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8 Survey Incentive Ideas and How You Can Use Them

Kate William

Last Updated:  

30 May 2024

7 min read

Have you ever lamented over low response rates on that seemingly ‘perfect’ survey? Chances are most people have.

Because believe it or not, sometimes even impeccable surveys miss the mark when it comes to engaging the respondents. Not because there’s something wrong with how they are made, but more so owing to the fact that most people tend to need that extra nudge to take a survey and complete it.

So naturally, a question arises: what is the best way to increase your survey response rates? Look no further; a survey incentive is the way to go.

Survey incentives encourage participants to complete a survey by giving them an article of value in some form. It is a quid pro quo approach that says, “We value your time and opinion. So here’s our token of appreciation for your effort.” It is a literal embodiment of the English idiom “a penny for your thoughts.

If you are looking for some inspiration, let’s get started right away. Here’s what we’ll cover in this blog post.

  1. Survey incentive ideas that increase response rates
  2. How to incentivize a survey
  3. How to incentivize an anonymous survey
  4. Need for incentivizing a survey
  5. Pros and Cons of survey incentives
  6. Factors to keep in mind

Survey Incentive Ideas That Increases Response Rate

Survey incentives are a great way to collect more responses and significantly increase the target respondents to your survey. Researchers generally classify them into monetary and non-monetary incentives.

#1 Monetary Survey Incentives

These are cash incentives and are a very effective form of survey incentive. Even one incentive of $5 can increase response rates by 30%. You don’t need to spend a small fortune or break your budget. Small monetary rewards are also super practical.

Gift cards, checks, and money orders fall under monetary incentives too. With gift cards and vouchers, respondents can choose the gifts they want on e-commerce platforms like Amazon or eBay. When offered such incentives, participants are more likely to respond.

How do you decide the amount for the monetary incentive? It all depends on your budget as well as your target audience. For example, if your target audience is work-from-home professionals and your surveys are lengthy, the incentives need to be on the higher side.

Non-Monetary Survey Incentives

These include any survey incentive other than a cash incentive. It is not monetary yet offers valuable rewards to the respondent.

#2 Sweepstakes

Sweepstakes give out a set number of prizes to a few people instead of all the participants. In a way, sweepstakes are cost-effective since you invest your budget in a single award. First, all the survey participants enter through a contest. Then, with a lucky draw, you can select a winner. Sweepstakes and lotteries are, however, slightly tricky to carry out. You will need the help of a legal team for the fine print.

Sweepstakes also help create hype for your brand. The prospect of winning a grand prize encourages a large number of respondents. Popular awards include the latest appliances or electronic products. You can also offer specific rewards based on your type of business. For example, if your enterprise focuses on home decoration, then an entire home makeover can be the grand prize.

#3 Sample Products

Nothing entices people as much as the word ‘free’. So why not offer free branded goodies like pens, mugs, or even a baseball bat? Perhaps you could provide early access to new features of your product or a beta version of your app.

If you are a SaaS business, entice respondents with freemium access to your top-tier services for a limited time. Specific organizations in product-based industries have numerous samples lying in their stockpile from previous marketing campaigns. Reuse these samples as a part of survey incentive programs. Samples and free trials are a great way to encourage current customers to use your products and to introduce your products to new customers. Here’s how we do it at SurveySparrow.

#4 Donation to Charity

This is a type of indirect incentive, but for a more significant cause. You can give participants the option to donate to a charity. When it is on their behalf, it can generate goodwill for your brand with their names as donors.

Pick a charity of your choice and one that is recognizable among your respondents. According to your budget, the price may range – perhaps 20% of the profits could be donated to charity.

#5 Points-Based System

A points-based system is a great way to improve participation in future surveys. Respondents earn points for each survey they take and accumulate enough points for a prize.

You can assign points for each survey based on the length and complexity of each survey. This system works well to build customer loyalty and helps them earn loyalty points. However, on the downside, it makes budgeting more challenging since you are unaware of the number of respondents who complete the survey.

#6 E-books, Whitepapers, and Other Digital Resources

Your business has top-notch content and resources such as whitepapers, webinars, or market reports. In the B2B sector, industry knowledge is always in demand. So if your respondents are professionals from the same industry, giving a sneak peek of your content can generate signups and at the same time offer value.

Apart from digital content, physical rewards are unique and exciting. For example, suppose you are in a position to ship products quickly. Then, a physical gift can create substantial word of mouth, especially on social media.

#7 Discount Coupons

Coupons are similar to gift cards. The difference lies in the fact that coupons offer a discount on popular products. For example, you can offer 20% off with a percentage coupon. Additionally, discount coupons encourage customers to spend more on your products, thereby improving business.

#8 Partnerships

Joint surveys are the way to go in cases where the partner companies have conjoint research. However, when it comes to providing survey incentives, your business could give incentives to the customers of the partnering company and vice-versa. That way, more people get to know your business.

How Do I Incentivize A Survey?

  • Understand your audience. Offer incentives that are truly valuable to your audience. Only by providing the encouragement they need can you increase your response rates.
  • Choose a delivery method to give these incentives; it can work online or offline.
  • Also, timing is everything! When will you offer these rewards? Before or after survey completion?
  1. Promised incentives are when you provide incentives to those who complete the survey.
  2. Pre-paid incentives are when everyone who’s given the invite gets the survey incentive – irrespective of whether they complete the survey or not. Research has shown that paying a respondent before the survey leads to higher response rates.

Some respondents choose not to reply – not just to your survey but to any survey! So offering incentives to these groups can encourage them to participate. Likewise, lengthy surveys see participants drop off midway – survey incentives can help them stick out till the end.

How Do I Incentivize An Anonymous Survey?

Many respondents prefer anonymous surveys because they don’t want to give sensitive personal information like their email ID in business surveys. So you have to figure out how to provide survey incentives without soliciting their data through the survey.

For example, after the survey is complete, you could redirect the respondent to another form. This form can easily capture the details you need to provide the survey incentive. Ensure that you highlight the reason why you have redirected them to this form: to preserve anonymity.

Do I Need to Use a Survey Incentive?

Sometimes your survey may not need an incentive at all. For example, suppose you are sending out customer satisfaction surveys to gain feedback on your service/products. You wouldn’t want to attach a survey incentive to it, as it may prompt the respondents to avoid giving negative feedback. Thus you would miss out on valuable feedback to improve your business. It also makes no sense to add survey incentives for NPS surveys since they are effortless to answer.

Survey incentives come in handy for those difficult to reach people — the ones who don’t have the time to respond to surveys like C-Suite professionals or digital marketers. Survey incentives also come in handy for those respondents who don’t answer the first time. Then, when you send the survey a second time, incentives can encourage them.

Pros and Cons of Survey Incentives

There are two sides to a coin. Similarly, survey incentives have both pros and cons.


  • Increase survey response rates: Response rates increase as the number of incentives increases (until a specific limit).
  • Increase responses to lengthy surveys: The longer a survey becomes, the more impatient the respondent gets. One way to ensure completion is to show a visible sign of progress like a completion tracker. In addition, an incentive after survey completion will motivate them to complete the survey.
  • Re-attempt participation: Some survey takers view the survey and then move on without attempting it for various reasons. A survey incentive will encourage these groups to reconsider and complete the survey.


If not appropriately leveraged, survey incentives can do more harm than good.

  • Skewed representation: Try not to make your rewards too specific. For example, if you are surveying parents of young children and offer targeted rewards like discount coupons for baby food, you will encourage more responses from parents of newborns. This can skew your survey results.
  • Poor data quality: Survey incentives tend to attract respondents who are in it only for the prize. These respondents rush through the survey when what you need are thoughtful responses. As a result, it has the potential to hurt your data quality.
  • Budget-intensive: If an organization offers survey incentives for all their surveys, it could end up hurting their budget in the long run.

Survey Incentives: Factors to Keep in Mind

Here are some of the factors you need to keep in mind while incentivizing surveys.

  • Additional Costs: When it comes to providing incentives, additional costs occur in time and money. These costs include getting and distributing these rewards. Determine the number of prizes you can hand out, and once it reaches the limit, stop the survey. In sweepstakes and lotteries, have a legal team on board to draft terms and conditions. Make sure to mention them clearly in your survey.
  • Mode of Delivery: The survey incentive should be easy to redeem for the respondent. In this regard, it is easy and convenient to send gift cards and coupons through email.
  • Target Audience: Primary market research is essential to ascertain your target audience. This is important to discover those incentives that are of value to the majority of your target audience. For example, research suggests that monetary incentives are the most effective. On the other hand, gift cards and discount coupons are also easy to distribute quickly.
  • Response Quality Checks: Some respondents may try to take your survey more than once to get more incentives. Ensure that your online survey software can detect duplicate responses or has a similar feature that restricts users from retaking them.
  • Automated Incentive Management: Avoid going old school by using Excel to manage and track rewards. Online survey platforms like SurveySparrow can integrate with Rybbon, a digital rewards platform. So for each survey you create, there is an option to automate the incentive management process.

Automate your rewards management and track the rewards given.

Wrapping Up

According to research, the average survey response rate falls around 10-30%. However, some people are hesitant about taking surveys, and survey incentives are that extra nudge they need to complete the survey. By doing this, you acknowledge that people’s time is valuable.

In addition to boosting response rates, studies also conclude that it improves the chances of follow-ups and clarifications.

The possibilities are endless, but you need to be cautious that no survey bias exists in your results. There are many pros and cons associated with this approach, but careful planning and the right kind of rewards for the right audience can ensure that your survey incentive program is successful.

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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