The online survey is one of the most effective and straightforward tools for gaining quantitative information, as well as one of the most common methods for doing consumer research. In a lot ways, online surveys have become the gold standard of market research due to their generally inexpensive cost relative to the ease of reaching target audiences. However, while researchers and marketers find survey results incredible useful, respondents may find taking them quite tedious. Because of the nature of surveys, which can often be long, cumbersome and repetitive, while requiring quite a bit of reading from the respondent it’s possible that respondents aren’t taking the necessary time to give the quality answers we would hope they do.

To create a more highly engaging survey experience, some researchers have begun to take a cue from gamification in online research design. The Gamification Research Network says “Gamification primarily aims at increasing users’ positive motivations towards given activities or use of technology, and thereby, increase[es] the quantity and quality of the output of the given activities.”

Using this definition, we assume that using gamification in survey-taking will positively motivate respondents and will increase the quantity and quality of the answers. But they key question is, what can we as researchers learn from gamification in other areas of marketing that will benefit both the survey taker and the results? And how do we implement them without increasing the cost of doing research?

Well, research gamification is already on the radar for many in the research industry. In the 2016 GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report, research gamification is mentioned as a niche method of market research that is gaining steam. In the report, 25% stated that it’s a method already in use, 29% stated the method was under consideration, with 53% total interest. Looking to the future, we can hone in on some market researchers that have put research gamification to the test and have discovered positive outcomes.


For example, in 2012 market research group, Engage Research, conducted studies on gamification research. What they found was a higher rate of interaction, and more well-rounded responses from their respondents.Engage Research discovered that they didn’t have to design a game in order to gamify the online survey, or to see a higher quality and quantity of responses, thus not requiring them to increase cost. Simply by changing the way questions are asked by using a little bit of creativity, Engage Research was able to improve engagement.

Deborah Sleep from Engage Research says of the study in a 2012 article in the Guardian, “We asked respondents how much they liked a list of music acts presented to them. Typically, this yielded a list of 83 artists who were evaluated – not bad. However, when we asked them to imagine they owned their own radio station and asked which of the artists they would put on their station’s playlist, respondents seemed willing to spend longer deliberating and the average number of artists evaluated rose to 148.”

Engage Research also experimented with timed responses, labeling exercises, and reward systems. In every scenario, the researchers saw, “consistently high completion rates and enjoyment scores; respondents willingly spending significantly more time answering, and a greater quantity and quality of response to our gamified questions.”

The moral of the story is that the engaging nature of gamification research prompts respondents to spend more time on each question, and challenges them to dig deeper. The result is higher quality responses while engaging a higher quantity of respondents.  

For over a decade, the social research platform C Space (formerly Communispace) has used a social angle to engage their respondents in deeper insights. In many ways, they pioneered the use of gamification when used for research, asking groups of respondents to remain engaged more deeply with brands in a closed social network for a specific period of time (anywhere from a few days to a few months to consistently over the years). One way they have done this is by asking respondents to upload pictures or videos during parts of their day that may be relevant to the brand (think, while doing chores like cleaning or washing clothing), and the respondents are rewarded with points they can redeem for gift cards online.

The possibilities of gamification in market research and in other areas are just beginning to surface. But what is clear is that many people are starting to see gamification as the way of the future. In an online, opt-in survey by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, 53% of respondents agreed with the following statement statement:

“By 2020, there will have been significant advances in the adoption and use of gamification. It will be making waves on the communications scene and will have been implemented in many new ways for education, health, work, and other aspects of human connection and it will play a role in the everyday activities of many of the people who are actively using communications networks in their daily lives.”

Gamification has already  entered many parts of  our online lives. For example, social media networks reward us with social approval in the form of “likes,” “shares,” or “comments.” The psychology of gamification is undeniable; everyone likes to be rewarded. By taking this approach to market research and rewarding and challenging respondents, market researchers may begin to see more thorough responses, leading to deeper insights within their target audience.

If you’d like to learn more about gamification or any other method of consumer market research, contact us using the box below.

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