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How to Reward Your Survey Research Panel with Incentives?

Survey Panel Incentives are crucial while conducting market research. Question is, what's the best way to reward your survey panelists? Look here>>

Survey Rewards
10 Min read
Last Updated on
September 8, 2021

Market research has proven to be the most crucial weapon in the product life-cycle. From the product’s birth to its last breath, it’s the people’s opinion that shapes its fate. Market research through a survey panel has become a common avenue for marketers and product managers, but just like everything else, people’s opinions come with a cost of survey panel incentives. In today’s time, panel surveys are mostly online as companies get a better response on digital surveys by keeping them crisp, concise, and to the point. The panel survey brings valuable inputs that are seriously taken into consideration for product innovation, brand growth, and a direct connection with the end-users.

But what motivates a panelist to fill out a survey? Not every consumer, let alone a random panelist takes a survey for the sake of giving feedback. The not-so-secret motivator is incentives for survey participation that are well crafted instant rewards.

Why are Survey Panel Incentives Crucial?

Incentivizing activities like surveys, polls, feedback, and experiences has a psychological reason behind it-- just like every other act of incentive, which is a crucial tool for people engagement. The kid gets a lollipop after the dentist’s visit, employees get paid to work, and customers get panel incentives to share their experience which they probably wouldn’t for the sake of intrinsic motivation.

There are five and a half million unique respondents available via panels for surveys in the USA. - Versta

Every FMCG product has a feedback hotline number on its label-- how many of us have called it up and gave our honest feedback? Well, only if we had a bad experience. The essence of true user feedback lies in getting the right response to asking the right questions. Survey panel incentives give the survey-takers a drive to answer questions honestly and seriously.

To show for its seriousness, the survey panel rewards vary in monetary amounts in accordance with their need. For instance, a survey for life-saving drugs, which has doctors and practitioners as the target audience, would have a bigger bounty. While a survey for what brand of candy is better than the rest might have a lower incentive cap per respondent.

Survey Panel Incentives can Backfire

It’s a classic case of inheriting what rightfully wasn’t yours. In the pursuit to answer the question “how to increase survey participants”, plenty of incentives are offered. Respondents come across a survey offering a $50 Amazon Gift Card and they don’t care what the survey is about-- they fill it up, claim the gift card and move away. Does that justify our exhaustion of time, money, and efforts? No way! The lust of gift cards, points, and incentives might attract the wrong audience.

Sure, panel surveys have the potential to get the right response, but survey incentives are no less than a ticking time bomb if not utilized right. If you’re not careful, your incentive can attract the opinions of the wrong population (or group of respondents). Respondents who are only in it for the incentive may also hurry through your survey instead of giving thoughtful responses. This doesn’t mean incentives are not the way to go, however. Survey incentives increase consumer satisfaction scores and build the value of feedback in the consumers’ minds.

70% of US and UK consumers expect some form of personalization from the brands they buy from. - AgilOne

To make it clear, survey panel incentives have to be rewarded to respondents in cases where extrinsic motivation is needed. This is generally a case in daily use products and services. Meanwhile, as for the early-adopter surveys or product feedback surveys done online (ex. Amazon product reviews), there might be a case wherein the user feedback flows without exhausting monetary resources as incentives.

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 rise 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.

Speaking of sweepstakes, let’s look at two best reward systems for survey panel incentives: the points-based system and of course, sweepstakes.

Which Reward System to Choose?

Let’s have a look at both of them:

Points-based Incentives

  • This is the most dominantly used reward system in market researches. For every survey the respondents fill out, a certain amount of points get allocated in their account. This continues till they’ve racked up enough points to make a purchase from the given store.
  • The power of how much one can earn vests in the researcher’s hands, but with the points-based system, panel members can try to earn more rewards by winning more points. Unlike a lucky draw or sweepstakes, where the odds are somewhere 5000:1, it’s not just a random ‘chance’. This increases the respondent’s confidence to earn their keep.
  • There’s lots of flexibility that comes with points-based incentives, as the market researcher can tweak the value of points offered for a survey/task with respect to its urgency/value to them.
  • The problem with most point-based programs lies in the place where they have to be cashed in. Various online storefronts that market researchers team up with (a) don’t offer what the target audience wants, or (b) are too good to be true. It crucial that while picking out a survey platform (ex. SurveyMonkey, SurveySparrow, etc) you decide on a points-redemption platform that has something for everyone.

For instance, Xoxoday Plum makes it easy to fully automate rewards by setting up logic to reward panel members after they achieve a predetermined number of points. The cherry on top? Our catalog is as big as it gets so that your survey panel keeps giving their honest input for those Xoxopoints.

Xoxoday Plum makes it easy to fully automate survey panel incentives and rewards. Learn more>>

Xoxoday Plum’s integration with SurveyMonkey, SurveySparrow, and plenty of other excellent survey platforms makes it a perfect companion for a market research incentive program.


  • The beauty of sweepstakes is that they are a real attention-grabber. As a respondent, what’d attract you more: A chance to earn points worth $2 per survey, or sweepstakes where the lucky winner gets a $200 Amazon Gift Card? The human psyche would surely be intrigued to go for the latter, even when the former option has better odds of earning any money.
  • This approach is inexpensive (of course!) because the researchers only have to award a set number of panelists randomly and be done with rather than rewarding every panelist who fills up a survey.
  • On the flipside, sweepstakes have legal shenanigans attached to them and most panelists don’t trust their odds of winning a ticket in the virtual raffle, hence the responses are low.

Most market research companies adopt a two-way approach, wherein along with point-based surveys, there are yearly/quarterly sweepstakes to keep the panelists engaged. Because after all, the human psyche doesn’t fail to do its thing!

Not Every Survey Panel Needs a Reward

Sure, in this materialistic world, every person wants something in exchange, but your survey panel doesn’t need an incentive to work things out.

Incentives would have almost zero effect on the quality of responses if the target audience is just right. - The World Bank 

In some cases, such as customer satisfaction surveys, wherein every buyer gets a seat on the panel, does more harm than good. Most consumers would provide positive feedback rather than honest feedback to cop the incentive. It’s best to skip the survey panel incentives and put those funds for better use, which can be a followup survey from panelists who provided an inquisitive opinion.

Best Practices for Survey Panel Incentive Management

  • Offer your panelists something monetary. Branded currency is the hottest motivator for panelists due to its liquidity and flexibility in choices. 70% of people surveyed want cash, points, or gift cards.
  • 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 on 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 from prize inventories of your own 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.

Panel surveys are about reaching out to the right audience and using their opinion for betterment. But in reality, the incentive-factor attracts lots of unwanted respondents which deludes the activity’s path. Hence, it’s crucial to strike the balance between offering good incentives to the panel in exchange for valuable opinions. The question is, what survey panel incentive strategy are you going to use in your next market research? 

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