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Best practices for using incentives in research

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SurveyMonkey says survey respondents are “precious” - and they are. In a time when businesses big and small across industries around the globe are all relentlessly pursuing survey data, how can market researchers stay ahead of the curve and keep respondents engaged?

-- Jignesh will present “Best Practices for Using Incentives in Market Research” at TMRE, October 16-18 in Scottsdale --

As a professional researcher, you know you have to compensate them for their time. Digital rewards make great incentives, but even when using incentives, it’s not always guaranteed you’ll get a response.

The good news is, there are steps you can take to improve response rates using incentives. Let’s assume you’ve correctly done all your pre-survey work and are dealing with incentives. Here are a few best practices to help you get better results.

1. Value

Knowing how much your respondents’ time is worth is a crucial driver of results. An executive may require $200 in compensation for a short survey. A consumer may only require $5 to take a short survey. But that same consumer may need as much as $30 to take a longer survey.

If you are not getting results, make sure you are placing the right value on the respondents’ time. You must also consider variables like survey length and how likely the target population is to respond.

2. Automate rewards into your survey platform

By automating rewards, you significantly reduce the time and effort required to track payments. An incentives management system that easily integrates with your survey platform will automate the delivery process so your approved respondents can get rewards when they complete their response. Instead of filling out spreadsheets and making respondents wait days or weeks for their reward, you can automatically send out survey rewards within minutes.

3. Offer a choice

While most of us buy on Amazon, not everyone wants an Amazon gift card for a survey reward. Use an incentives management system that will allow you to curate a selection of rewards for your respondents. By giving them a choice, you increase the possibility of them taking a survey.

4. Don’t waste money on unused rewards

Just as you give your respondents a selection of rewards, you also should be able to get a refund on those that are unclaimed or not sent out. You can take the money and spend it on future projects.

5. Delivery is everything

While your respondents want to be helpful and are interested in your topic, they also want a tangible reward for taking the time to answer. Studies have consistently shown that sending a prepaid incentive is the best way to get a response.

Immediate delivery of an incentive like an e-gift card or prepaid card creates a feeling of instant gratification. And when it comes branded from your company, that good feeling transfers to your brand.

Building up this goodwill with participants will cut down on complaints about your redemption process. Ultimately, you want your respondent to feel satisfied with your process so they’ll take future surveys or participate in panels again.

6. Don’t compromise anonymity

A good incentives management platform will allow you to keep your respondents’ reward delivery information separate from their survey response. Use an incentives management platform that integrates with your survey platform so the reward delivery is decoupled from the survey. That way, responses will be kept completely anonymous and the reward delivery is not tied to the response.

7. Organization

You have a survey platform. However, do you have an incentives management system that easily integrates with it? If you do, you can easily manage your incentives for each of your projects with automated delivery. It makes it easy to track and manage your rewards, recipients and costs — even if you are conducting multiple surveys and studies at once.


It’s easy to get caught up in setting your goals and drafting your survey. However, the incentives portion of your survey can help deliver the results you need. First, focus on your respondent and what you think will motivate them to provide the information you need to create a better product or service. Then decide how to deliver it to them. A good incentives management system can take care of much of this work for you.

About the Author: Jignesh Shah is the CEO of Rybbon, an incentives management tool for Market Researchers. Jignesh has helped researchers use digital rewards and automation to take the pain and cost out of delivering incentives. Jignesh is currently also a board member of the Mid-Atlantic Insights Association. Prior to Rybbon, Jignesh was previously the CMO at Metalogix and Vice President at Software AG/webMethods.

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