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Remember the time when Starbucks launched their exclusive My Starbucks Idea to gather customer feedback to refine their products? The program was not only a massive hit but also the most talked-about in 2008. So what made it so successful?

Well, "My Starbucks Idea" was much more than a fancy suggestion box. They came up with an incredible strategy to hand over power to their customers and give them incentives in exchange for their ideas. This helped them accomplish two things: crowd creativity and product innovation. This led to a staggering growth and today, it stands high at a net worth of $19.7 billion.

What did you learn from the Starbucks story?

Its three important lessons:

  • Lesson #1: Surveys, when done right, can turn out to be extremely fruitful for a business.
  • Lesson #2: Surveys serve as a valuable opportunity to understand your audience’s mind, figure out what matters to them, and put those ideas into action!
  • Lesson #3: Nothing is free. With surveys, it is always a give and take policy.

People voluntarily take up surveys and complete them either when they are happy or agitated. Other than these extreme emotions, numerous strategies have been deployed by brands to coax customers to provide genuine responses.

But here’s the truth—conducting surveys that yield responses—is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it’s one of the biggest challenges that brands still face.

Did you know?
A survey that yields more than 50% response rate is considered a success but most response rates fall between 5% and 30% which is painfully low. (Source)

You may draft great questions, use attractive graphics, keep the survey sweet & short, and even pick a brilliant time to send it, the response rate could still be mediocre at best.


Well, when it comes to market research surveys, most marketers tend to miss one simple yet crucial ‘thing’ in their perceptual-mapping process—Rewards and Incentives.

It’s one of the most effective and time-tested measures to increase your survey response rates. That’s why Starbucks was able to nail it.

A little bit of witticism mixed with the savvy deployment of rewards & incentives mentioned in this blog is the easiest route to take.

Before talking ‘ideas’, let us get the basics out of the way.

What are Survey Incentives?

Survey incentives are rewards that brands give to their respondents in exchange for completing a survey.

You may have loyal customers and a target audience who are invested for years but everyone has responsibilities and priorities. To pique the interest of someone who is busy elsewhere, you need to incentivize the process of taking a survey.

This incentive could be in the form of points, redeemable prizes, gifts, gift cards, products, or rewards of various other kinds.

An enticing incentive that simply works could result in dramatically higher response rates and it also adds an element of incentivizing customers for their valuable time.

But remember, the rewards & incentives you offer need to be in line and unique to the survey questions, and the information you obtain must be pertinent to the offered reward.

Can Rewards Help Increase Survey Responses?


A government study reported that a mere monetary incentive offer of $10 was effective in increasing the response rates by 30%.

Other than this, numerous studies clearly reveal that financial incentives have the potential to double the chances of receiving a response on a mailed questionnaire survey. The very report also clarifies that along with the increase in response, incentives also help in the follow-up and the rest of the communication process.

Incentives sometimes can be a double-edged sword as people who seek surveys tend to give answers that will qualify them to receive more surveys and more incentives.

Answers received in such surveys may be ideal responses but brands cannot rely on them. A survey taken for the purpose of receiving incentives can derail brands from genuine responses so it pays to be wary of such answers that seem ideal on the surface.

For instance, stay-at-home residents scour the internet in search of surveys that reward and provide answers without much forethought or genuine knowledge of the product/service.

To mitigate such situations, you can formulate control questions within the survey that will help you find & filter irrelevant responses.

Types of Survey Incentives

Out of various types of rewards & incentives, the following are the most effective.

To begin with, we’ll be taking a look at what you can offer your survey responders in return for completing the survey, and then a glimpse at a few design tricks that are sure to increase responses on various mediums.

Regardless of where you’re conducting the survey, be it on your website, via email, or a third-party survey site, these details are crucial.

1. Tiny Giveaways

Remember that you need more people to take your survey so you can slice the incentives into bite-size pieces. In the place of giving big prices to a small number of people, spread out numerous small giveaways to a large number of survey takers.

Example 1: If you’re an apparel brand, offer a popular product from your collection to take a survey.

Tiny Givaways

Example 2: Reward them with gift cards to take a survey for your products between $10 to $50.

Survey Gift card

Example 3: Sending them Amazon gift cards between $10 to $50 may be a good survey incentive.

Amazon Gift Card

Before conducting tiny giveaways, know the value of the survey you are conducting. The reward must correspond to the said value as you don’t want to spend more than the yield.

2. Monetary Rewards

It may sound scary to give out money as an incentive but it works wonders.

Studies have found that monetary rewards as small as $2 and $5 yield great response rates and there wasn't a big difference between the two numbers.

So start by giving out $2 rewards and you may also try rewarding $5 for a second purchase on your website. Numerous restaurants, eCommerce sites, clothing brands, and even B2B businesses provide this offer for surveys, and this ensures a consecutive purchase on your website as well.

Here’s a quick example:

Monetary Rewards

3. Offering Sweepstakes for a Big Prize

You’d be surprised to know how many participants volunteer to win one big prize by taking a survey. Sweepstakes is a tried & tested method of rewarding participation for decades now and you can customize this based on the products, services, and other offers.

In a highly effective exercise, brands, vendors, and even social media influencers conduct ‘giveaways’ in return for marginal participation and filling of surveys.

Based on what your brand has to offer, here are some ideas for you to start with.

  • Interior design brands can sweepstake a home or a bedroom renovation for taking customer feedback.
  • Fashion brands can offer an entire change of wardrobe if they answer all your survey questions.
  • Beauty product brands can offer a gift box full of your best beauty products once they drop their suggestions.
  • Apps can offer free lifetime subscriptions or in-app purchases.
  • Or you can simply offer an Amazon gift card between $1,000 to $10,000.

Here’s an example:

Sweepstakes for a Big Prize

As mentioned earlier, let the sweepstakes match the value of the survey you’re undertaking. You don’t want the value to be in thousands of dollars, and the sweepstakes cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Coupons & Coupon Codes

Coupons have been used by retailers for many generations now and coupon codes are the new generation fad everyone is in love with. If you have a sign-in coupon offer already, you are sharing the survey with existing customers so they would need a new coupon to participate in the survey.

You may offer your respondents coupon codes for signing up and filling your feedback form—perhaps, a coupon code of 10% to 15% off or you can even share a one-time coupon code for a bigger discount for taking the survey—between 20% to 25%.

Just like monetary rewards, offering coupons in return for taking the survey not only solidifies the bond between you and the customer but also increases the chances of a purchase manyfold, using the coupon code.

Here’s an example:

Coupons & Coupon Code

5. Digital Resource Offerings

Digital resources are the new-age rush and brands are taking utmost advantage of them. From cryptocurrency, NFTs, to everything else that is sold on the blockchain can be an offering in return to taking a survey.

Some of the popular digital resources offered currently are:

  • Podcast subscriptions
  • eBooks
  • Free in-app purchases
  • Printables
  • NFTs
  • Digital study material and courses

If the survey you’re looking to get metrics on has a great value for you, you may offer any of the aforementioned digital resources. Make sure to remember; ‘greater the value, greater the reward’.

6. Free Samples

One of the most rampantly used methods to increase response rates on surveys, free samples are the easiest things to reward.

People love receiving free stuff and they also love to be a part of trying something new. Pack both these things together and share your new or unique products with customers who take the survey.

Free Survey Samples

One of the most popular stories is when Google gave away socks and other goodies to reviewers who rated and reviewed places on Google maps.

How to Improve Survey Response Rates

Other than the awareness of the types of survey rewards, it is imperative to know how to execute a survey that implores the customers to participate in it, without clicking away.

Here are some of the tricks to improve survey response rates.

1. Keep it Short

It started with hour-long documentaries, then minutes-long YouTube videos, and now is the time when seconds-long Tiktok videos go viral. It is evident that all forms of short content are entertained and this ideology needs to translate into surveys as well.

Micro surveys are the kind that is targeted in a timely fashion to receive higher, accurate response rates as opposed to conventional surveys.

Focus on quality, not quantity, and maybe even split a long-form survey into three or four micro surveys to get higher response rates. Not a lot of people have the patience to fill out surveys that are more than three pages long.

2. Clarity in the “from” Name

In times when malware, ransomware, and worse viruses are invading people’s privacy via emails, clarity & familiarity in the sender who shares the survey makes a world of a difference.

It helps if you have built personal trust with your customers but having a clear ‘from’ name works to your benefit in the email receiver trusting the email, clicking on the survey link, and participating.

It sometimes helps to provide your own name just before the name of your company in the email, so that there is a personal touch to it, which may increase the chances of the recipient opening the email.

3. Mobile-friendly Survey FTW

Over a third of all surveys taken in the world are on mobile devices.

It is needless to say that having a mobile-friendly survey is more important than anything else discussed in this article.

Furthermore, make sure the UX/UI of the mobile site is impressive and well-maintained. We all know how frustrating it is when you have taken a survey halfway through, and the page refreshes and the whole survey is gone. Despite being a micro survey or a long-form survey, most people simply don’t take surveys more than once.

4. Respond to Your Respondents

You may have noticed that all major customer service providers have a tab that denotes “average time to respond”. This shows that people love to receive a response to the time they have spent taking the survey, and when this response is personalized, you may have a new purchase or the person might take other surveys thereafter.

5. Ask Understandable Questions

Avoid using slang terms, short forms, and writing complicated questions. The customers who take your survey may be from any part of the world and may not understand your colloquial so make the questions simple and universally understandable.

Adding a translate button for people who talk other languages is a welcome addition, and even better if you can compile the survey for a particular language-speaking demographic.

6. Most importantly: Incentivize your surveys

Incentives, be it monetary or non-monetary, have been long used to get respondents to fill survey forms.

Remember, Nobody likes to do stuff for free.

Your respondents need motivation (basically, incentives or rewards) to get them to respond to your surveys.

Also, note that survey incentives don’t have to be expensive.

During a research conducted by the e-Rewards that included a total of 8000 people, divided into two groups, reported that people prefer completing a survey even if there’s a small incentive attached to it.

The participants of this study were divided into two groups—the first group of 4000 people were invited to participate in a survey for an exclusive sweepstake of $2500 whereas the second group of 4000 people were asked to take a survey for $2 in cash. The survey was a one-minute feedback form about music and books.

The entire study started and ended on the same day and time.

The result:

  • 19.3% participated for a $2 cash
  • 12.2% participated for a $2500 sweepstake

This clearly shows that people show interest in completing a survey if they are sure that they will receive something—a small or big prize doesn't matter.

Depending on the attractiveness and quality of the survey incentive, your target audience responds to it better.

Survey Incentive Caps: When to say When?

  • The best practices of incentivized market research signify that it’s crucial to start out slow and conservative and raise up the stakes when the researcher starts understanding how to get more survey responses. Most market research surveys happen in phases and every following phase comes with a bigger reward.
  • Not only does this ensure the completion of market research through low drop-off rates mid-survey, but it also increases the respondents’ satisfaction.
  • The number of incentive caps also depends on the survey specifics and demographics. Many surveys with high payouts are for a specific set of audiences and are classified by factors such as education, the field of interest, profession, and income levels. Running vague surveys doesn’t really bring fruitful insights, hence the payouts are less.
  • For surveys sent to a huge audience, it’s best to keep the per-capita size low; unless the mode of panel incentive is sweepstakes, wherein only a few lucky winners get rewarded from the lot.

Best Practices for Market Research Incentives

70% of people surveyed want cash, points, or gift card incentives. - Greenbook
  • Offer your panelists something close to the money. Branded currency is the hottest motivator for panelists due to its liquidity and flexibility in choices.
  • Every panelist should be rewarded in one way or another. Sweepstakes tingle the panelists’ greed bones, but a huge chunk of panelists are left unsatisfied with not receiving the incentive. Even if it’s a small token of gratitude (ex. 30-day Spotify Subscription), it goes a long way to keep your core group of panelists intact.
  • Ambiguity is the real killer for survey panelists. Communicate point-redemption walkthroughs and survey completion guides from time to time so that the panelists aren’t lost midway, especially during a multi-phased survey.
  • Leave survey panel incentives to automation and focus on market research. After all, the real treasure is the users’ opinion, not what they get in return.
  • Avoid giving out prize inventories of your ex. company merchandise, diaries, and desk clocks. Stay flexible by offering points that can be cashed in at a store that has a variety of options.
  • Mix and match the reward systems to keep the panelists motivated.
  • Keep switching your panelists and bring in more focus groups rather than sticking to a single group of people. The purpose of panel surveys is to examine situations from a fresh set of eyes.


Presenting incentives to your survey respondents is a rather tricky nut to crack, especially when the audience is in huge chunks and they have to be awarded on the basis of progress. There's no need for you to do the work, however, as marketing research platforms have simplified platforms to help.

At the end of the day, it is well and good if you receive higher response rates and they are accurate.

With that said, a lower response rate is nothing to frown upon sometimes, as Krosnick, Visser, Marquette, and Curtin showed that a lower response rate of just 20% yielded accurate results compared to that or 70% and 80%.

Focusing not only on increasing the response rates but also on how accurate the measurements are is key to undertaking any successful survey.

Furthermore, utilize tools like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, Survey Sparrow, Google Forms, and others to obtain crucial insights into your survey.

Market research services like Xoxoday exemplify your survey response rates the right way with milestone-based rewards that only hit the respondent's mailbox as and when they progress down the line.

What's more?

Respondents can be rewarded with Xoxo-Codes and Points which can be redeemed at the Xoxoday Stores catalog full of gift vouchers, experiences, perks, and more digital rewards. Want to try Xoxoday as your market research service?

Book a demo today!
Survey Responses
Syed Maaz

Syed Maaz

Maaz is a writer by heart and by deeds. Since he discovered the wrath of words on people's minds and hearts, he's made it his quest to match people's thoughts to intricate topics by demystifying them.