How the right feedback incentive will increase engagement in your customer experience management program + drive business outcomes

Reuben James | Feb 10, 2021 Reuben James 02/10/21

Great insights start with great feedback—and great feedback depends on a healthy sample of responses. But as much as we’d love for customers to offer abundant, thorough, and honest feedback purely out of the goodness of their hearts—we know that’s not always the reality.

Customers need a little encouragement to provide feedback, which is why choosing the right incentive is a key element to the success of your customer experience program.

Why incentives matter

When we asked customers what motivated them to complete a survey, the majority said incentive, followed by experience. Since experience is the second highest motivator, that means many of your responses come from a superior—or terrible—experience with your brand. By offering incentives, you get more feedback from the less polarized respondents.


Still on the fence? Here are some additional benefits of a strong incentive:

  • Drive additional revenue – The right incentive—more specifically, one with a minimum purchase requirement—will increase the number of items purchased when the customer visits next.
  • Shorten the time between customer visits Our research shows that incentives shorten the time to return and can lead to two extra visits per year. On average, customers will return 3.5 days sooner when they take an incentive-based survey.
  • Increase survey responses Surveys distributed via email and with bounce-back incentives have 70% more responses than those collected through POS invitations with a sweepstakes offer.
  • Save respondents time On average, surveys with a bounce-back incentive take 70 seconds less than surveys with a sweepstakes, helping drive higher completion rates.

How to choose the right incentive

There are a number of common incentives to explore—dollars off, free item, percent off, BOGO, sweepstakes, and loyalty points. The effectiveness of an incentive can depend on your industry. Here are some things to consider.

Does your incentive:

  • Appeal to the majority of your customers?
  • Increase typical return visit cycles?
  • Make it easy for the front line to execute?
  • Stand out as different from other brand promotions?

If any of these questions lead to more questions, it’s worth re-evaluating your incentive. Understanding your industry, brand, and customers is the best place to start. Consider the chart below. Our research has shown that the most-preferred incentive method varies by industry.


Beyond this, sweepstakes can also be effective if the prizes are “stacked.” That means offering smaller, more frequent prize drawings in combination with a larger grand prize. Smaller prizes tend to feel more attainable for customers and encourage more responses.

Incentive success stories

Next let’s take a look at some in-practice examples of brands evaluating and determining the right incentive for their business. SMG client Shell was able to increase its survey responses by 159% after making small strategic shifts to its experience management program. These tweaks included testing incentives that encouraged repeat visits (i.e., discount vouchers and loyalty points). This not only drove program engagement, but improved completion rates and increased Overall Satisfaction.

Another SMG client experimented with offerings and learned different incentives inspired different purchases. Their customers buy on average 5 products when redeeming their high-value free item with a purchase—and the additional items purchased vary based on what the high-value free item is. This allowed them to select an incentive that not only maximized quality responses, but also drove purchase of additional higher-margin products.

And by testing a variety of incentives across regions, another SMG client was able to determine that a higher-value free item with a purchase led to stronger sales than a less-expensive free item without a purchase. This shifted their incentive-based survey program from a loss to a revenue-driver.

Does your incentive pass the test?

Incentives encourage more customer responses for your feedback program—but not all incentives are created equal. SMG works with our clients to determine the best incentive for their business and individual touchpoints—taking into account each brand’s approach to discounting, incentive redemption capabilities, and our prior experience with incentives.

To learn more about how SMG can help you collect better customer feedback to gain better insights, please reach out.

Reuben James, M.S. | Associate Director, Client Success
Customer Experience Update