Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On research incentives

Incentivizing people to participate in research is really important. Time is money, and not just for those of us working in business. Consumers have busy lives and we should thank them for taking time out of their day to participate in our surveys, focus groups, interviews, contextual observations, usability testing, and any other human-centered research for which we somehow manage to convince people to be our guinea pigs.

Anyone in the business knows that doing this well pays off in long-term ROI. But I feel like researchers more often compensate people for the more extended methodologies ($50-$100+/hr. on average for things like focus groups, interviews, etc.), and just expect that because it takes considerably less time and effort, consumers will take a web- or phone-based survey for free. Oh, and don't forget the company's admirable goal of "improving the customer experience"! Well, that's great and all, but I doubt customers see it as their job to improve the customer experience by spending 20 minutes answering survey questions. Yes, the long-term benefit is that their responses help companies to improve their products and services, but what's in it for them in the short-term? I bet they appreciate immediate gratification as much as we researchers do when conducting the research itself (high response rates are such things of beauty!)

Gap is one company that clearly gets this. For its current post-website visit customer experience survey, Gap offers participants the opportunity to select a charity to which it will make a donation (up to $12,000 per year; it doesn't specify how much is donated per participant). It can even be said that there is a double incentive here, since not only will they make a donation to a charity of the individual's choosing, but will also enter the person into a drawing for a chance to win a $200 AMEX gift card. Finally, as the image below shows, even those who are unqualified to take the complete survey (as I was when I attempted it earlier this week) are offered the same exact incentives. It would be nice if other corporate-based research followed in this company's footsteps.

Click image to enlarge

By the way, does anyone else feel that when a company uses a drawing entry as an incentive, or anything else with the word "chance" in it, it's almost like offering nothing? The sample size (500? 1,000? 5,000?) as desired by the researcher can really affect ones odds of winning the prize and potentially even their odds of taking the survey in the first place.

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