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How Should You Reward Your Research Panel?

6 min read
Now that you’ve decided that creating your own research panel is right for your organisation, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to implement a rewards system. While some people will join the panel because they love your organisation and are committed to your success, inevitably, some will only join if you offer a reward.

Should You Reward Your Panel?

Before choosing a reward ask, “Should I even reward my panel in the first place?” Some people join because they’re interested in the industry or research you’re conducting, and because they want to see the results, and genuinely care about your brand and success. They feel like they have an important opinion that might be valuable to your brand.

Many organisations do give rewards, but some have succeeded by simply emphasising the intrinsic participation rewards to their panel members.

How to Have a Panel Without Rewards

  • Make surveys as simple and easy to complete as possible. Because they’re doing it for free, participants will drop out if it’s too complicated.
  • Make sure the surveys are mobile-friendly so participants can take them anywhere.
  • Don’t use a login portal. It’s easier to send them a smart link to the survey than have them try to remember a username and password.
  • Frequently express your gratitude. Participants will be motivated if they feel you genuinely care about them and value their feedback.
  • Personalise the interactions with them. The more personalised the interactions are the more they’ll feel valued individually.
  • Establish two-way communication with the panel members. They should be able to give you feedback on how the panel experience is going, and know you’re accessible.
  • Share how their feedback is helping your organisation make decisions from the insights you gathered from their surveys. Since they’re participating to help you make better decisions, they will feel valued if they know their specific contributions.

Schwann’s Food Services doesn’t use a rewards program and they get a 30-45% response rate on general customer surveys within their panel. They have panel members that are dedicated to the brand.

Facts about rewards

  • Incentives do increase response rates.
  • Monetary incentives increase response rates more than lotteries and drawings.
  • Incentives have almost no effect on the quality of the response.

“⅓ of all respondents cite a desire to earn rewards or prizes as their primary reason for participating” – Greenbook

How Much Should You Give as an Incentive?

It’s always better to start conservative because it’s easier to increase the size of the reward over time than decrease it. Once people get used to receiving a certain amount they will not want to go lower. It’s best to look at your budget and ask yourself, “How much can I afford to offer?”

Types of Rewards Systems

Points-Based Program

Incentivise their participation over time, without having to do it after every survey. Respondents receive points for each interaction and eventually accumulate enough for some type of reward.

Pros – Panel members control their own ability to earn a reward. They don’t need to rely on random chance, which will draw higher participation. It’s also adaptable over time because you can offer different amounts of points depending on the length, complexity, or urgency of gathering information. With this approach, it’s easy to adjust how much you want to give to panel members and how quickly they can earn the reward. The Qualtrics platform makes it easy to fully automate rewards by setting up logic to reward panel members after they achieve a predetermined number of points.

Cons – Depending on how many participants you have, this approach can be very expensive because you need to reward every panel member that earns enough points, not just one in a drawing. It’s less predictable from a budgeting standpoint because you don’t know how many people will take the survey.


Offer a set number of rewards tied to participation in one survey, or a random drawing during a period of time (monthly, quarterly).

Pros – Overall, this approach is less expensive because you’re only rewarding a few people, instead of everyone. It’s easy to budget for because of the predictability, and you can determine each year how many you’ll do and how much you’ll give for the drawing. It’s also simpler to administer if you don’t have software that automates it for you.

Cons – Sweepstakes require legal terms to administer them correctly. Typically, they drive lower response rates because participants know their chance for receiving a reward is small.

Best Practices for Research Panel Rewards:

  • Reward every action panel members complete, even during the sign-up and profiling stages. Even if it’s in small denominations ($2 and $3 Amazon cards), panel members will feel valued and desire to keep participating.
  • The optimal reward is a digital gift card. It’s easy to send and well-received by participants. You should offer popular brands that are relevant and country-specific. Qualtrics integrates with Tangocard and Giftbit, so participants can choose which rewards they want. The user-experience matters outside of the panel and people love spending gift cards because they’re not going toward bills.
  • The rewards process should be as easy as possible. Provide clear communications around it so they know what to expect and when.
  • Automate the rewards process whenever possible, so you can focus on the research you do best.
  • Keep costs down by and stay flexible by avoiding prize inventory.
  • Track reward selections to improve your insights and see what’s motivating people.

In a survey by Greenbook, 70% of people surveyed want cash, points, or gift cards

Rewarding your panel shouldn’t be difficult and can be iterated over time. With Qualtrics Panel Management, it’s easy to manage and reward your own panel, resulting in faster insights for your company.

The Panel Management Guide