How to Build a Survey Incentives Program that Gets Responses

How to Build a Survey Incentives Program that Gets Responses

Here’s a quick survey for you: Would you give your precious time to a company… for free?  If you said “not without a good reason,” you’re not alone. Survey incentives are the driving force behind the most successful data collection in the marketing world and beyond.
Of course, active participation doesn’t come without a little work.  As all of us know, the average person receives so many marketing emails on a daily basis that opening and taking a survey can feel like quite a big ask. Getting respondents to engage with your survey in a thoughtful and honest way takes some effort, research, and creativity.
Fortunately, there is a tried and true method that increases response rates while building brand loyalty. Using survey incentives to reward those willing to lend their insights means you’ll get better responses and more actionable data. Here’s how to build a modern survey incentives program that encourages participation while building positive brand associations.

Why Do People Take Surveys?

In order to understand how survey incentives can increase your response rates and improve your data, it’s important to understand what motivates someone to take a survey in the first place. We’ve laid out some specific reasons why people choose to partake in surveys. Let’s start with the most obvious reason–getting something for free.
Surprised? It’s no secret that the most successful incentive is a cash or gift card reward. What is surprising is how much impact even a small reward can have on your response rates.  One study found that even a $2 reward had a significant impact on response rates.
Another study found that a $10 monetary incentive increased the likelihood of recipients finishing their survey by 30% vs. those who did not receive a survey incentive. When you consider the fact that most email survey response rates are in the 30’s to begin with, that stat becomes incredibly significant.
Ok, so people like free stuff. But is that enough? Even though offering survey incentives is the most effective way to increase engagement, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Creating a personal connection between your recipient and the goal of the survey ups your chances of getting more responses. In order to attract the right people, it’s important to make your motivations clear.
So don’t tell them what the survey will do for you, tell them how it will impact them. If your recipients think that their answers will positively impact their experience, they’re much more likely to do it.
On a similar note, many of your customers just want to be heard. In fact, our research suggests that 37% of people complete a survey simply to voice their opinion. Don’t forget to tell your recipients that you value their feedback and then demonstrate a genuine intent to improve your services. In short, try to communicate the following: the purpose of your research, how feedback will be used and the results or outcome.
If you keep these goals in mind and offer survey incentives on top of it, you’re going to be well on your way to increasing your response rates and improving your data.
Now let’s take a look at some of the most popular survey incentive options.

Survey Incentive Examples

Survey incentives refer to any gift you given to a respondent in exchange for taking your survey.  While it may sound easy, all survey incentives were not created equal. Some incentives do little to move the needle on your response rates, while others add frustration to the process that makes the incentive less enticing and less effective. So which kinds of surveys are right for you? Let’s look at some of the most popular types.

Digital Gift Cards

Cash in the form of Visa and MasterCard virtual rewards are an incentive that everyone can appreciate. Flexible and easy-to-use, digital gift cards can be delivered instantly in order to give recipients that feeling of instant gratification upon completions of your survey. That means, as soon as they finish, they get rewarded. And they’re sure to remember you for that.
Additionally digital rewards can be customized to fit your brand with personalized content and messaging. This means your survey incentives are doing double duty… rewarding respondents while promoting your brand’s most important messengers.

Physical Products and Gift Cards

The free-factor still applies here! Free mugs, shirts, and traditional office swag items can definitely move the needle for some people, but plastic gift cards lead the pack in physical rewards.
Why? They’re cheap to ship and much more flexible than a predetermined gift.  Depending on how the fulfillment is handled, however, long lag times between achievement and reward can diminish the effectiveness of these types of incentives. Has it ever taken so long for a product to arrive, that by the time it’s there, the thrill has kind of warn off? It’s the same with these types of rewards. If you have to wait 3 months for your $10, it’s just not as exciting. So be sure to partner with a company that has fast fulfillment and superb customer service if you take this route.

Lottery-Style Incentives

Some companies choose to spend their incentives budget on one large item, instead of multiple small ones and offer a lottery-style approach to incentives in which every participant is entered to win a prize, such as a computer, iPad, $500 gift card, etc. This lottery model allows you to significantly decrease your budget while still offering valuable rewards (remember that $2 study?) So if you’re on a limited budget, weigh your options based on what you can afford.


Although not as effective as cash incentives (hey, we’re all a little greedy) donations can also help encourage survey participation. The thing to remember is that people like to feel that their action is directly impacting a charity.  Giving them the option to choose their own cause, or taking the time to explain how and why “their” money will be donated is much more effective than a generic statement that says “in appreciation of your efforts we will donate a portion of sales to charity.” Make it personal and specific, or don’t bother mentioning it at all.

Amazon E-Gift Cards

We already talked about digital gift cards, so why does Amazon get its own category? Well, it’s an ecommerce website so massive and universally appealing that it truly stands out on its own. If you’re not interested in offering straight cash incentives, Amazon is a great option to consider.

The 5 Tenets of a Successful Survey Incentives Program

Today’s customers are accustomed to the ease and speed of the digital world. Rewards that worked in the past, might not work today. The best way to deliver modern rewards that people want is to make your survey incentives instant, flexible, and personalized.
Instant, flexible survey incentives offer today’s consumer the ease and speed they’ve come to expect. Here’s how to make them work harder for you.

1. Flexibility

You wouldn’t get everyone in your family the same gift, so why would you get the same thing for all of your survey recipients? In an age where we can customize everything from our latte to our car features online, it is absolutely essential to offer flexible survey incentive options that work for everyone. As we discussed above, monetary rewards like gift cards have proven to be the most effective form of incentive. Additionally, digital rewards can save you a lot of money on shipping and processing costs while allowing you to manage the distribution and tracking results directly from your computer.
For companies that prefer online retailers to gift card rewards, GiftCard Pass allows you to hand-select the brands that fit your respondent’s interests for a more specific and personalized experience. GiftCard pass allows you to create an ideal list of merchants for your program — and then allows your recipients to choose from that list.

2. Instant Delivery

Where do you shop the most? Probably on your computer or phone. Since most people are browsing, shopping, and buying on the go, it make sense to deliver a reward that easily goes from inbox to checkout in just a few clicks. Mobile-first technology makes redeeming rewards while shopping from smartphones a breeze. If rewards are easy to redeem on the go, you’re giving your customers instant gratification, and that can go a long way towards brand loyalty.

3. Personalization

Your brand message is incredibly important. So why are you sacrificing it upon delivery of your rewards? A generic envelope from an unknown rewards provider does nothing to further your brand’s goals. Ignoring this free advertising opportunity is a big miss. Digital rewards can be customized to fit your brand with personalized content and messaging, allowing your brand to be on their minds when they receive their rewards.

4. Great Customer Service

If your company doesn’t have the bandwidth to manage customer service after the rewards are sent, it’s important to find a reward fulfillment company that does it all. Following through with exceptional customer service ensures that receiving and spending the reward is a positive experience from top to bottom. At Virtual Incentives, we handle customer service in a fast and friendly manner so you can take one more thing off of your plate.

5. An Intuitive Platform

If your rewards are modern, but the website they’re hosted on feels like a relic from the past, the impact of the virtual reward could get lost. Frustrating APIs and complex redemption instructions make something that should be fun, into something that feels like work. Be sure that the rewards partner you pick has a modern and easy-to-use API that easily integrates into your existing platform. Virtual Incentives’ platform has the power to scale and deliver rewards in real-time. Integrating with our API allows you to customize bulk gift rewards to match your brand and personalize rewards for each recipient — all for free.
Don’t settle for the same incentive you’ve used for years just because it’s easy. Whether you’re polling customers, employees or the general public, adding an incentive to your survey will drastically improve the number of respondents who complete it. If you’re looking for a partner capable of modernizing your strategy and helping you collect more insightful data, Virtual Incentives has the tools and options that can take your program to the next level.
Now is the time to explore new incentive options, and deliver survey incentives that get results!

Ready to modernize your rewards program with fast and affordable survey incentives that really work? Connect with one of our expert service representatives to learn more about our variety of options today.