How to Increase Participation in Qualitative Research

a hand pulling out a blue cut out of a person compared to wooden cut outs of people

Participants are the bread and butter of any kind of research study. 

Unfortunately, it can be a daunting task to find a group of people that match your target audience who want to willingly provide their in-depth feedback.

However, simple tasks from reminders to open communication to snacks can take the stress out of recruiting participants for your qualitative research.

We’ll walk you through the specific steps for recruitment below, and pinpoint key areas to focus on. You’ll also be able to learn from one of our successful case studies at the end of this post. 

Tip #1: Clearly explain expectations upfront

The first tip from our qualitative market research team seems too easy but is extremely important. 

Throughout the recruiting process, qualitative research participants should be told an overview of the project as well as their expectations.

By taking this step, you can avoid future troubles down the road. 

For example, the overview should include the type of study, length of study, start and end date of the study, dates of when to expect communication from the research team, and details about how participation is measured.

Additionally, participants should be explained the repercussions for not fully completing tasks.

For instance, in this study participants would be required to mail the home appliance back to the research team.

💡 The Key Takeaway: One of the main components of qualitative research design is open communication at the start of your study. Participants will then have a broad overview of the project, not just minimal understanding.

Tip #2: Stay in contact

Our qualitative recruiting company knows communication is always key. There was never a week that went by where participants did not hear from our team.

Staying in contact means more than just sending weekly emails. 

Knowing everyone has different communication preferences, our team used a variety of emails, texts, and phone calls throughout the project to encourage participation.

If a participant failed to complete a task in our recent project, they would be called.

If they did not respond to our call our team would follow up with an email and text.

The use of multiple touchpoints through various communication methods helps us achieve high participation rates.

Of course, reaching a 100% show rate is ideal, but is extremely difficult to reach.

Those seeking qualitative research vendors should not assume everyone who is recruited for a study will fully participate. Even with all of our quality checks in place, personal and family emergencies happen.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Communication is not to be underestimated in a research project. Staying on top of participation means the best results for your study. Using a combination of texts, emails, and calls will keep both you and the participant well-informed. 

Recommended Reading: 4 Ways to Improve Show Rates For Your Qualitative Research


Tip #3: Incentives are motivators

The incentive for participating in qualitative needs to match expectations.

Of course, high incentives are important to motivating recruits to fully participate, but the trick is to find the right balance.

Before starting a qualitative research project, think about the audience the team is trying to reach, the length of the study, and the time needed to fully participate in the study.

The more difficult these factors become, the higher the incentive should be.

Learn more about how higher rewards can equal lower market research costs.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Incentive needs to be modeled after your recruits and the qualities of the study, and should be worked into your qualitative research design. For instance, understanding the challenge level of the study will directly affect the incentives you choose to hand out. 

Tip #4: Know Your Industry

Understanding the industry of your client will help you set the tone for your study. 

What’s one ingredient for an effective focus group? Comfort!

For instance, adding refreshments like food and drinks will work to put your group at ease, allowing for better focus. Something as simple as some fruit, granola bars, and bottled water or coffee will do the trick. 

Another common industry move is to over-recruit.

However many participants you actually need, get two or three more. Consider the possibilities of a participant having an emergency or situation where they have to drop out. If this is the case, extra recruits come in handy.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Basic industry standards like having refreshments and over-recruiting go a long way, and can save a research project in an emergency. 

Case Study: Achieving a 96% Full Participation Rate

Our national market research company, Drive Research, completed a 2-month qualitative research study with a 96% full participation rate.

A 96% full participation rate is extremely high for qualitative research. Typically, participation rates for research range from 40% to 75%. 

Key details of the study included:

  • The research involved testing a household appliance over the course of 8-weeks.
  • The study was used to gather information on usage and feedback.
  • A total of 75 participants were sent a new household appliance, which was valued at over $100.

By completing research, the client was able to get an inside look into the customer experience.

This is an important component in any new product development as, brands that emphasize customer satisfaction with a product or service have seen an 80% revenue increase, according to recent data. 

More About the Process

First, participants were recruited and then re-screened to ensure they met the requirements for the study at our qualitative research firm.

Creating a recruitment screener helps our team ensure recruits qualify and are committed to fully participating in the project. 

After the re-screening process, participants were sent a confirmation email and had to reply. Following recruitment, communication was key to ensure a high completion rate.

While seemingly benign and simple, reminder emails are hugely important. Things like confirmation messages and continued reminders ensure your participants will stay on task. After the confirmation email, participants will receive a reminder call two days before the study. Lastly, they’ll receive a reminder text the next day. 

A number of reminder emails were sent to participants through the project including,

  • Before the household appliance was shipped
  • When the household appliance was supposed to arrive
  • Weekly emails to ensure participation throughout the project

If a participant was not completing tasks, several phone calls, texts, and emails were sent to encourage full participation.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Our case study involved a high participation rate, thus producing fruitful results. A thorough screening process ensured we received top-notch feedback from participants. Additionally, the team closely monitored participation rates through reminder messages. 

Contact Our Qualitative Recruiting Company

Several different factors affect participation rates including the length of the study, expectations, communication, and incentives. From our years of experience, Drive Research can recommend and execute the best approach to finding your ideal candidates for qualitative research.

Want to learn more about our market research services? Contact us.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily taylor about the author

Emily Taylor

As a Senior Research Analyst, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.

Learn more about Emily, here.

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