3 Possible Downsides to Great Incentives

When you run your survey, it is vital that you have a good response rate from your sample. The more responses you get the more valuable your data because a larger sample is always more valuable. In addition, the more people that skip your survey, the less valuable your data becomes, because it is possible that all of the people skipping your survey have a shared trait.

To get a great response rate – especially in today’s spam-filled world, where many people are asked to provide their answers to survey questions without any benefit to themselves – you need to have a good incentive. Respondents are no longer willing to provide their thoughts free of charge, and the better your incentive, the more motivated someone will be to fill out the survey and provide you with the data you need.

However, there is a potential downside to offering great incentives – a downside that can easily be addressed if you have the tools to do so.

Too Good to be True

Email inboxes are filled with spam. Every day they are bombarded with dozens of spam emails that clog inboxes and go unread. They even get by spam filters, despite the advancements in spam filter technology. Many of these spam emails are promises of surveys, designed to collect personal information that can be used against you.

So what happens when someone receives an unsuspected email that contains a promise of some amazing incentive that they would more than love? There is a chance that they see the potential incentive, instantly assume it is a fake/spam email, and discard it without a second thought. Great incentives lead to great response rates, but only when those with a chance to respond know the incentive is real.

What’s the Solution?
The solution is simple – make sure that your sample knows they are going to receive a request to fill out a survey. For some this happens anyway – especially if you use an online panel. But for others it may not be as common. For example, many companies send surveys to those that have given their email to the company in the past. But those that provided their email may have no recollection of doing so, making the email unexpected.

By making sure that your sample knows that an email is coming, you can ensure they are not going to view your survey as spam. Combine that with a great incentive and your response rate will be far better.

Quick Respondents

Imagine you were able to offer an iPhone as an incentive to every single one of your respondents for filling out the survey. iPhones are valuable and highly sought after, and even those that have an iPhone already will likely enjoy receiving one either as a backup or to sell online.

There is a good chance – possibly even a great chance – that those that had no motivation to fill out the survey would still complete it because the incentive is so great. But a small subsection of those may also spend no time looking at survey questions, instead answering them at random in order to get the incentive as quickly as possible.

What’s the Solution?
There is no great solution to this problem – and indeed, in many ways researchers already have to worry about this phenomenon even without a great incentive – but it is still a concern that may need to be addressed. One possible solution is to require the customer spend their own money, but receive products at a hefty discount. But this still may not be enough to prevent quick respondents from answering.

High Cost

The primary reason that companies don’t offer great incentives is because they cost a great deal to the company. It should be noted, however, that the ROI of a great sample may be more than worth the cost of the incentive, but it is possible that too great of an incentive could cost the company money – especially if the response rate is high as a result.

What’s the Solution?
Once again, there is no guaranteed solution to this. You need a great incentive to get people to fill out the survey, but a great incentive costs money. Your ROI should more than cover this, but this just stresses the importance of ensuring your survey is well designed and provides you with meaningful results.

Neither of these should discourage you from offering a great incentive. However, it is important to note that with every aspect of research, there is a potential downside that could affect the quality of your data, and these are just examples of how even a great incentive may be harmful.

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