Without Incentives, What Drives Survey Respondents? Virtual Incentives Blog

Without Incentives, What Drives Survey Respondents?

Most of us don’t choose to spend our free time taking surveys. So what are the driving factors (aside from incentives) that get people to engage? Below, we’ll explore the hidden motivators that could lead to higher response rates and better results.

How do I get them to open my survey?

Before you can start getting results, you have to explore the mentality that determines if someone will even engage with your survey, let alone complete it. Here’s what hooks them:

  • They are interested.
    We’re told from the leverage-salience theory that a person’s interest in a survey’s topic plays a big role in their likelihood to participate. Whether it’s a personal connection to the topic, or simply a perceived importance, the subject matter… matters.
  • They are committed.
    It’s also possible for respondents to feel committed to many other aspects of a survey. They may self-assign a level of loyalty to a survey’s sponsor, the researcher, issues being studied or the research process itself.
  • They want to affect change.
    Respondents don’t just want to help, they want to see how they’ve helped. Try to communicate the following: the purpose of your research, how feedback will be used and the results or outcome.

Ok, so how do I make my survey engaging enough to complete?
Now that you understand what motivates people to take surveys, try the following tips to ensure that respondents will actually finish it:

  • Turn your “survey” into a “quiz.”
    The word “survey” can feel like arduous work whereas a “quiz” inspires a sense of fun and lightheartedness. Positioning your research as a quiz could have big payoffs — all the way up to twice the open rate.
  • Speak like a human.
    Use conversational language instead of industry jargon or overly scientific terminology. Be positive and stay away from accusatory or harsh phrasing, and don’t forget to remind respondents that you’re grateful for their efforts.
  • Show a progress bar.
    It’s a simple enough thing to add, but research shows that a progress (or percent complete) bar could increase completion rates up to 12%. It makes the survey’s length apparent and encourages respondents to finish what they started.
  • Play with more interactive questions.
    Respondents have a higher level of engagement when questions are more interactive and fun. Sliding scales, clickable options and other treatments can keep people interested and supply a much-needed break from the norm. 


  • Make it a branded experience.
    A well-branded design is a key component of better completion rates. It’s the first thing your respondents will notice, so put time into creating a good-looking and well-branded survey. Strike a balance between aesthetic appeal and transparency.

Use these tips and insights to create a high performing survey that achieve the results you need..