New survey: Market research goes global, yet incentive strategies lag

New survey: Market research goes global, yet incentive strategies lag

Market researchers increasingly target hard-to-reach and global audiences. Their incentive strategies and budgets need to evolve to keep up.

The industry had long clung to old-school payment methods — paper checks, plastic gift cards, and envelopes of cash. Covid compelled many organizations to seek a digital solution. But many still offer limited redemption methods and use time-consuming and manual processes.

In fact, only 42% of those we surveyed report using an incentive platform (like Tremendous or one of our competitors).  

Tremendous surveyed three dozen market research leaders, project managers, and recruiters at Quirk’s NYC 2022. (Naturally, we incentivized their participation with our product. We paid $20 for approximately 10 minutes of survey time.)

Here’s how some of the industry's top research firms approach incentives. Respondents include in-house teams (such as PepsiCo, Anthem, and H-E-B) and market research firms (including Forsta, IvyExec, and OvationMR).

Market research incentives are going up (particularly for international participants)

A graphic showing how 70% of market researchers increased their incentive payments by 18% on average in the last 2 years.

A vast majority of respondents (70%) raised their incentive budgets in the last two years. On average, payments increased roughly 18%.

Many cited inflation, COVID, and the need to pay more to recruit quality participants. The United States saw 7% inflation in 2021 and 8.5% this year (at the time of publication).

Others said they’re increasing incentives in line with “more internal demand for research.” In particular, global research in areas where “audiences are harder to reach.”

A chart showing that 66% of market researchers conduct international research.

Two-thirds of respondents conduct international research. Among them, half conduct research in more than 10 countries. As we note below, international research has been a particular pain point for researchers.

A graphic showing that 74% of those conducting international research intend to raise their incentive budgets for this target market — a strong signal that researchers aim to understand the buying habits of new groups of target customers.

Of the 66% of respondents conducting international research, 74% intend to increase their incentive budget in 2023.

Cash and charitable donations are on the rise

A chart showing that digital gift cards are the most popular way of paying participants for various types of market research.

When paying, market researchers (72%) prefer to send digital gift cards, and demand for digital cards is expected to stay strong. But researchers are increasingly interested in offering other options as well.

Only about 20% of respondents offer cash transfer payout options (like PayPal or Venmo). Half say they intend to offer these incentive options in the next two years.

The same pattern holds true for charitable donations. Only 17% offer it today, but 36% want to add the option. For instance, charitable donations might be effective at recruiting a C-suite executive (who isn't enticed by $100) or someone in an industry that can’t accept incentives (like the government). Without this type of incentive, these populations are hard to reach.

Meanwhile, researchers signal little or decreasing interest in physical incentives (cash, checks, and physical cards).

Market research incentive strategies are slow to adapt

Many of the participants piecemeal an incentive system together. For example, 44% of respondents rely on manually sending Amazon.com gift cards. Among other challenges, this approach creates huge headaches for cross-border incentives.

It’s no surprise, then, that manual process and scaling issues are a top pain point related to market research incentives.

A graphic showing the top paint points of market research incentives: No. 1: Manual processes and scaling issues

As budgets increase and research becomes increasingly more complex and global, solving these issues will become paramount.

A pie chart showing the breakdown of market research incentive budgets. 54% conduct market research with less than $50,000; 25% gather information with more than $100k.

For reference, a little more than half of the respondents manage annual budgets under $50k. One in ten manage budgets over $500k.

A chart showing the most important features market researchers want in an incentive platform. User-friendlieness, security and digital rewards are the top priorities.

When it comes to selecting an incentive provider, respondents show strong interest in something that just works.

User-friendly design is overwhelmingly the most important factor. But security, digital incentives, tracking, and cost were important to roughly half of those surveyed.

As research grows more complex and global, they must shift from a DIY approach to incentive strategies that scale.

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