It’s normal to pay participants when they help with research, and people should be compensated for their time. However, in some types of research and for some people, paying incentives isn’t appropriate. In this case, allowing participants to donate to charities. So, the incentives need to be appropriate to the participant’s background and personal circumstances.
It’s important to make sure participants can spend the incentive. Vouchers or gift cards for or a store that they can travel too easily or that they can use online. If recruiting from an international segment, then it’s vital to reward them for their time in their appropriate currency, and the rates should reflect their cost of living.
In the before-covid time, when we used to run in-person research, we’d pay actual cash and ask the participant to sign a receipt. As most interviews are now remote, there are alternatives like PayPal, Venmo and Xoom which supports sending incentives internationally. However, it will require support from finance teams as it maybe more difficult to audit and easier to abuse, so it doesn’t suit all companies.
For regular research, incentives payment platforms or services can be great once integrated into the teams' workflow. Ethnio, Tremendous, Tango and Rybbon are all highly recommended, they allow the recipient to choose from different options from gift cards to virtual prepaid Visa cards. And the recipient can also donate to charities for those who can't accept monetary compensation incentives. The gift cards are country specific, so the recipients get local vendors and currencies. However, experience may very outside the United States. Furthermore, Incentive payment platforms can be burdensome to set up and a domestic-based gift card vendor or amazon may serve better.
How much to pay
Typically, a research budget will determine the number of participants that can be recruited, but the rates in which to pay a participant will vary based on the type of research. If the session is moderated, the type of session activities from remote, in-person and site visits. Self moderated session, surveys, online tasks or diary studies vary in effort required and time participants need to commit.
Some segments can be hard to find or more niche. I once interviewed Healthcare consultants for a digital transformation of a private Healthcare organisation in the U.K. I had a list of all the consultants, but incentives to talk to us came at a cost. In turn, if time is important, then it’s also worth increasing the incentive.
It’s worth tailoring the rates that are offered based on the organisation type and size. I currently work for a Not-For profit, which allows for a slight deduction in the rates.
All of this context for incentives are incredibly important to help determine the amount for each incentive. Luckily Ethnio has a very useful calculator that recommends a starting point based on the activity, audience, organisation, brand, and timeline. However, you should totally test and adjust to your target participants.