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Rewarding Market Research Incentives: How to Boost Survey Response Rates

How to craft market research incentive programs that skyrocket response rates like no other? The secret is in the gift box.

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 incentives.

In today’s time, panel surveys are mostly online as companies get a better response on digital surveys by keeping them crisp, concise, & 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 and how to boost survey response rates?

Not every consumer, let alone a random panelist takes a survey for the sake of giving feedback. The not-so-secret motivator is survey incentives that are well crafted instant rewards. It’s not just about rewarding the respondents but boosting the response rates. 

Why are Market Research Incentives Crucial?

Activities like survey incentives, polls, feedback, and experiences have a psychological reason behind them-- just like every other act of incentive. 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 incentives give the survey-takers a drive to answer questions honestly and seriously.

To show its seriousness, the survey panel rewards vary in monetary amounts by 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.

Gift Card Research Incentives Can Backfire.

It’s a classic case of inheriting what rightfully wasn’t yours. 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 incentives and move away. Does that justify our exhaustion of time, money, and efforts? No way! The lust for gift cards, points, and incentives might attract the wrong audience.

Sure, panel surveys have the potential to get the right response, but survey panel 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 panel 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 must 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.

How to Improve Survey Response Rate with Gift Card Incentives?

Let’s look at some best practices every market research evangelist makes while setting up a campaign for gift card incentives. Setting up a survey incentives budget is one thing but deploying a strategy that gets adequate responses is another. Let’s see how to boost response rates with rewards, incentives and more.

Make it worth your respondent’s while.

Market research conveys crucial information to respondents—information that is often confidential and party to a big transition. To get compelling and honest opinions from a group of respondents it must be worth the time and effort they spend on a given survey. This is often done in two ways, (1) signifying the crucial nature of what the respondents have to say by highlighting its dire importance and (2) giving them their time’s worth by incentivizing through gift card research and survey incentives.

Present them with the freedom to choose.

Gone are the days when a random $10 gift card was slapped to the respondent’s mailbox from a generic seller or e-commerce platform. Respondents don’t specifically ship for a so-and-so seller’s card, but the monetary value attached with it. With a versatile rewards redemption program when it comes to incentives for market research, the people opinionating would have an added motivation to give out their honest reviews so that the research reaches its culmination justifiably. With a selection of gift card incentives, you can make it all stick for your audiences.

Tell them who you are—as an organization and as a person.

Every second email in your inbox is a promotional one—every fourth if you’re busy enough. It’s rather simple for your target audience to skip right through them if they are sent through apps like HubSpot, but with proper organizational branding and introducing yourself with a few words (Hey, I’m Jane Doe from XYZ Corp. & you’re just about to make my job easier) would strike a personal chord that miraculously would yield better results. BIG Brownie points for replying to anyone who tries reaching back out.

HURRY! Sense of urgency sells like hotcakes.

[POLL OPEN FOR 12 HOURS ONLY] Tell us your experience with XYZ and earn a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

We’d like to know your experience of using XYZ. Please answer the following questions for a reward!

What looks like a more lucrative headline to you? The first one creates a sense of urgency as closed timelines and time-bound offers activate the impulse of respondents to just go for it. That’s why a sense of urgency in your emails would always boost the market research rates.

Although market research incentives tend to be an amazing method, they don’t always work and if not utilized frugally, might lead to huge exhaustion of resources without return. Let’s learn when to stop with the survey incentive caps.

Survey Incentive Caps: When to say When?

  • The best practices of incentivized market research signify that it’s crucial to start slow and conservative and raise the stakes when the research starts getting 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 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 the two best reward systems for survey incentives: the points-based system and of course, sweepstakes.

Which Reward System to Choose?

Let’s have a look at both:

Points-based Incentives

  • This is the most dominantly used reward system in market research. For every survey, the respondents fill out, a certain number of points get allocated in their account. This continues till they’ve racked up enough points to 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 a lot of flexibility that comes with points-based incentives, as the market researcher can tweak the value of points offered for a survey/task concerning its urgency/value to them.
  • The problem with most point-based programs lies in the place where they must 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 market research incentives and rewards. Learn more>>


  • The beauty of sweepstakes is that they are a real attention-grabber. As a respondent, what would 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 must avoid 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 Market Research Incentives

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 follow-up survey from panelists who provided an inquisitive opinion.

Best Practices for Market Research Incentives

  • Offer your panelists something close to the money. 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 card incentives. - Greenbook
  • 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 from 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.

Confused? A Market Research Service can help!

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.

Market research services like Xoxoday Plum 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 Plum as your market research service? Book a demo today!

Market research surveys are about reaching out to the right audience and using their opinion for betterment. But 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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