Choosing Market Research Incentives

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In an ideal world, surveys would be completed by participants out of a desire to help out marketers. In reality, people need a little more persuasion to spend their time answering market research questions. Savvy consumers know their worth. Especially when conducting product or brand research, people are reluctant to give up their time and opinions. That’s where market research incentives come in. How does a company go about choosing the method, type and value of these rewards? We impart a few top tips about offering rewards to survey respondents:


Once a budget has been set, carefully consider how you will fulfil promises. You can achieve this by ensuring the survey is taken down when the full complement of responses has been taken. Should you want as many responses as possible, you will need to be very clear about any limitations on the number of rewards.

“First 200 responses receive XYZ Reward”

As soon as those 200 responses come in, the message about a reward should be removed so the expectations of subsequent respondents are managed.

It is important to keep incentives reasonable and proportionate. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all reward. It will depend on a number of factors:

  • demographic of respondents
  • the depth of the questions
  • the inconvenience of the survey

The inconvenience element is usually the amount of time it takes to complete. As the old adage goes: time is money. Whatever value you place on each response, ensure that you keep a close eye on how this is managed. A rewards platform with specialist software can help you to control and monitor the whole process from start to finish.

Target Audience

Outline your target audience and reflect upon why they would fill out the survey in the first place. What would compel them to give up their time and valuable opinions? As a company, you need to qualify participants and offer a reward that is appealing and appropriate. Naturally, cash is the most attractive incentive, but in online surveys, this is difficult to fulfil. Instead, gift cards/coupons/e-vouchers can be used as the next best substitute.

“both theory and observation confirm the importance of incentives (including but not limited to monetary incentives) for participation in surveys” Eleanor Singer Survey Research Center, University of Michigan

Incentive Type

One of the trickiest decisions to make is about the monetary value of rewards; whether each respondent gets rewarded or are entered into a lottery for a chance to win a larger prize. Studies have shown that:

  • Prepaid incentives yield significantly higher response rates than promised or no incentives
  • Monetary incentives yield higher response rates than gifts
  • Response rates increase with increasing amounts of money, though not necessarily linearly (Shank et al. 1990; Collins et al. 2000)

Ethical/Regulatory Considerations

It should be noted that offering your own company products/services as market research incentives are deemed a sales opportunity. For more answers to any ethics-related questions, you may have, visit the Market Research Society’s Standards page.

When to Give an Incentive

Do you give the incentive at the start of the survey or do you offer it on completion? Surprisingly, evidence would point towards the former being more effective. A randomised trial of a $5 prepaid incentive versus a promise of $5 on completion of a survey of veterans in the USA found that odds of someone completing the survey increased by 52% with getting an incentive up-front.

Delivery Method

We know from experience that Generation Y or “Millennials” (those born between 1980 and 2000) seek instant gratification. This is why digital rewards are so popular amongst this demographic. For this group, you will need real-time rewards. Don’t rely on the patience of survey participants of this age. Inform them when they will receive their reward.

If your survey covers a number of different countries, you will need to give thought to dealing with languages, culture and currency differences. Ensure that you are offering consistent reward values. Vitally important is the ease of redemption for survey respondents.

Avoiding Duplication

If an incentive is attractive enough, you may find that participants attempt to retake a survey multiple times. To avoid duplicate responses, the survey needs to be hosted using software that will not allow someone to do this.

How to Deal with Anonymous Surveys

How do you send an incentive to an anonymous user? Well, the solution is to redirect the user at the end of the survey, for them to add their details. This way their information is not associated with the data input on the survey. This allows complete anonymity for the survey and still an incentive for the person who has completed it.

Learn more about the benefits of market research incentives or request an online demonstration of Ovation Incentives’ solutions.