This week there was a lot of discussion about panel quality and engagement after a respondent panel at CASRO. Part of the discussion was around incentives. Throughout my tenure in qualitative research, I have had many discussions on the pros and cons of offering incentives when conducting (online) research. In addition to my thoughts around incentives, I also surveyed Forrester’s online community of US consumers to get their opinions on the topic (quotes in italics below).

Generally you should always offer an incentive to participants for online research. However, what you offer and the value depends on a number of factors.

First, consider what you are asking of your participants.Are you asking for their feedback on a product they own or personal experience with a brand? This is where a lower incentive or, in some cases, no incentive could work because consumers who care about the product or brand are usually willing to share their experiences, and they can provide feedback on this type of topic fairly quickly. You see this, for example, a lot in co-creation communities. But when you ask a participant to complete a long study or multiple studies or when you ask for participation in a longer-term engagement such as an online community, it always requires an incentive to sustain their participation and ensure good-quality responses.

“It really depends on how much time I have to invest. If it’s a quick survey that doesn't take much time, I don't expect anything in return. But if it's going to be a lengthy process, I want something for my time.”

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