OPINION24 May 2018

Busting incentives myths

Opinion Trends UK

Incentives are often an afterthought for businesses looking to establish an online community, but going beyond ‘cash for answers’ results in longer-lasting relationships, better insight and more value for both researchers and members, says James Clutterbuck.

Incentives gift incentivisation_crop

Let’s talk about insight communities and incentivisation, but let’s start with a couple of questions…

Q. What’s the biggest driver to joining an insight community?

Q. What’s the biggest factor in being dissatisfied with the overall experience?

We’d all like to believe that customers love taking part in market research, and that given half a chance would happily do it for free. After all, we all have our favourite brands, we love what they do, what they stand for and the way they make us feel about our choices. And if we get to tell brands what we think about them, that leads to us getting more of what we love, with better services and products. Right?

Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t. The problem is that many organisations, at best really want to believe this, and at worst really do believe it.

So, for many businesses who want to set up an online insight community, incentives are an afterthought. All too often they opt for a ‘cash for answers’ approach and a belief that brand or topic affinity will keep people on board long enough to justify the cost.

There are a few myths that perpetuate this belief.


‘Points for vouchers and/or prize draws work for access panels, so this should work for insight communities too.’

This may well be true if all you’re doing is running surveys through your community, but done properly, insight communities enable us to grow an ongoing, potentially long-lasting dialogue that provides rich informative data, that in turn leads to better insight, which ultimately aligns us more closely with customers. You don’t get that from a survey, so why incentivise in the same way?


‘Cash is a good motivator, it’s what everyone wants.’

This one is less cut and dried, as it’s true to an extent. It’s certainly a good motivator when getting people to sign up and signals that you’re serious. The problem is it does nothing in terms of retention – cash incentives have a diminishing return. Even among those who join just for the chance to earn cash, what we offer them today to take part in an activity just doesn’t have the same lustre nine, six or even three months down the line. As such, people quickly feel undervalued, disengage and leave.


‘Managing a voucher system is hard enough, anything on top of that is going to be too costly and too time-consuming.’

Well, maybe that’s true, but stop thinking of incentives as an overhead and start seeing them as an investment: one where the return is business-defining insight. Besides, it will be cheaper than having to recruit new community members every six months.

The fact is, if you want deeper insight and that close relationship with your customers and you don’t want to spend time and money constantly recruiting for your insight community, you’re going to have to understand something; people want something more than money. What they really want is:

  •          To be given activities that are relevant to them
  •          To know what action is being taken based on their feedback
  •          To feel that their time is valued.

Don’t believe me? Look at these figures from our insight community feedback surveys:

ResearchBods submission graph_crop

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t use monetary incentives when rewarding customers for their time. We absolutely should do that. For example, use a points-based system that allows customers to accrue cash rewards over time and redeem them for vouchers or loyalty card points; pay them directly for taking part in extended activities such as diary tasks or focus groups; offer entry into prize draws for continuous commitment to the community. What I’m saying is: don’t stop there. Remember that what they really want is to feel valued.

To that end, regularly highlight the contributions of members to the insight community at large. Close every research task with a thank you, and whenever possible a summary of what you found out. Customers really do love this stuff, so keep them up-to-date on developments within the business – anything they helped to shape is pure gold. And finally, get the CEO in front of a camera to give a genuine thank you for all the help. Seeing feedback like that from the top of the organisation will push engagement off the chart.

To return to the questions I posed at the beginning…

Q. What’s the biggest driver to joining an insight community?

A. It’s cash! No prizes if you guessed that, I’m afraid. 70% of new sign-ups stated the opportunity to earn incentives as the main reason for joining an insight community.

Q. What’s the biggest factor in being dissatisfied with the overall experience?

A. Not knowing if they were making a difference. 67% of those expressing dissatisfaction with the insight community experience stated this as their main gripe.

James Clutterbuck is head of product at ResearchBods

1 Comment

6 years ago

Interesting piece! We launched our insights community a year ago, offering points for activity and the option to redeem them for prizes once they had reached enough. Less than half of those that reach enough points redeem them for a prize! In our experience, traditional incentives are a good hook, but the softer benefits of being in a community of like-minded individuals are the reasons why our participants stay engaged. I'm sure this differs across sectors, but in ours - education - it was interesting to observe.

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