How Much Should You Pay Participants in Market Research?

For those new to market research, how much to pay market research participants is probably one of, if not the most common question asked to our market research company.

If you are reading case studies online, you are likely finding a wide array of reward amounts likely ranging from $5 gift cards to $500 checks. That is probably not helpful for your specific project.

So how much should you pay market research participants? Unfortunately, the appropriate amount to pay market research participants depends on several factors. We’ll walk you through these factors below to help you understand if you should pay more to participants or less.

how much should you pay market research participants?

Having trouble deciding how much you should pay market research participants? Here are the questions you need to ask your project team to help you decide. 


What type of market research are you doing?

The first question is, what methodology are you using?

If you are conducting an online survey with customers...

If you are conducting a customer satisfaction survey may not always be necessary to offer a reward if your list is large enough. In this case, even if the response rate is low, you will still obtain enough responses to make it reliable.

However, we always recommend at least some incentive for your customers as a thank you for their time and feedback. This could be something as simple as raffling off a package, tickets, or three gift cards for $100 each.

If you are conducting a survey with non-customers...

When surveying non-customers or those who do not have any relationship with your organization, a reward is necessary. If you are leveraging an online panel, the company will manage the incentives on your behalf. This is typically a point system, where each respondent earns points for completing your survey.

However, if you are running the survey through paid social media advertisements, a raffle incentive or pay per response is necessary.

If you are conducting a qualitative market research study...

Qualitative market research such as focus groups, mobile ethnography, or in-depth interviews (IDIs) is a different story. These require much larger payouts for each participant.

Much of this is dependent on the type of activities you are doing and the length of the study. Typically these types of qualitative market research studies pay $50, $75, or $100 or more to participants.

Offering a higher incentive or reward can lead to lower recruitment costs. Here's why.


Are you targeting a consumer audience or business audience?

Is your market research being conducted with a consumer or business audience? A business audience will always be more expensive because it is a more demanding audience to find and reach.

With B2B market research, you are paying for the expertise or experience in the sector you are researching. If you are conducting qualitative market research with business audiences, you likely want to start at $100 or $125 as a minimum. Audiences such as doctors or C-level roles will likely require upwards of $250 to $300 or more for them to participate in an in-depth interview (IDI) or focus group.


Where are you hosting the market research?

There are two different hosting aspects of market research which impact payouts: (1) the methodology you are hosting (i.e., online focus groups versus in-person focus groups) and (2) the market or geography the research is being conducted.

If the market research is being conducted through online or phone methodologies, you can likely pay a little less than usual because there is no additional travel or time required to get to a facility. If you are conducting in-person, you need to pay the participant for this time and travel.

In terms of markets, be aware of income and salary levels of different geographies. If you are hosting groups in Upstate New York (Syracuse), you can reward consumers and businesses audiences less than if you were conducting the groups in New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.


How long is the time commitment?

It will impact the reward payout for both qualitative and quantitative market research. For qualitative, you will need to pay more for a 2-hour session than a 60-minute session. Similarly, for a survey, you will need to offer a more extensive raffle or pay more in rewards for a 20-minute study than a 5-minute.

As a general range, aim for at least $1 to $2 per minute for qualitative as the baseline.

For example, a 90-minute focus group in Syracuse, NY, will likely start at a reward of $75 to $100 for consumers. Whereas, if that focus group was conducted in New York City, you’d probably want to bump this to $100 to $125 at a minimum.


Are you asking the participants to do anything extra?

Beyond just the time to participate in the focus group, in-depth interview (IDI), or mobile ethnography exercise, are you asking them to do anything additional?

Do you need them to complete a homework activity?

Do you need them to bring in photos?

If your qualitative market research involves other work beyond just the time for the group or interview, you will need to pay a little extra to account for the time and work.


What are some examples of market research rewards?

Below are some ballpark ranges for types of studies in different locations across the U.S. Read these with a grain of salt. Every project is unique in some fashion that will impact the reward. However, these are intended to serve as a general range or estimate to help you.

  • 90-minute focus group discussion in Syracuse with consumers: $75 to $100
  • 2-hour focus group discussion in New York City with consumers: $100 to $150
  • 60-minute phone interview with primary care physicians (PCP) in the U.S.: $300
  • 60-minute web interview with CEOs of businesses with 100+ employees in the U.S.: $300 to $500
  • 30-minute shop-along with grocery consumers in Los Angeles: $75 to $100
  • 10-minute online survey with customers: raffle of $300 to $500 giveaway, or pay per complete
  • 30-minute mobile ethnography with new laptop shoppers in the U.S.: $75 to $100
  • 60-minute in-person interview with financial advisors in Minneapolis: $200 to $300

Contact Our Market Research Company

Need help with your survey, focus group, or research interviews? Contact our market research company for a proposal or quote to learn more about our process, timeline, and fees. One of our four core values is responsiveness so we will get back to you shortly after you send us your request.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

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