How to Use Incentives to Increase Response Rates

  • November 18, 2020

  • Eyes4Research

Recruiting the right amount of participants remains essential in conducting a successful research initiative. For many researchers, low response rates result in inconclusive data that hinders one’s ability to make data-driven decisions. The solution? Utilizing incentives to motivate participation. Offering participants a reward for their time remains an effective method to draw in more respondents for better quality data. By understanding when and how to use incentives, researchers can maximize participation for better quality data. 

When to Offer an Incentive

Incentives work best to increase response rates in studies that target niche audiences, also referred to as non-responders, time-consuming research studies, and surveys that have been sent out but need more respondents without biasing the sample. So what research methods use incentives most often? 

  1. Surveys 

Surveys are a quick and easy way to receive feedback from large populations. There are many options researchers can use to administer surveys, including web forms, email, phone calls, physical mail, apps, and text messaging. Regardless of the deployment method, tools such as Eyes4Research’s survey platform helps researchers easily collect and analyze data for valuable insights. Researchers often utilize incentives for time-consuming surveys that may deter respondents otherwise. Though offering an incentive is the best way to increase response rates, it may not be appropriate for every initiative, including customer satisfaction and short surveys.

2. Focus Groups 

Focus groups help researchers receive feedback in real-time through guided discussions led by a moderator. This qualitative research method can be conducted in-person or virtually depending on the geographic barriers of the target audience. Compensating focus group participants for their time motivates people to sign up, increases turn out to the study and helps research initiatives stand out amongst others. 

3. Studies with Continuous Engagement 

For long-term research projects, incentives remain imperative for ensuring constant participation. The size of the incentive provided depends on the timespan and the level of effort required by participants. Whether the study takes a few weeks or a few years, offering a reward for one’s time and participation reduces the risk of drop out for high-quality results. 

Types of Incentives

There are two types of incentives researchers can use; monetary and non-monetary. When deciding between the two, researchers must consider their target population, the time of execution, and if the value of the incentive matches the time and efforts required by respondents. 

  1. Monetary Incentives

Monetary incentives consist of cash/checks, gift cards, coupons, and money orders. The amount given to participants may depend on the budget for the research initiative, the method of distribution, and the target population of respondents. Researchers should also factor in the time the research initiative takes to complete, including the cost of travel for in-person studies. Though there is no minimum or maximum amounts for monetary incentives, the more appealing the award, the higher the response rate will be. 

2. Non-monetary Incentives

Non-monetary incentives include non-client branded vouchers, free merchandise, prize draws, and even charitable donations. These types of incentives can be personalized to the target audience, further promoting participation. For example, if a researcher conducts a study on teachers, providing recipients with school supplies may be of more value than other incentives. 

After determining the incentive, researchers must decide when to distribute rewards to participants. Promised incentives are given to participants after completion of the research initiative. These incentives are the most cost-effective and easy to distribute to participants. Prepaid incentives reward participants before they complete the research initiative. Though this method proves most successful in increasing response rates, it may be costly and more difficult to execute. 

Considerations When Choosing an Incentive

There are a few things to consider before deciding on an incentive to ensure a successful research initiative. Here are some factors researchers should keep in mind when determining how to reward participants. 

  1. Methodology 

The appropriateness and size of an incentive rely on the methodology used for the study. When conducting research in-person, external factors such as travel, food, or lodging, may require reimbursement. The same goes for initiatives requiring participants to purchase products. For ongoing studies, researchers may pay respondents in increments to discourage participants from dropping out before the completion of the research study. Whatever the methodology, the incentive provided must match the commitment asked by the researcher. 

Type of Respondents:

To successfully execute a research initiative using incentives, researchers must take into account the type of respondents they are rewarding. Factors such as age, profession, and annual income influence the value of an incentive, as researchers must know the motivators of their target audience before choosing a reward. The difficulty in finding an audience also influences the size of incentives. With this, researchers may offer higher incentives to maximize the number of niche participants. 

  1. Transparency with Respondents

When recruiting respondents, researchers must remain transparent with the type of incentives provided. Throughout the research study, participants must stay informed of any changes to incentives, the timeline of receiving their reward, and how incentives may differ by the task. After the participant completes the agreed-upon task, the researcher must abide by the conditions they established for incentive distribution. Maintaining open communication regarding incentives throughout the research process promotes participant satisfaction by preventing misunderstanding or disagreement. 

2. Ethical Considerations  

There are several ethical considerations to keep in mind when offering research incentives. For one, researchers cannot ethically give unopened or unused client-branded products as an incentive to participants due to a conflict of interest. Also, researchers must ensure the incentive provided is suitable for the task participants must complete. Offering an excessive reward for the completion of a task may result in undue influence in which the incentive distorts decision-making, undermining the validity of their consent. As mentioned above, transparency with participants is also essential in conducting an ethical study. 

Interested in adding incentives to your next research initiative? Eyes4Research has got you covered. Take advantage of Eyes4Research’s state of the art community platform to recruit, profile, panelize, and incentivize respondents. Visit to start increasing your participation rates today!