11 Top Tips to Run a Successful Market Research Incentives Scheme

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Incentives for market research can play a vital role in the success of a research project. When done well, they can boost survey response rates, help recruit new participants and retain existing members. Running a successful market research incentive scheme can have many challenges. Getting it wrong can be expensive and frustrating for both clients and participants.

People complete surveys voluntarily when they are extremely happy or very angry – other than these two extreme emotions, companies struggle to receive genuine feedback from their customers on a regular basis. Receiving quality feedback is one of the biggest challenges companies currently face as even though surveys might be well designed and sent out at the right time, this does not guarantee quality responses. This is where market research incentives become the winning strategy to overcome this obstacle.

Ovation incentives has 20 years of experience in devising successful incentive schemes for our clients. We have helped many of the world's top market research companies run effective market research incentive campaigns including Dynata, GfK, Ipsos, IQVIA and Nielsen to name a few.

In this article, we will share some key things to consider when choosing incentives and share our top tips on how best to implement them effectively in a market research incentive scheme.

Using Incentives in Market Research

The primary goal of a survey is to ensure accurate feedback and data is gathered from the research study, survey, poll, focus group or interviews. Ideally, research participants would give up their time voluntarily to share their opinions to help or perhaps to make a difference about a research project. 

Whilst some people are happy to do this, it has become increasingly difficult to sustain interest and motivate participants over time which may result in inaccurate feedback, especially when a specific demographic is required for a target audience.

To keep participants motivated, the process of taking a survey needs to be incentivised.  An enticing incentive that simply works results in dramatically higher response rates and it also adds an element of incentivising customers for their valuable time. When participants feel compensated for their time, then they provide accurate and unbiased feedback thus maximising participation.

Still wondering how to boost survey response rates - time to consider incentivisation as it is the key to achieving the response rates coupled with the quality of received data required.

11 Top Tips for Running Market Research Incentives Schemes

A well planned and implemented market research incentive scheme can help you attract and grow your community of participants whilst boosting your response rates. However, getting them right can be tricky. How do you make the incentives generous enough to attract participants but not so high that people will try to deceive you about their credentials just for a reward?

On another hand, you may have devised the perfect market research incentive program, however the execution is poor, i.e. rewards are not received immediately or communication to your community is poor, then this would result in unhappy respondents, damaged reputation as respondents like to share bad experiences with friends as well as a wasted budget on unsuccessful market research scheme.

To avoid this, we have put together our key findings on things to consider when planning and implementing your market research incentive programme to ensure its longevity and success based on our industry experience.

1. Establish a Sensible Budget

Budgeting is an important aspect of market research incentivisation. It needs to be feasible and sustainable to ensure the consistent growth of your research study. If you are having trouble getting stakeholders on board then consider a trial with smaller studies and analyse the results yourself. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get some accurate data.

A good way to structure your budget is to break it down into the total number of incentives to be issued and the time and/or difficulty of the task for the participant. If you offer a £1 / €1 / $1 incentive for an hour of their time, it's highly unlikely they'll participate again. Consider the value their feedback brings to your company and how it can help you improve your products or services.

No matter how much your budget is, you should make the participant feel valued above all else. Just don't be too generous, as we have found that overvalued incentives can actually harm your results. Participants are more likely to abuse the program. They can rush through the survey and give false answers just to get a reward. If you are concerned by this, then you can alter your study with straight-line answers that use the Likert scale (aka. agree to disagree scale).

2. Know Your Audience

You will also need to consider the target audience you are recruiting for your market research. They should be suitable for the type of research you are doing to ensure your results are as accurate as possible. Different demographics will also have different needs and expectations and therefore require you to consider different incentives that interest them. For example, a senior business professional is likely to have less free time than a stay-at-home parent and would therefore require a higher value incentive to entice them.

3. Always Follow the MRS Code of Conduct

There are also ethical factors to consider and it is crucial to follow the MRS Code of Conduct here. Any incentive offered should be fair and relative to the requirements of the research.

You will need to avoid the following practices:

  • Sugging - Selling disguised as research, and
  • Frugging - Fundraising disguised as research

Basically, you cannot offer money-off vouchers for the brand you are researching, as this requires participants to spend their own money to receive the reward. You also cannot give specific gift cards or vouchers for the brand that is being researched. You may also want to think about avoiding offering brands of close competitors.

4. Choose Relevant Incentives

You should also consider the type of incentives based on your target audience. Creating personas for your target participants is a good exercise to better understand what motivates them as people and then choose your incentives accordingly. Incentives that are relevant to the survey could also be worthwhile here.

5. Make Incentives Worthwhile

As mentioned previously, market research incentives generally produce higher response rates, and response rates generally increase with the value of the reward. Beware of spendthrift – while you get more respondents for bigger incentives, the effect starts to diminish as you move towards higher and higher reward values. Make sure you measure your responses across multiple respondents regularly and monitor the response rates to figure out what motivates your audience without overspending.

6. Enable Easy Redemption

To make sure you retain your recipients you need to consider the entire customer experience. It needs to be crystal clear to your participants how they can spend the incentive they receive. If the participants cannot use what they have earned or struggle to do so, their whole experience will be soured. They would not be coming back again to your surveys and negative word of mouth can spread fast. The best type of incentive is often a simple one that is easy to understand and redeem.

7. Offer a Choice

Not all people are the same, nor are all incentives. Whilst you may be tempted to give cash as an incentive, some participants may feel uncomfortable with this. Especially if the research is for a good cause such as medical research. Giving them the option to choose between a few select charities can be a great alternative in this case. Gift cards can also be a great alternative to cash and can also be more memorable, instead of being spent on everyday essentials.

8. Provide Instant Delivery

You also need to consider the practicality of your incentives. With physical items, you need to factor in the logistics and costs of shipping. Digital incentives can work great here as they can be delivered instantly upon completing the survey. This will support higher response rates and high satisfaction levels amongst participants. Instant gratification is key nowadays in order for a market research incentive to be a success.

9. Experiment with Different Incentives

Getting the best results from your incentives can sometimes require a bit of experimenting. What people are motivated by, can change over time and can also depend on your audience and demographic. Keep things fresh and trial new incentives so you can determine which is the most effective.

10. Consider Various Types of Incentives

As previously mentioned, different audiences will find various incentives more or less appealing. If you would like to experiment with the types of incentives to find what works best for you, why not try one of the suggestions below?

  • Digital gift cards or vouchers
  • Virtual and physical badges
  • Products
  • Experiences
  • Weekly prizes
  • Charities
  • Sweepstakes

11. Be Transparent

No matter which incentive you offer your participants, make sure you are transparent with them to avoid disappointment. Clearly communicate what incentive they will receive, when they will receive it and how to use it. Should any issues occur make sure your customer service team is ready to make it right. The key thing to ensure is a positive participant experience and building a relationship with them to keep satisfaction, participation and referral rates high.

How to Implement Market Research Incentives

So how exactly do you implement incentives into a new or existing market research project? Before you start you should consider the following.

Firstly, assess what is and isn't working with the current market research processes. Running an audit and going through each aspect can be a great way to get an overview and discover areas that can be improved.

Determine and define your specific goals. What is the problem you are trying to solve and what will success look like to you?

Identify your target audience. What are their needs, desires and expectations? This should determine the participant rewards to be offered.

How will you measure and assess the success of the incentivisation scheme? Are there key performance indicators (KPIs) you can use and how will you calculate the ROI? Having clearly defined quantitative data will help to communicate the success of the incentive scheme with stakeholders.


Participants deserve to be rewarded for giving up their time and putting effort into your research project. Therefore, desirable rewards with plenty of choice which would keep the engagement and response rates high are crucial. The effect of the immediate gratification should not be ignored, so ensure that the chosen rewards can be delivered quickly, ideally immediately after the survey has been completed. 

Another key takeaway is to ensure your rewards are relative to your target audience as well as your budget.  Spendthrift does not work!

If the pandemic has forced you to look for different ways of delivering on your market research incentive program, let us know!

We would love to help you implement your market research incentives. At Ovation Incentives, we have everything you need to successfully implement and manage highly effective market research campaigns. Our Reward Codes allow an instant incentive that can be redeemed for locally desirable digital e-vouchers and virtual gift cards worldwide. Through our self-service Reward Manager platform, you can order, send and track incentives, manage budgets and gain insight into your reward campaigns. If you have your own research platform you can integrate and automate your rewards through our Rewards API.

To find out how we can help you with your market research incentives, book a demo or contact us today.