One of the problems that most companies run into when they perform their research is response rate, because respondents are often inundated with surveys and see no need to fill them out, or leave halfway through, not wanting to waste time.
That is why incentives are so important. Great incentives encourage participation. Still, most companies fail (or forget) to emphasize the incentive, instead focus too much on their own company. Most of your sample care more about what they get than how the survey benefits your business, so focusing on its benefits to your company is only going to discourage participation.
Yet, even if you do emphasize the incentive, there is no reason to believe that your respondents are going to get excited about it – or even notice how much it can benefit them. You need to make sure they want to fill out the survey, and unless they get excited about the incentive, they are probably unlikely to do so.
An Idea for Increasing Response Rates
One potential solution is to turn the incentive choice into the first survey question. The idea is that you could ask a question like:
Q: To take the survey, please choose the gift you would like from the list below:
a) $10 Starbucks gift card
b) $10 Walmart gift card
c) $10 Amazon gift card
You can choose the incentives as you see fit, but the key here is to make it on option that the respondent can choose, rather than choosing for them and hoping that they notice it. Giving them an option at all may have potential uses for your company, and starting off with a question about incentives may easily benefit your ability to gather interesting data.
Reasons to Start Off With an Incentive Question
In a way, the customer is already starting the survey by moving forward with the incentive question. They are receiving a prompt (just as they will with the regular survey), making a thoughtful decision, and moving forward with the survey. The hardest part for most companies is getting the respondent to start the survey, and by giving them an incentive question first (a question they will want to answer honestly), you are starting them off on the right track for answering the remaining questions.
Potential Benefits of Providing Respondents with the Option of Choosing their Incentive
- More Motivation to Finish
When your sample chooses the incentives they want, they have given themselves a reason to complete their survey. Their mind has said “yes, I want this incentive” and they are likely to be more motivated to finish the survey, rather than choose an incentive and then leave the survey incomplete, knowing that they won’t get that incentive.
- Greatest Attention to Incentive
The idea of incentives is that they get attention, but even bright lights and large fonts won’t guarantee that the individual realizes how completing the survey can be beneficial for them. Choosing an incentive, on the other hand, virtually guarantees that they understand what they can get if they complete the survey, increasing the likelihood that they will finish.
- Giving them Something They Want
Your incentive choice can increase your range of how beneficial the incentive is to the customer. A customer may not want a Starbucks gift card, but may want an Amazon gift card. A customer may not want an Amazon gift card, but may want a Walmart gift card. The more incentives you offer, the greater the chance you have of getting their participation.
- Potential for Research
While rare, it is possible that the information you gather when you choose the incentive can have some benefit to your company. Perhaps you offer discounts for your own services or a gift card to a different company, and most people choose the gift card – that may tell you something about how your services are valued. It also may not, but the potential is at least there, depending on the incentives you choose.
Overall, it’s not well known how much choosing an incentive as the first survey question can benefit your company. Incentive research is sadly absent. You also do run the risk of making your survey longer, and while one question is unlikely to make a big difference, it does carry that risk.
However, there are some very strong reasons to believe that giving your respondents the option of choosing the incentive has the potential to improve your overall response rate, giving you a good reason to dedicate the first question of your survey to incentives.