Would you say yes if I asked you to take a 30-question screener, filled with open-ended questions, in which you must deeply analyze your attitudes and behaviors? Now, imagine that this is the fifth screener I have asked you to take and you have yet to be selected to participate in any compensated research study. How long will you remain an engaged, satisfied member of my panel community? At what point do you think you are just wasting your time?
This is the challenge many panel communities face. A good research study is nothing without the right participants. And finding the right participants is close to impossible without effective screeners. But how do you strike the balance between efficient screening and panel retention? Points-to-rewards can be an effective tool to recruit, retain, and engage panel members who may otherwise lose interest.
We get it: researchers thrive off data! Of course, they would love to get as much information as possible upfront. But, you must consider the participant’s efforts. The longer or more complex a screener, the higher the likelihood of survey fatigue.
Demotivation is expected when you consider that the purpose of screeners is to screen out participants. Let’s say 100 people take your screener and only 20 qualify, giving you an incidence rate of 20%. This can be quite demotivating to the remaining 80% of participants, as they may believe they have wasted their time. If there is no incentive to participate, and no result to show for participating, panel communities will see high panelist fatigue and drop-off rates.
As a result, the cost of recruitment becomes very expensive, very quickly. To maintain headcount, you need to recruit new members just to replenish those that have left. The cost to recruit and onboard each new participant is not trivial. Acquisition costs may range from $10-20 using a Facebook ad campaign. External providers may charge anywhere from $50-$100 per respondent. It takes significant money to replenish your community, so keep your panelists engaged to improve retention and ultimately drive down costs.
At Digsite, we recognize the importance of momentum in research. That’s why we implemented a points-to-reward program to keep panelists engaged and to maximize retention.
Here’s the idea: people need motivation to take action. Without an incentive, fatigue and drop-offs are almost inevitable. However, rewarding every panelist for every screener they take would be extremely costly. Implementing a points-to-rewards program is the perfect way to award panelists for taking a desired action without breaking the bank. Instead of doling out rewards for every screener, simply award points based on the complexity of the screener. The panelist accumulates points over time and when they reach a set threshold of points, they can redeem their points for a desirable digital gift card.
What does this actually look like? Let’s say you are a member of my community. I invite you to take ten screeners, each for 100 points. Once you reach 1,000 points, you can redeem those points for a $10 digital reward of your choosing. Or, you can continue saving up to redeem 2,000 points for a $25 reward. Not a bad deal, right?
Of course, this is just an example, but a points-to-rewards program can be completely customized to fit your needs. We recommend scaling your points based on the complexity of the screener. For example, a quick two-question survey should be worth significantly less than an in-depth 40-question screener. The exact formula will be different based on the makeup of your community; it will take some trial and error to find the optimal points value scale to maximize response rates.
In addition to awarding more points based on effort, you should also award more points based on the elusiveness of your desired participant. If you’re looking for experts like government officials, executives, or doctors, you will have to award more points to get the response rates you need. That said, do not award different point values based on tenure in the community. That can actually be demotivating and perceived as a daunting task to reach exclusive membership levels.
This one should be obvious: ensure that the reward experience is seamless and easy once folks finally earn enough points! This means easy for your participants, of course, but also easy for your team internally. We integrate Rybbon’s PointsJoy with HubSpot to automate the awarding process via a workflow and we update panelists regularly on their points balance. Our panelists love the variety of options they have on Rybbon and their ability to immediately redeem points once they’ve earned enough for a reward.
Finally, make sure you don’t rely on points as your only form of engagement. It’s a good idea to share the results of the surveys with your participants and keep them interested. For example, we recently ran a screener whereby participants engaging in social distancing described their last month in one word. Once we analyzed the results, we shared a word cloud with all the screener takers and highlighted the top answers. Little things like this can go a long way in building the spirit of community outside of just monetary incentives. Whether it’s biweekly updates to panel participants or sharing interesting survey results, do enough to keep your panel top of mind – but not enough to overwhelm.
The satisfaction of our panelists is a huge priority. Converting to an incentives system whereby everybody gets a little something rather than one person periodically winning a big prize has skyrocketed panel satisfaction. Why? Most people will agree: a little guaranteed compensation is better than waiting for your lucky day that might never come! We are seeing better engagement, a steady stream of data, and most importantly, higher panelist retention. This goes a long way in moving studies along and driving down our overall costs.
It’s simple: everyone wants their time to be valued and appreciated. A points-to-rewards program is a great mechanism to thank your panelists for their time. By awarding points for surveys, you can avoid screener fatigue and build goodwill with your panelists without overcompensating them. Request a PointsJoy demo to learn how to build a points-to-rewards program that works for you and your panelists.