Wouldn’t it be great if your survey incentives could provide you with actionable insights and data confirming they actually work? There is a lot of data available on how your respondents interact with survey incentives by using services such as Giftbit, which is now part of the Qualtrics Innovation Exchange. However, understanding what to measure and what the data actually describes is important.


You ultimately offer survey incentives to improve response rates. Tracking key metrics helps you identify any hidden issues. With the right insight, a simple change can yield a significant boost to the number of people who take the time to fill out your survey.


Here are 5 metrics you can start using now to get the most out of your survey incentives:


Metric 1: Incentive Preferences

Providing a choice of survey incentive is a great way to increase survey responses.


The incentive preferences of your respondents can be tracked depending on the service used to send the digital gift cards. Knowing which incentives are claimed makes incentive preference a metric ripe for experimentation.


The power of an incentive is often in the brand. Too much choice and the offer becomes vague and less impactful – “Get any gift card.” Too limited and you alienate survey respondents who have no interest in your offering – “Get a gift card for this one restaurant.”


Offering a curated selection of gift cards provides the value of choice without overwhelming your potential respondents. So how do you determine what the options should be?


You can start with the most popular brands. On Giftbit, the top three survey incentives are currently Amazon, iTunes, and Gap brands. Over several surveys however, the ability to focus in on the incentives that your population prefers is powerful.


A little A/B testing will allow you optimize your curated selection of incentive options. For example, offering and tracking options A, B, and C in survey one shows an overwhelming preference for B. For the next survey you offer and track options B, D, and E and find a confirmed preference for B as well as a strong preference for D, and so on.


Over several surveys you will quickly find the most preferred options that will drive the most responses.


Metric 2: Open rate

Your open rate is the percent of emails actually opened by recipients.


For important email messages, such as those delivering on the promise of a survey incentive, successful delivery occurs when an email is viewed, not when it arrives in an inbox.


Ensuring incentives reach the attention of your respondents is important for ensuring a positive survey experience and encouraging the likelihood they will take your next survey.


The open rate is a great metric because it provides feedback on the quality of your subject line. If you subject line is obfuscated or otherwise unclear it may be mistaken for marketing or junk mail and be deleted.


A low open rate may also indicate issues with the service you are using to send the emails. Depending on the technology used and the reputation of the company, emails may appear to be spam to email filters. Make sure you work with a digital gift card provider that makes deliverability transparent.


Your open rate will dramatically impact and interact with the next metric, your claim rate.


Metric 3: Claim rate

The claim rate for your gift card order is the percent of digital gift cards actually claimed by respondents after delivery.


Survey incentive gift cards will usually see an average claim rate of over 75%. People won’t claim their gift card for any number of reasons including that they are not able to use it, don’t want it, or even just plain forget about it.


Your survey incentive claim rate should be viewed in the context of other metrics as a low claim rate is potentially a flag for any number of issues.


If you have a low claim rate but a high open rate it might suggest an unclear email message that appears to be marketing or spam. The method of claiming the gift card may also be unclear.


A low claim rate with a low open rate could indicate a poor subject line. However, it may also suggest your incentive is not what is driving survey responses. A different incentive or an increased value may be necessary.


Metric 4: Fake response rate

This metric measures the percent of responses that are fake, usually a rapid, oddly answered completion.


One of the primary risks of offering a survey incentive is an increase in fake responses – people filling out your survey quickly, without thought.


It is important that the reward for filling out a survey is proportionate.


Too high and you attract people who will rapidly finish your survey with fake responses just to get the incentive. You may also introduce a bias, skewing responses positively as a ‘thank you’ for the incentive.


Too low and you may inadvertently undervalue the time of your respondents causing your response rate to suffer.


Offering a proportionate survey incentive encourages action from those already willing and likely to complete the survey. It overcomes small objections such as time and effort.


Each population will have it’s own ideal incentive value, but the process of finding that value is the same.

  1. Start with a lower value – it is much easier to increase the value of an incentive than decrease it
  2. Measure the impact on your response rate and your fake response rate to establish a benchmark
  3. Slowly increase the incentive on subsequent surveys
  4. When either (1) the response rate plateaus and/or (2) the fake response rate spikes, revert to the previous lower value


Metric 5: Incentive cost per response

The cost per response for your incentives needs to reflect net costs and valid responses to be useful.


Total incentive cost is the net amount spent on incentives for the survey (or a for period of time). This should include any bulk discounts (or money back for unclaimed gift cards in the case of Giftbit users).


You’d also want to include any costs associated with managing the program. If your digital gift card provider doesn’t offer strong management tools or front-line support for recipients, managing respondent service requests can add up.


By understanding the incentive cost per response you are able to project future costs more precisely.


You can also compare cost to other methods of driving responses such as purchased panels and marketing promotions.


And that’s just for starters


Talking with market researchers, the uncertain efficacy of survey incentives is all too common. Until now, there really hasn’t been enough easily-accessible data to determine what is working or why.


With services such as Giftbit working with market research companies like Qualtrics, useful data is available to help you gain new insights. Sure, you can quickly and easily send survey incentives, but you also get the feedback you need to make important decisions moving forward and optimize your programs.


With these 5 metrics as a simple starting place, you can easily understand if and how your survey incentives are working to improve your response rates.



Bio: Leif Baradoy is the cofounder of Giftbit, a technology company providing data-rich digital gift card fulfillment for use in business applications such as market research. His passion for people and technology help drive Giftbit to serve customers and help them build relationships with their stakeholders.