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How to incentivise participants to get the most from your user testing or research

By Jess Lewes

Business Development Director

Published:

People for Research recruit participants for UX, user testing, and market research, and as a result we know why it is so important to offer an appropriate incentive, in order to get the most from your user testing or research.

In this blog, we will explain why it is important to appropriately incentivise your participants, and well as offering advice on how to work out what is appropriate for your participants – along with other important information on protecting both your testing and your reputation.

What is an incentive?

According to the Market Research Society, an incentive is “any benefit offered to participants to encourage participation in a project.” Typically an incentive comes in the form of cash or vouchers.

Why should I incentivise participants? 

It is essential to offer an incentive to your participants, and if you are unsure why, take a moment to consider what the participant is putting in;

1. Time invested in applying and being screened for suitability
2. Travelling to the testing or research session
3. Participation in the session

A participant’s time is precious – and they are choosing to give it up to benefit you or your client.

Clients often ask if it’s possible to provide vouchers or a discount on product in relation to the testing or research. This is something that we advise against, as it can be seen as a conflict of interest and may result in biased feedback, and it may not be of interest to all participants depending on whether they are already using that product or service or not.

Plus, the Market Research Society who are one of the main advisory bodies in the sector, advise against this in their code of conduct.

Above all of this, when recruiting participants for UX, user testing and research, the main reason for offering an appropriate incentive is that it attracts participants to come forward and spend time participating.

For good quality user testing or research, you need a good selection of suitable participants.

The right incentive will mean that you or your recruitment partner will have the luxury of being able to choose the best mix of participants to ensure a range of experiences and backgrounds are represented.

A cash or voucher incentive, should also protect against last minute drop outs, and further secure the interest of the participant. People for Research aim to recruit participants who have a genuine interest in participating in research projects, as well as helping to improve and make a difference to the world around them; participants like this may feel the need to go an extra mile, to show their gratitude for the honorarium.

What is an appropriate incentive?

The incentive should be enough to cover travel expenses, and the time spent in the session. We recommend a guide of around £1 per 1 minute of time required in the session, as follows;

45 minute – 1 hour = £40 – £60
1.5 hours = £60 – £90
2 hours = £120+

Some groups of participants may accept a lower incentive, depending on the nature of the research and what is required for them to participate. Whereas other groups of participants will require a higher incentive in order for them to feel adequately incentivised.

For example, many projects we have recruited for that require certain groups of professionals have offered incentives as high as £250 for a one-hour appointment.

There is a chance that offering an incentive which is too high, may also have an adverse effect, as it might attract people who just want the money and who do not have a sincere reason behind wishing to participate.

The ‘ideal’ incentive will vary from project to project and there are no definitive answers, but as experienced participant recruiters, the Team at People for Research are always happy to offer guidance. Also, if you are conducting regular user testing, you should regularly review the incentive amount you are offering.

Additional payments

Sometimes it is advisable to offer the compensation of travel costs as a separate payment – particularly if the project requires participants to travel from specific geographic locations to the venue where the testing or research is being carried out.

If the research or testing requires a pre-task (also refered to as homework) to be carried out, or if participants are being asked to bring something along with them (for example a tablet or other device) then it is also sensible to offer an additional sum to encourage participants to remember, and put in the additional effort if applicable.

Timeframe

Ideally participants should receive their incentive on the day: if this isn’t possible, then it is good practise, as per the UXPA code of conduct, to be clear and transparent about when you will pay them.

If it is not possible to give the incentive to the participant on the day, tell the participant when they will receive the incentive and make sure you stick to that promise. Otherwise you may jeopardise your reputation, or that of your client.


If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or info@peopleforresearch.co.uk.

jess lewesAbout the author: Jess Lewes is passionate about making research user-centred, and she is a source of knowledge for how to approach the recruitment process to get the best results for your UX research and testing. Jess is available to speak at your event, conference or company workshop.

About People for Research: We recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner with a number of end clients leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.

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