Something we know about paid surveys: if a reward is envisaged, people are more willing to answer a survey. A lot of times survey takers are not motivated to join a survey just for its utility: when the interviewee doesn’t feel his opinion matters, an incentive may be useful to fill the gap and grab his attention.

Offering to earn a little extra may be useful to increase response rate and interview completion. A lot of research agencies offer incentives to attract a higher number of participants.

Choosing the incentive is not easy though: opting for a considerable and appealing bonus is the right move just if it doesn’t undermine data validity nor project budget.

Another crucial issue: each paid survey should have a different incentive. It’s important to always keep into consideration your respondent’s preferences, time for compilation, level of complexity, and so on.

This article will help your company to make the right choice on incentives. By following these simple rules you will get great results.


Paid surveys: 10 essential rules

The goal is to attract respondents and to engage them without altering results. Each of these 10 tips will improve your research strategy.


1 Company budget

You have to start with the right evaluation of your budget to choose the incentive: it’s important to know what you can and cannot do. Incentives with a value too high could prejudice the entire project.

Tip: if you can offer a reward just to a limited number of respondents, you have to be sure that they will be the only ones joining the survey that other participants won’t display reward opportunities. Promising a reward that only some will get can cause frustration to the other respondents and jeopardize your reliability for following surveys.


2 The incentive must provide value

The word “incentive” is quite explanatory: promoting people’s participation in the survey. The reward must provide an actual value to possible respondents to guarantee results. That’s why it’s crucial to evaluate the offer according to your target: a not so appealing incentive may push your interviewees away or may cause an incorrect compilation of the questionnaire.

Tip: carefully evaluate your target to identify the best incentive for your users.


3 The recipients

It is important to decide if every participant or just some of them will get the incentive. You could reserve the reward just for positive responses, for example.

In the majority of cases this solution will influence your survey results: verify this possibility in advance.

If it’s a lottery, it’s also important to specify that getting a reward is possible but not sure.

Tip: you can write in your invitations “Win an iPhone” but it has to be stated that it’s a lottery that will randomly determine the winner so it’s not certain to win the prize.


4 Easy redemption

What’s the meaning of offering a reward that doesn’t have value for respondents? What is meant to be an incentive would become the opposite. We’ve talked about incentive value: this time we talk about how easy it is to redeem it. It’s good to offer something the respondents can obtain easily like gift cards or promo codes that can be sent online and converted with no effort.

Tip: choose an incentive that can be used by all respondents independently of their location and that can be easily converted. Offering discounts and vouchers could be more practical for online surveys. Redeeming an Amazon discount would be easy for respondents while not so easy would be taking advantage of a discount for a local store.


5 Delivery methods

The incentive must be easy to redeem and deliver both for the user and the company. That’s why a lot of agencies choose gift cards, promo codes, and coupons. They only need to set an automatic email with the incentive: the respondent only has to print or directly use online the coupon.

Tip: providing the promo code via email or SMS will reduce costs.


6 When does the incentive has to be released?

It was proved that incentives sent in advance get a response rate of 50% while just promising the incentive get around a 30% rate. What does this mean? Easy: sending the incentive at the beginning of the survey is more effective in terms of results compared to just promising to send it at the end of the interview.

Tip: Using this strategy will increase respondent’s commitment to complete the questionnaire correctly.

Value = Quality

Choosing a tempting incentive may lead some respondents to try to compile the questionnaire twice. To avoid this you have to use software able to offer security, software that doesn’t allow the same person to complete the survey twice.

A reward that is too inviting may also cause a random compilation of the questionnaire and a consequent deterioration of survey quality.

Tip: be sure that respondents you’re offering the incentive to can offer you the information you need. In other words, be sure that interviewees fulfill survey quotas and criteria. It would be counterproductive to deny the reward at the end of the interview or sending one for answers you won’t be able to use.


7 Offer a small chance to win a big prize

We’ve talked about lotteries as a possible appealing tool for respondents. We will talk now about a different point of view than being clear on lottery rules. Lotteries can seem a vintage rewarding strategy but truth is that a lot of people are still joining lotteries every day. Why? They hope they can win a valuable prize with minimum effort (both economic and of time).

Tip: asking people to join a paid survey offering an interesting reward can be highly motivating. A lot of possible respondents will agree because of the convenient opportunity.


8 Anonymous surveys

If you’re administering an anonymous survey, offering a reward may be much more complex…but not impossible. For example, you could add a page at the end of the questionnaire with the discount code or the voucher.

Tip: an anonymous survey is an opportunity to profile new users. Asking for information to send the reward may be strategic to register new users for future surveys.

To register new users you just have to create a redirect so that a “thank you” email can be sent to the respondent. In this email, you will ask to complete a second (short) survey to collect personal information. You can then send the reward to the respondents of the first survey with no need to associate personal information with data collected before. Like so, you’ll get new users.


9 Use incentives just if needed

Here’s our last suggestion: offering an incentive will not always be the best choice. Rewards can increase response rate but they won’t be the right tool if your budget is quite low.

Tip: offer a reward just if the survey is longer than usual or if the respondent doesn’t have any emotional connection with the product/service examined. Always carefully evaluate your budget limitations and prospects.


10 Paid surveys: what results can you expect?

Statistics proved that the opening and completion rate of a survey invitation increase by 10-12% if an incentive is provided.

It’s important to avoid incentives with high economic value: they will possibly distort results jeopardizing the entire interview.


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