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Power Market Research Strategy by Transforming Views on Incentives

Is your current market research strategy falling short when deploying effective survey incentives?

Incentives play a crucial role in engaging participants and optimizing survey response rates and can significantly impact the success of your market research strategy.

Market researchers face a monumental engagement crisis that threatens the entire foundation and viability of the industry. For too long, survey incentives were dismissed as tactical “necessary evils” rather than strategically optimized to drive meaningful participation. As a result, response rates, completion rates, and data quality have all plunged over time. This self-perpetuating race to the bottom is fueled by commoditized, transactional thinking around incentives versus acknowledging the immense strategic value that thoughtful survey incentives design and application can offer.

As Virtual Incentives’ Chief Advisor Leonard F. Murphy passionately conveyed, “We must focus on the core of market research. The role of market research is last mile data – filling in the gaps of information that are not available through existing sources. Then the prioritization to engage with humans to do that only increases in importance.”

In this article, we’ll discuss the following:

As researchers face an unparalleled engagement crisis threatening the viability of the entire market research industry, the need for insight leaders to embrace optimized survey incentives in their market research strategy has never been more urgent or impactful. 

This approach enables organizations to continue “bridging the gap” by effectively acquiring crucial data that may be absent from current sources. Furthermore, it facilitates increased engagement with participants, laying the foundation for more valuable and insightful outcomes. 

Acknowledging and optimizing the indispensable role of incentives constitutes the linchpin in propelling meaningful insights and driving the future of market research.

Flaws in Not Viewing Incentives as Integral to Market Research Strategy

Key findings in the Future of Rewards Research Insights study by Virtual Incentives, aytm, and Koski Research note that incentives work for consumers because they participate in activities they wouldn’t have otherwise participated in and believe they’re being compensated fairly for providing meaningful information. Additionally, 70% of these consumers only participate for the incentives, and 56% wouldn’t have done the activity if they weren’t incentivized.

The traditional view of market research incentives as solely transactional tools within an overall market research strategy comes with numerous risks and limitations, as highlighted by Murphy. 

First and foremost, commoditizing engagement through increasingly lower-cost bidding wars risks disengagement over time. Additionally, this thinking enables declining engagement, quality, and fraud over time, a “perfect storm” of sorts.

Furthermore, Murphy emphasized that “research started to become the same thing. Because of that focus on just a tactical component and trying to throw money at it rather than engaging, developing a thoughtful engagement process.” 

By under-appreciating the significant value and impact of well-crafted incentives within their market research strategy, research buyers and suppliers ultimately undermine the entire foundation of their work. Murphy firmly stated, “If we can’t get people to talk to us, we do not have an industry. We do not have a business.”

Therefore, research buyers and suppliers must recognize the critical importance of thoughtful incentive design in fostering engagement and ensuring the viability and success of the market research industry.

The Powerful Potential of Strategic Incentive Design to Fuel Market Research Strategy

Optimized incentives tailored to intrinsic motivations can unlock immense value. Murphy emphasizes, “We can prove that incentives drive engagement and engagement drives quality, easily through looking at it within that through the lens of qualitative research.  

“It’s not a black box. But I think it is something we must continue to refresh, especially post-2020. A long tail of cultural and value changes impacts engagement.”

Customized, personalized incentives speak directly to core human motivations – the building blocks of engagement. “I think we need to meet people where they are and give them a choice.” 

 Additionally, incentives play an important financial role; 35% say incentives are part of the income they need, and 62% use them to pay for everyday items.

The context and communication around incentives also critically enable their impact. Murphy cautioned, “It doesn’t have to be a lot necessarily, but we need to ensure it’s there and then it’s compelling. That’s it. We forget it’s not just throwing money. It must be compelling and engaging.”

 The strategic design and communication of incentives ultimately determine their ability to drive engagement. As Murphy explained regarding employees, “The impact of generic cash bonuses or rebates on employees” may pale compared to “the need for customized design and strategic communication” tailored to intrinsic motivations.

More on setting appropriate compensation for research.

In conclusion, taking a proactive and thoughtful approach to incentive design, tailored to individual motivations and values, is critical in driving engagement and ensuring the effectiveness and relevance of market research in an ever-evolving landscape.

Integrating Incentives and Engagement

Murphy emphasizes the importance of embedding incentives within a well-rounded market research strategy to maximize strategic impact. Recognizing participation as the core supply chain asset, researchers must invest appropriately in engagement strategies, just as they would any other fundamental capability 

“The argument to the supplier is, this is the core of your business, you think you are selling insights, okay? But the insights come from humans. It’s fundamental to the supply chain.”

Furthermore, “We must identify the asset, which is the human, and we must invest appropriately to engage with them or anything else downstream.”

Understanding that insights stem from human input, suppliers need to recognize this as a fundamental aspect of their business. Suppliers who dismiss incentives as a “pass-through” margin liability fail to grasp their disproportionate strategic impact.

By identifying the human asset and investing appropriately in engagement strategies, suppliers can effectively tap into valuable market research insights within the supply chain, ultimately amplifying their overall effect.

Evolving Mindsets

Transitioning established perspectives in any legacy industry presents difficulties. However, for forward-thinking research leaders, immense opportunities abound in comprehensively integrating incentives into engagement and market research strategy 

“A client will pay for what’s within their budget when addressing their business issue most effectively. The supplier is looking at it as a pass-through. The supplier looks at it as I don’t get to make money off this; it’s cutting into my margin and profit. So, they want to reduce that cost.” 

Murphy firmly believes suppliers can evolve their mindset around incentives in market research strategy. With persistence and vision, organizations can harness incentives as pivotal catalysts in determining competitive positioning for the future.

The Upside for Researchers

By embracing incentives as strategic cornerstones, research organizations stand to realize immense participatory benefits:

– Reverse declining response and completion rates.
– Enrich participation with re-engaged, high-quality respondents.
– Gather invaluable qualitative insights through motivational analysis.
– Illuminate diverse participant values to inspire personalized appeals.
– Continually expand addressable reach and loyalty.

Optimized incentives are the keys to overcoming engagement barriers across the research supply chain. They future-proof this indispensable industry against the AI proliferation that relies heavily on robust human participation.

There remain immense opportunities for suppliers willing to embrace incentives as core strategic drivers of sustainable engagement. Murphy concluded, “We must focus on the core of market research. The role of market research is last mile data – filling in the gaps of information that are not available through existing sources. Our role depends on engaging participants. We must rethink incentives as imperative to drive this engagement now and in the future.”