One common dilemma we often hear from researchers is that they are investing a great deal of time, resources, and effort to develop a high quality survey, but their survey response rates are declining, as is their online data quality—leaving them unsatisfied with the outcomes of their research. After all, the research is meaningless if the survey results are inadequate.

“How can I effectively increase survey response rate and data quality without extensive data scrub?”

Often times, the first area of focus companies look to for a solution is the data collection methodology. The next area of focus, naturally, is the instrument—language and communication used in the survey, particularly within online, direct mail, or mobile surveys. Survey incentive is typically the last area of focus companies look to as a solution to boost survey response rate or to address data quality issues. Given that consumers are ingrained in a culture driven by rewards, attractive incentives in exchange for responses has become the newest expectation.

Unfortunately, researchers and panel companies alike underestimate the significant role that incentives play when it comes to data collection. In fact, some researchers view survey incentives as something that could potentially create bias in their data, based on the assumption that these rewards can steer a respondent’s opinions. Although this is true for a small percentage of research participants, it is not the norm.

Our society has become rewards-driven in business, commerce, and our day-to-day; incentives are embedded within our society so much so that it has become a part of culture and expectations. These rewards are passed off to staff and packaged in wellness programs; they are plaques presented to sales reps for reaching quotas. They are the points we earn, the loyalty cards we shuffle in our wallets, and the frequent flier miles we stockpile; even bonuses and raises are forms of reward and incentive.

In marketing, rewards are indispensable tools. We donate portions of proceeds to causes. We employ games, contests, points, and loyalty cards– all to motivate specific behaviors. Incentives help businesses broaden word-of-mouth marketing, increase revenue, shrink advertising costs, expand into new markets, and keep customers coming back for more. Marketers use incentives because historically, they work. So why should this be any different for market research?

Without respondents, there is no data; without data, there is no research. This is why panel providers must incentivize their respondents fairly and act as ambassadors for their panelists. On the other hand, researchers must also be realistic and understand that the world has changed and consumers have evolved with society. Volunteer survey participants are almost extinct. High earning CEOs or influential individuals receive monetary incentives to give lectures, speeches, or to provide their expert opinions to various organizations. Their opinion is never questioned due to the value of their speaking fees. The correlation is direct—when researchers and survey companies start offering survey incentives, there will be an upward trend in survey response rate or data quality.

Looking for more tips on improving survey response rate? Make sure to also check out these 5 Factors to Consider When Doing Market Research.

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