The Best Survey Incentives to Increase Survey Participation

The Best Survey Incentives to Increase Survey Participation

Survey incentives are invaluable to the online survey experience; market researchers and business owners benefit by implementing them into their surveys to increase participation.

This is largely because taking part in a survey, brief as it may be, is not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, survey response rates fall on the lower end of the scale, with online survey response rates totaling to roughly 26%, aka under one third.

It should come as no surprise that many online users simply have no interest in taking a survey, as they are exposed to so many other on-site elements that draw their attention.

In this way, having a survey distributed on a popular website or app can be a drawback, as users’ attention can easily be consumed by the contents of their digital environment.

Survey incentives are proven to increase survey response rates, thereby increasing target market respondents in your survey. Additionally, by adding more appeal to a survey, online survey platforms can accumulate more completes in a quicker time

This article will cover survey incentives, why they matter and the best kinds to use to increase survey participation. 

Defining Survey Incentives

As its name suggests, a survey incentive incites survey participants (or targets) to complete a survey by gifting them with some kind of stimulus. 

Incentives can take various forms, which is where marketers and market researchers can let their creativity take the wheel. This is useful as brands often reveal they are behind a survey when they provide incentives (unless their incentive strategy involves partnering with the publishing websites of their surveys, in which case, the publishers are attributed with the incentive).

Regardless of who gets credit for providing the incentive, it is necessary to draw in interest and truthful responses from online visitors. It is also a valuable way to thank survey respondents, as a thank you note alone will not suffice. 

Monetary Vs Non-Monetary Survey Incentives

Incentivizing respondents is divided into two major forms: monetary incentives and non-monetary incentives. Both are effective drivers of survey engagement and can drive repeat participation, the latter of which is critical for longitudinal studies

The following expounds on both chief incentives.

Monetary Survey Incentives

These are money or currency-based gifts that researchers use to reel in survey respondents. The responders receive the incentives only after completing their surveys. A potent online survey tool ought to be able to distinguish between a fully completed survey and an invalid survey. 

For example, it should be able to mark gibberish answers and identify flatliners and other types of suspicious survey respondents

Here are a few useful monetary incentives to employ, including best practices on when and how to use them. 

  1. Cash (Via direct deposit or a digital payments system, i.e., Paypal).
      1. How much? It depends on the length and audience of the survey. Ex:
        1. A five-minute survey for students should be incentivized by approx. $1-$10.
        2. A 20-minute survey for clinicians, scientists and other professionals should be $30-$100.
  2. Gift cards
      1. Gift cards to your own business will not solely be an incentive but will draw attention to/promote your business. It will also not cost brands any money (as the card is redeemable at their business).
      2. Gift cards to popular retailers within your target market. This requires running primary and secondary market research to understand and segment your target market
      3. The price range should correspond with the time required for the survey. Ex: $5-$15 for a survey taking about 15 minutes.
  3. Coupons
      1. Like gift cards, coupons can be offered to your business, or a popular one among your target market (NOT your competitors’). 
      2. Coupons should offer markdowns and discounts on popular products and services.
      3. The offer should hover around 25% off.
  4. Checks/Money Orders
      1. Will require collecting more personal information from respondents, such as addresses. This can serve as proof of residence in a particular demographic area if you need residents of a specific geographic location.
      2. Keep the price ranges congruent with the amount of time/effort of a survey.
      3. Ex: $5-$15 for surveys taking 10-15 minutes.
  5. Donations to Charity
    1. These are donations you send to charities or causes for the better good when respondents complete a survey.
    2. Brands can give respondents the option of sending the donations on their behalf, i.e., with their names as the donors. 
    3. This involves picking a charity that relates to your niche and is recognizable by your target market. 
    4. The price range can be concrete — $1-$20, or it can be expressed as a percentage, i.e., 10% of profits will go to a charity.

Non-Monetary Survey Incentives

These incentives coax respondents to complete surveys through non-monetary offerings. They still offer something of value to the respondent. This is a more practical use for B2B brands, as small monetary incentives often won’t be enough for, let’s say a SaaS company. This opens the door for more types of incentives.

Below are some of the kinds to employ, along with their best practices.

  1. Product Samples
      1. These allow businesses to save money and resources. Plenty of people may send requests for product samples, but are they actually considering making a purchase? This answer may vary. But when you use samples as an incentive, you are guaranteed to gain something critical in return: customer data.
      2. These samples should correlate with the efforts required for the survey. As such, small surveys should call for small samples (think in terms of both size and type of product).
  2. Trial Subscription
      1. Much like samples, these offer a sampling of a service. If you offer media such as online magazines, news sources, trade publications or video content, consider offering a free or freemium trial.
      2. The trials should run no more than 4 days to a week. 
  3. Loyalty Programs
      1. Both a practical non-monetary incentive and a method for building customer loyalty, this type of program will give respondents a taste of what your top customers gain when earning loyalty points, likely stoking their interest in your business. 
      2. Loyalty programs work by offering points, which help customers earn freebies or other perks. 
      3. Offer 1-2 loyalty rewards at most for survey completion.
  4. Company Literature
      1. Most useful for B2B respondents, who are intent on learning about a particular discipline that your brand offers in its marketing content.
      2. Examples include white papers, industry and consumer reports, webinars and video content.
      3. This is most ideal when studying professionals or hiring survey panels.
  5. Partnership Benefits
    1. This is a mutual incentive for companies that want to partner up for collaborative survey research. (Ideal for both B2C and B2B businesses, including SaaS companies)
    2. How it works: Your business grants small discounts to the partnering company’s customers; the partner business follows suit for your customers.
    3. Partnerships and other business affiliations provide more exposure for your business.

Hybrid Incentives

When brainstorming survey incentives, you need not rely on one of the chief, aforementioned methods. This is because you can merge these approaches by offering multiple incentives. This is especially useful when dividing surveys across market segments, as certain segments may be more receptive to one form of survey incentive over the other.

Additionally, there are methods that allow you to offer either monetary or nonmonetary incentives. Here is the following list of such means:

  1. Sweepstakes
      1. Also called a raffle or a drawing, sweepstakes provide an exciting opportunity for respondents to win a prize, when chosen at random. 
      2. The prize can be monetary or a product, service, experience, etc. 
      3. Every respondent taking part in the survey should have an equal chance of winning.
  1. Giveaways
      1. Similar to sweepstakes, giveaways allow respondents to win something either monetary or nonmonetary via a drawing.
      2. However, giveaways can give all survey respondents the assurance of winning something.
      3. The difference lies in what respondents can receive, not if they will receive something at all, as in with sweepstakes.
        1. Ex: One responder may win a magazine subscription, while the other may win a coupon. 
  1. Games
    1. Following suit with sweepstakes and giveaways, games allow for a more creative way to incentivize respondents. 
    2. Businesses can enter respondents to play a game, granting them the chance to win a prize. 
    3. Only the winners will be sent a prize. This is ideal for those seeking something more than just receiving a reward.

When to Use Survey Incentives

Market researchers and business owners can best benefit from survey incentives to motivate a targeted audience they have less data about. For example, perhaps not all of your quotas on one demographic or psychographic population are being filled. A survey incentive can buttress this obtaining this objective.

Or — perhaps your survey response rates are low. Implementing survey incentives will boost this metric. No one wants to do anything for free, regardless of its simplicity and little timing. 

Then there is the case of supply. Some businesses have plenty of leftover samples from a particular campaign, whether it was sending samples to those who requested them or sending goods to other businesses as part of an ABM campaign used in marketing. Rather than discard these items or let them collect dust, you can repurpose them for survey research.

The Online Survey Tool as the Survey Incentive

A robust online survey platform is a necessity for any marketer or market researcher, even with a steady survey incentive strategy in place. This is because an effective online survey tool won’t stop iterating surveys across a wide online ecosystem of websites and apps until it receives ALL the preset number of survey completions.

However, brands would be remiss to completely disregard the survey incentive approach, even with a strong survey platform in tow. This is because offering incentives will cast your business into the minds of your target market, i.e, the most valuable customers and prospects. 

The experience of gaining something (the incentive) from a brand is far more memorable than simply taking a survey that mentions a brand.  

Thus, by providing customers with a survey on matters relevant to them and offering them an incentive, which can be your company’s product, you are differentiating your brand from that of your competitors

Frequently asked questions

What is a survey incentive?

A survey incentive is anything that encourages individuals to participate in a survey. The incentive itself can come in a wide variety of forms, ranging from discount codes, monetary compensation, content, and more.

What are examples of monetary survey incentives?

Monetary survey incentives can take the form of cash or checks, gift cards, coupons, discount codes, and donations to charity.

What are some examples of non-monetary survey incentives?

Non-monetary survey incentives include product samples, company literature, media, or other forms of content, membership in a loyalty program, and trial subscriptions.

What is a hybrid survey incentive?

Hybrid incentives are those that offer a monetary or non-monetary reward to select recipients. For example, by completing a survey, the participant is entered into a raffle or giveaway.

What are the benefits of offering survey incentives?

Survey incentives are known to increase the response rates of surveys. Incentives can encourage more people to participate in your survey, which improves the response rate, thereby reducing the margin of error since you’re gaining more respondents that represent a target population

The Complete Survey Response Rate Guide

The Complete Survey Response Rate Guide

In a survey, the survey response rate is a unit used to measure the accuracy of the data that you collected, making it an important factor to consider when interpreting survey results. After taking the time to plan and create a survey, a low response rate can be very disappointing. 

Even worse, a low response rate may result in the incorrect interpretation of survey data, leading to a major misstep in business planning. 

When planning and creating a survey, you should aim to maximize the survey response rate by paying attention to factors that may hinder respondents from starting or completing your survey. 

This guide will help you understand why the survey response rate matters and what you can do to improve the response rate of the surveys you create. 

Understanding the survey response rate

Also referred to as the completion rate, return rate, or simply the response rate, this unit is crucial to survey research. The survey response rate and its affiliated monikers are used to indicate the percentage of people who completed a survey compared to the total sample size (people who received the survey).

For example, if you sent out 1,000 surveys and received 150 completed surveys, your response rate would be 15%. When looking at the response rate for a survey you conducted, you will need to assess whether the response rate is poor, average, or good. 

There is not a standard “good” survey response rate because it varies greatly based on several components, such as the industry, survey type, and the method of distribution (e.g. phone, in-person,  email, live site or app).  

Why the survey response rate matters

Calculating the survey response rate is straightforward, but interpreting its effect on survey data is more nuanced. As such, it is vital that you carefully consider this metric when analyzing survey data. 

A low response rate usually increases the likelihood of sampling bias. Sampling bias is the term used when the results of a survey do not return random results. The lower your response rate, the more likely it is that you will experience sampling bias. 

An example of potential sampling bias due to a low response rate:

Let’s say that a company wants to know what incentives are most appealing to their employees. They decide to focus on softer incentives like free lunches, happy hours, and other team-building activities. They send the survey out to 200 employees and receive 32 responses, giving them a 16% response rate

When examining the data, the HR team noted that 94% of these respondents expressed great satisfaction with the team-building incentives. With such a positive response, the team could be tempted to assume that these incentives are a valuable asset to current and prospective employees.

Fortunately, knowing that the survey had a low response rate that could result in sampling bias, the team decides to look closer at the results before drawing conclusions. 

While reviewing the data, the HR team sees that most respondents were in the 22 – 28 age group, leaving them with new questions. Were younger people more likely to respond because they like these activities and want them to continue? Does this age group have more interest in voicing their opinions? 

With more questions than answers, the HR team decides to revisit their survey and try to improve the response rate before making changes to their incentive program. 

5 ways to improve your survey response rate

Here is the most important part of this guide. Since the response rate is an indication of survey quality and can improve the accuracy of results, you should do everything you can to promote a higher response rate

Here are our top tips for creating a survey to improve your response rate: 

#1: Understand and state the purpose of your survey

Before you create screening criteria or questions, think deeply about the purpose of your survey. What do you hope to learn by conducting this survey? What are the top questions you want to answer for your business? Revisit your purpose before, during, and after your survey development to ensure you stay on target.

For even better results, share some of this information with your respondents. Instead of asking someone to “answer a few questions,” you may get a better response when your respondents understand why they are being asked to participate.  

#2: Design your survey well 

A well-designed survey offers a better user experience (UX) for respondents and increases the likelihood that they will complete the survey. Survey design covers both the physical aspect of the survey as well as the questions within the survey. 

Some best practices for survey design include:

  • Create a visually appealing survey. Questions should be laid out nicely and responses should be easy to select. Include images if necessary. 
  • Make sure the language of the survey appeals to your target audience. Use language that is clear and appropriate for the audience. The questions should be easy to understand with responses that make sense within the contact of the question. 
  • Since many people will complete an online survey on a mobile device, verify that the survey works as well on phones and tablets as it does on a computer. 
  • Personalize your survey to your target market. Further audience segmentation will help organize your user base.
  • Add advanced skip logic so that respondents are routed only to relevant questions based on their answers.   
  • Use a variety of question types. Varying your question types between multiple-choice, rating, and open-ended can help increase your survey response rate. 

#3: Keep it short

Long surveys are less likely to be completed, making survey length one of the primary factors in survey response rate. Ideally, you will keep your survey short and focused – a survey that takes longer than 5 minutes to complete will not perform as well as one that takes 3 minutes. 

Of equal importance, let your respondents know how long it will take them to complete the survey – and make sure your estimate is accurate or you may notice that respondents start the survey and do not finish it. 

#4: Reach the right audience

In order to increase the number of people who complete your survey, you need to reach them and offer them a survey that they can complete on their own terms. A professional survey platform can help you reach a bigger, more relevant audience, thereby increasing the odds you will find the right people to complete your survey.

With a larger number of prospects, it is also important to carefully consider your screening questions to filter out those who are not in your target market, area of study or are less likely to complete the survey. A good survey platform will make it easy for you to screen users before they begin taking your survey. 

#5: Choose the right incentive

While some people truly enjoy filling out a survey, the vast majority of respondents are reluctant to spend valuable time answering a survey without some type of incentive. There is no “one size fits all incentive” – the type of incentive you offer must be attractive to your specific survey group. 

B2B customers are more likely to be motivated by intrinsic incentives, such as eventually receiving the results of your research or understanding that their response will help you improve their experience.

Other survey audiences are better motivated by extrinsic rewards, such as discounts and coupons. If you have an online shop, offering a 10% discount on a subsequent purchase can help dramatically improve your survey response rate. 

An appealing introduction:

In our scenario above, the HR team could encourage responses from a wider demographic if someone explains the importance of the survey during a company-wide meeting and again when distributing the survey. 

Here is an example of an introduction that could improve the survey’s response rate:

“Hi Sam. We know that incentives are a powerful tool to retain employees and attract the best talent to join our team. We want to understand if the incentives we currently offer are appealing to all of our employees. 

The survey will only take 3 minutes to complete. Your responses will help us update our incentive program to ensure that our incentives are relevant to all of our employees.”

Improve your survey rate, improve your market research 

In many cases, using a survey platform will make it easier to maximize your survey response rate. For example, the platform should make it easy to add an attractive visual design that works well on any device. 

It should also come with a call-out (a button or banner that prompts users to take the survey). Additionally,  the platform should give you advanced tools to select your desired target audience by way of demographics options.

Another important benefit of a professional survey platform is that you can understand your survey’s response rate in real time, allowing you to respond quickly to correct a survey with a low response rate. The ability to course correct can save you time, money, and provide higher accuracy of results, so you can be confident about making business changes based on the outcome of your survey.

Frequently asked questions

What is the survey response rate?

The survey response rate is a term used to describe the percentage of people who completed a survey compared to the total number of people who received the survey.

Why is the survey response rate important?

It is important to understand the survey response rate to ensure that your conclusions are not a result of sampling bias. Sampling bias can occur when the response rate is low.

How does length affect the survey response rate?

Respondents are less likely to complete longer surveys, which can result in a lower response rate.

How does targeting the right audience improve response rate?

When you target the appropriate audience for your survey, the questions are more likely to be interesting and engaging for that audience. An engaged audience is more likely to complete a survey, thus improving the response rate.

How can the mobile survey experience improve the response rate?

When a survey is well-designed for a mobile device, respondents will be able to complete the survey at any time and place, and from any device. You can expect a higher response rate when you allow respondents to complete the survey when it suits them best.