Learn best practices from researchers and marketers employing incentives.

Research Incentives Handbook

Research Incentives Handbook

Intro to Market Research Incentives

From surveys to focus groups and interviews, there are many ways that market researchers gather information about consumers’ needs and preferences. This research is very important and helps companies get a deeper look into buying behaviors, product preferences, and other consumer habits to improve customer experience, increase sales volume, and fine-tune messaging and branding.

Rewards and incentives are proven to drive research participation. Please read this guide for the whys, whats, and ways researchers and marketers employ incentives to get the best feedback possible.

There are a variety of ways market researchers connect with consumers to collect data. A couple popular methods of gathering data are surveys, focus groups, interviews, and field trials. Each process produces qualitative results, quantitative results, or both and varies in cost and reach. Incentives come in when consumers need motivation or a reason to complete these tasks, especially in a world where time is money.

Surveys – Surveys come in many forms and are the most utilized method when it comes to market research. From customer satisfaction research, to measuring attitudes and gathering general census, surveys can be administered in all sorts of ways including email, web forms, apps, physical mail, or via the phone.

Surveys are great for capturing important feedback and information, but there is a missing piece to this which is motivation. Assuming consumers will be excited and open to completing a survey for you is very optimistic, but not definitely not guaranteed. A great way to motivate is to provide an incentive. Giving consumers a reason to complete the survey will result in much higher completion rates than just offering a survey with no incentive. We’ve written more about this here, take a couple minutes to learn more!

Focus Groups – Focus groups are typically comprised of a group of people either in-person or virtually that fit a target demographic depending on the product or service in question. These people dedicated a good chunk of their time to provide feedback and discuss so they are often compensated for their time. Incentives are used to get people to sign up and participate, acting as a type of payment disbursement to catch attention and motivate.

General Engagement – Many market research projects are long-term in duration or require continuous engagement with participants in order to obtain a full spectrum of data. For general engagement, incentives are a proven method for encouraging participation. This research company increased participation by 61-80% with incentives – that’s sizeable growth all thanks to incentives! Whether it’s a long-term research or a project that requires more participation, incentives are guaranteed to drive results.

It’s incredibly important to pick the right incentive to reach project complete quickly and accurately. Here are a few of the most common incentives with pros and cons.

Cash/Check – While many people agree, “cash is king,” and cash certainly makes an attractive research incentive, cash has two drawbacks we have discovered. First, “non-cash” incentives outperform cash when given as options in the same program. The second drawback is that processing a digital cash transfer or cutting a check can be cost-prohibitive depending on the value of the cash reward. However, if you are giving large amounts or if your recipient is a business or subject matter expert then cash can make a lot of sense because it will be most useful to the recipient in these cases.

E-Gift Cards – E-gift cards are a great fit for any research project or engagement program because they are easy and cost-effective to work with, can be delivered instantly, can be delivered in many different denominations [link size matters post], and inherently give the recipient a choice of rewards. Not to mention, people tend to spend them on something special and memorable whereas cash will disappear into bank accounts and be spent on necessities. With a few simple clicks, customers can select the reward of their choice and start shopping. The instant gratification of receiving an e-gift card motivates customers to become advocates and champions for your brand, effectively doing most of the leg work for you.

Merch/Swag – In the case of brand communities or brand specific customer feedback company swag makes a lot of sense. Take it a step further by creating levels of achievement where certain behaviors/tasks/milestones result in special rewards that only the most ardent fans receive. However, after helping with 500+ customer communities and brand loyalty programs, we know that driving engagement among the vast majority of members or participants will take more than the intrinsic value of branded items.

Perks – Access to community, discounts, product announcements

Self-Serve Portal – Using a self-serve incentives portal makes it easy to order incentives on demand. This is especially good for small projects where you can send for completes daily or weekly. Generally, you can create an email template, upload or type in your recipients, add money, choose your rewards, and press go!

Bulk ordering – This can take the form of an order portal, spreadsheet exchange, or file of gift card codes that you can mail merge yourself. Bulk ordering, whether via portal or other means is a great way to send incentives for large projects on complete or on a cadence. Simply download your completed contacts and upload the file to process.

API – Application Programming Interface – Do you have a research platform or community on your own technology? Do you have the technology resources to do a full API integration? If so, this is how you fully automate and customize an incentive program to match your goals.

Integration – Good news – many companies have already done the integration for you and you can send incentives as an add on or value add. Companies like Qualtrics and Questionpro have simple survey technology with incentive integrations. Kinesis, for example, has a more robust incentive catalog integration for community management. There are also some plug-and-play integration engines that you can use to DIY an integration into a tool like Google Forms or Survey Monkey. We have a running list of easy integrations for automating incentives below.