Buckle up as we explore the potential impact of this monumental partnership and the transformation it heralds for the future of auto retail.

Driving Change Through Amazon’s Auto Revolution

Consider “Josh”, a tech-savvy professional with an affinity for efficiency. Faced with the tedious process of purchasing a new car, he stumbled upon Amazon’s automotive section. Intrigued by the prospect of a one-stop shopping experience, Josh decided to explore the Amazon-Hyundai collaboration.

The result?

A hassle-free online car purchase, personalized to his preferences, and delivered to his doorstep. Josh’s story is just a glimpse into the real-world impact of this game-changing partnership.

Bridging the Gap Between Convenience and Complexity

Traditional car buying is often marred by complexities, from navigating dealership lots to negotiating prices. The disconnect between the convenience consumers seek and the cumbersome process they endure has long been a pain point in the automotive industry. The need for a streamlined, customer-centric solution has never been more pressing.

1701235578 44 Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai1701235578 44 Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

Ecommerce Partnership Reshaping Auto Retail Dynamics

Enter Amazon and Hyundai’s new strategic partnership coming in 2024—an innovative solution poised to redefine the car-buying experience. The trio of key developments—Amazon becoming a virtual showroom, Hyundai embracing AWS for a digital makeover, and the integration of Alexa into next-gen vehicles—addresses the pain points with a holistic approach.

In 2024, auto dealers for the first time will be able to sell vehicles in Amazon’s U.S. store, and Hyundai will be the first brand available for customers to purchase.

Amazon and Hyundai launch a broad, strategic partnership—including vehicle sales on in 2024 – Amazon Staff

This collaboration promises not just a transaction but a transformation in the way customers interact with, purchase, and engage with their vehicles.

Pedal to the Metal

Seamless Online Purchase:

  • Complete the entire transaction within the trusted Amazon platform.
  • Utilize familiar payment and financing options.
  • Opt for convenient pick-up or doorstep delivery.
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Hyundai’s Cloud-First Transformation:

  • Experience a data-driven organization powered by AWS.
  • Benefit from enhanced production optimization, cost reduction, and improved security.

Alexa Integration in Next-Gen Vehicles:

  • Enjoy a hands-free, voice-controlled experience in Hyundai vehicles.
  • Access music, podcasts, reminders, and smart home controls effortlessly.
  • Stay connected with up-to-date traffic and weather information.

Driving into the Future

The Amazon-Hyundai collaboration is not just a partnership; it’s a revolution in motion. As we witness the fusion of e-commerce giant Amazon with automotive prowess of Hyundai, the potential impact on customer behavior is staggering.

The age-old challenges of car buying are met with a forward-thinking, customer-centric solution, paving the way for a new era in auto retail. From the comfort of your home to the driver’s seat, this partnership is set to redefine every step of the journey, promising a future where buying a car is as easy as ordering a package online.

Embrace the change, and witness the evolution of auto retail unfold before your eyes.

Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

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