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64% of researchers send Amazon gift cards as a research incentive, but should they?

By Mia Mishek|4 min read|Updated Feb 2, 2024

A pile of gift cards, including Amazon, Visa, and Doordash.

Market and UX researchers prefer compensating participants with Amazon gift cards. Despite its popularity with researchers, this might not be the incentive people actually want.

In 2023, we surveyed the attendees of our research incentive calculator launch. 

64% of the nearly 100 researchers said they send Amazon cards. Starbucks or Uber gift cards round out the top three options, with 54% of respondents saying they typically send gift cards to these specific retailers. 

These findings reveal a disconnect between what researchers send participants and what participants actually want

If not Amazon cards, then what?

In October 2023, we partnered with The Decision Lab to conduct conjoint analysis on over 3,000 data points to determine what incentive participants actually want

We found that, overwhelmingly, participants want money. They place the most value on digital cash transfers. This can come in the form of a Venmo payout, an ACH transfer, or a PayPal transfer, for example. 

The second-most valuable incentive in the eyes of participants is a Visa prepaid card. Participants see this incentive as being $9.76 less valuable than cash, but more valuable than an Amazon gift card, a gift card to a specific retailer, or a mailed check. 

Of course, researchers need to balance optimizing for what recipients want most against their own operational goals. 

If cash transfers are not a feasible option for your team, offering a choice of gift cards to specific retailers or Visa prepaid cards are more likely to satisfy participants than Amazon gift cards. 

While many researchers are missing the mark when it comes to what they send participants, there is a lot they’re getting right. 

Below, we’ll dive into the results of our survey and compare the predominant incentive strategies of researchers in 2023 against industry-wide best practices. 

Most researchers incentivize participants 

If you can, you should offer incentives to research participants. And most do. Almost all (97%) of the UX and market researchers we surveyed send some form of incentive.

Primarily, they’re sending digital incentives (77%). 

And that’s a good thing. Incentives increase your response rates by up to 19%, ensuring you can get your research done on time. 

They even have benefits to participant retention and quality. In one research review, Göritz (2006) found that material incentives promoted both higher survey responses and greater participant retention. 

Research budgets and the typical tech stack in 2023 

Incentive budgets varied between respondents. 

  • In 2023, 38% spending between $10,000 and $100,000 on incentives, and 29% spent less than $10,000. 

  • In 2024, 45% plan to spend between $10,000 and $100,000.

And the bulk of that budget is getting funneled through a recruitment platform. Most respondents (86%) use a recruitment platform that includes incentives. 

A quarter of those recruitment platforms have incentives that are powered by Tremendous, such as Great Question, RallyUXR, or User Interviews.

For respondents who use a recruitment platform that doesn’t include incentives, 65% of respondents said they use a separate incentive solution, such as Tremendous.

Most respondents (59%) who don't use a recruitment or incentive platform at all typically order gift cards directly from a brand, and 22% either mail incentives or send them via money transfer.

For those who don’t use a recruitment platform, their approach to distributing incentives differs.

  • Most (59%) order gift cards directly from a brand

  • Mailing incentives and physically handing out incentives are among the least popular options. 


Some key takeaways: 

  • 97% of our respondents are allowed to offer incentives, and offer mostly Amazon gift cards (64%) retailer gift cards (54%), or Visa prepaid cards (53%).

  • The majority of researchers send digital incentives (77%) over physical incentives (9%).

  • In 2023, 38% spent between $10,000 and $100,000 on incentives, while 29% of our respondents spent less than $10,000 on incentives.

Tremendous was the top incentive platform of choice (87%) among respondents. If you’re looking for a simpler way to send incentives, sign up and send your first incentive in minutes. Or, chat with our team to see how we can help you send incentives fast, free, and at scale. 

Published February 2, 2024

Updated February 2, 2024

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