Whether you’re a marketer trying to recruit webinar attendees or a researcher hoping for better survey response rates, digital rewards can help. But with people getting busier and their time becoming ever more precious, what digital reward value is enough to achieve the desired results?
It can be a challenge to determine the best amount to maximize participation without killing your budget. As you use digital rewards more often, you’ll be able to try different amounts to find the sweet spot. To get started, though, here are four things to take into consideration.
The most basic measure of effort is the time commitment for the task you’re trying to encourage. Filling out a survey that takes 20 minutes to complete will obviously require a larger reward than a five-minute one. Test the survey or task and come up with an estimate of how long it will take participants to complete. Also remember to take into account things like travel time for an in-person focus group or the nature of the survey questions ― are they simple and require little thought, or are they more involved questions that take a little extra time to answer?
It’s important to be honest and realistic about the level of effort. Researchers often grossly underestimate the time it takes to complete their survey and set the wrong expectations for participants. As a result, participants may feel lied to and even abandon their responses.
You also have to consider the pool of respondents you’re trying to attract, both in terms of industry and seniority, and how much their time is worth. Are you inviting highly paid executives or midlevel staff? Assess the value of your respondents’ time based on how much they earn. You don’t need precise statistics ― a general sense of participants’ income level is enough. For example, retail workers, nurses, and entry-level sales representatives require a smaller reward than vice presidents, surgeons, or C-suite executives.
It makes sense to take the type of reward into consideration when determining the amount ― or vice versa. For instance, if you’re set on giving a digital reward for a luxury store such as Nordstrom or Pottery Barn, $5 will not be a very compelling amount for potential participants. Likewise for travel brands with big-ticket items, like airlines and hotels. Companies with limited budgets looking to drive engagement with smaller amounts should instead opt for rewards from Amazon, fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, and other similar brands. That way, respondents’ money will go further.
The other consideration that may come into play is how valuable a person’s participation or the resulting data is to you. If, for example, a marketer is hosting a product webinar for prospects further down the funnel, who have already been nurtured and qualified, their participation may be worth more than those who are being invited to a general knowledge or thought leadership webinar. Therefore, you can increase attendance by offering a larger digital reward. If a particular survey is a major source of feedback for improvement, that may also call for a generous reward. Some researchers may even choose to overpay a little bit and use survey incentives to build positive goodwill.
For market or academic researchers, the value may also increase with the specificity and availability of the target audience. If you’re doing a survey whose only requirement is that the respondents be men ages 18-45, that is easy to find and recruit more respondents, if needed. But if you’re trying to reach 40- to 45-year-old redhead women who have three kids under 10 and live in Utah, your search becomes much more difficult, and it may be worth it to offer a larger reward to find those people.
Rybbon often uses this formula to estimate what reward amount would be compelling for a particular demographic of participants:
Time to complete task
Value of respondents’ time
Compelling reward value
For example, consider a survey that targets registered nurses. In 2020, registered nurses earned an average of about $80,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At about 2,000 hours per year, that works out to $40 per hour. If the survey is expected to take them half an hour to complete, the base reward value should be 0.5 times $40, or $20. Bumping up the reward value by about 50% helps make it an attractive proposition for your participants. For the nurse example, the whole calculation would be:
$40 per hour
That means a $30 digital reward is likely to be enough to motivate registered nurses to take your survey.
To ensure the effectiveness of your research programs, surveys, customer communities, and marketing campaigns, you must make sure your invitees are motivated to participate. Offering incentives is a great way to drive response rates and engagement ― but choosing the appropriate reward value is vital.
Only with an honest assessment of how much your respondents’ time is worth, what level of effort is required of them, and how valuable their participation is can you maximize the effectiveness of your incentive.