The Importance of Incentives in Recruiting Survey Participants

Market researchers find themselves constantly recruiting for their panels.  There are many factors for this, but probably the two most challenging are hard to reach targets and panel attrition.  Identifying the most efficient sampling frames for panel recruitment is the critical first step in a comprehensive panel management strategy.  Next, you need an effective methodology for panelist engagement and respondent rewards, because finding the right panel also means cultivating a loyal one, one that keeps coming back.  To this point incentives are a must!

Why are incentives so important? They add value to your survey. Panelists are discerning users. There are many competing claims on their attention, and often they are wary of giving up precious time to click through a survey for the fun of it. You must reward them for a job well done. Incentives serve three primary purposes:

  • Acquire Participants. This is the panel recruitment piece of the puzzle, bringing new panelists into the fold.
  • Encourage frequent participation. Incentivized panelists are more eager to complete a survey.
  • Retain participants for future surveys. Knowing there will be incentives means the panelists will stay engaged.

An incentive management framework is key to building panelist loyalty. Even when a survey isn’t perfect, panelists will stand by you, because they know their participation is being valued.

Incentive management

A quality-focused panel management platform should be customizable with the capacity to handle both monetary and non-monetary rewards. It should also give you full control over when the incentive gets delivered, before participation or after completion of the survey.

To do successful panel recruitment, your panel management platform should include optimized engagement features. For instance, MSG’s ARCS research study and participant platform allows you to create trophy incentives. When a panelist reaches a milestone, they get the trophy. ARCS also provides avatars for a more personal touch, to keep panelists engaged. Both trophies and avatars are customizable.

Key factors and frequently asked questions

Incentivizing a panel properly depends on three key considerations:


Budget. How much money is available to incentivize the panel? Low budget scenarios will require creative innovation to find incentives that work best for your panel.

Target demographic. Incentives are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You must match the right incentive to the demographics of your panel.

Delivery method. How will the rewards be distributed and who will get them? Everyone or a select few? Does your panel management platform accommodate all options like raffles and sweepstakes?

Can you over-incentivize a panel?

In our experience, the answer is yes. You have to beware of offering too good of a prize, because that can lure some panelists into attempts at gaming the system, and this can muddy your research results.

What do you do when you panelists are becoming disloyal?

There could be many reasons for diminishing response rates, but in the context of incentive management, ask yourself whether it might have to do with offering the same reward again and again. Monotony can breed apathy.

How do we distribute rewards to panelists more efficiently?

Technology is your friend, here. A robust panel management platform, one that integrates panel recruitment and incentive management, will provide the control you seek and will automate recurring processes, to save time.

How do we really know whether the incentives are working and building more loyalty?

You will need to monitor results. Successful panel management means not just recruiting and incentivizing, but tracking respondent satisfaction via social media or surveys that can be distributed to panelists with a personalized touch.

If you need help executing your incentive program in the most efficient and effective way possible, turn to Marketing Systems Group. With the ARCS panel management platform, we offer businesses an invaluable tool for market research. ARCS makes it easy to find and qualify the right panel members and provide them with an engaging experience that encourages participation and yields quality results.

Find out more by visiting the Marketing Systems Group website and filling out a contact form today.

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