Offering market research incentives can be a major boon to response rates, getting you more completions more quickly. And the good news is that “almost all studies that have evaluated the effect of incentives on quality of response have found no effects”(1).

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However, before committing administrative and financial resources to market research incentives, understanding how they will impact response rates can help you make a decision to the greatest effect.

There are two common methods used for offering an incentive in market research: a small reward for each participant or an entry for each participant into a draw for a large reward.

Holding a draw for all participants is a popular option for market researchers because it costs much less and is usually easier to administer. Unfortunately, this type of incentive is far less effective compared to the alternatives (2). If your budget limits you to this type of incentive, be sure to offer a monetary incentive like a gift card, and make sure you are compliant with the rules and regulations for sweepstakes in the jurisdictions in which you offer this type of incentive.

Incentives given as a small reward for participation are more preferred and more effective. People tend to discount the value of a prize draw compared with a more immediate, modest reward. Though, finding the right value to offer can be tricky. 

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Expectedly, the larger the value of incentive the greater the increase in response. However, this effect is not linear--there are diminishing returns. Start low, then slowly increase the value until you either hit your budget’s ceiling or you fail to see a meaningful increase in responses.

Of emerging interest is the notion of a prepaid incentives. Giving an incentive before participation has been shown to yield “significantly higher response rates” (1). The challenge is controlling the cost as giving an incentive to every potential participate is rarely feasible. One option is to offer a prepaid incentive to refusals instead of every participant; another option is to limit the number of prepaid incentives to a random subset of those contacted.

Incentives can clearly increase your response rates. Optimizing their effect requires some experimentation, but with a little tinkering, they can get you more completions much more quickly. How have incentives worked for you in the past?

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(sources: 1 2