When working with a client to plan a qualitative research study, one topic that is frequently misunderstood is incentives. We know incentives increase research participation rates. However, since incentives can be a large portion of the qualitative research budget, clients often ask about them. Incentives are not a good place to reduce study costs as inadequate incentives reduce participation rates.
How much to offer
The incentive in essence places a dollar value on the time and expertise of the study participant. An optimal incentive can ease a difficult recruit. It can also help ensure that once recruited, participants will show up and complete the study. For a study with college students versus a study with real estate developers, the dollar value of the incentive will change. If the study is a quick 30 minute phone call versus a 2 hour in-person focus group, the incentive will also differ. In today’s market, in the Seattle area, we rarely offer an incentive under $100. We have sometimes offered as high as $500 for specialist physicians or CEOs to entice them to come to a focus group for an hour or two.
Types of incentives
We at Hardwick Research strongly favor monetary incentives. As they say, “Cash is king.” In the research industry, cash, gift cards and raffles are frequently used incentives. Sometimes we offer a combination, where a certain cash amount is guaranteed plus the participant is entered into a raffle for a chance to win a bit more. In-person research is more conducive to cash incentives, while online research is more conducive to emailed gift cards. Ideas for raffles include larger dollar amount gift cards and electronics such as iPads. Note that in general, raffles are not as effective as providing each participant with an incentive.
Restrictions on incentives
In some situations, we have to consider the implications of certain types of incentives. For example, in conducting online research with minors, a client might require that no gift cards be offered from a business selling alcohol, tobacco or firearms. With every project, we tailor the incentive to both client requirements and participant type.
Incentives are standard practice in the research industry because they increase research participation. There are other tricks of the trade that help to increase participation in both qualitative and quantitative research. Please call us at 206-232-9400 or email us via our contact page to learn more.