Low participant engagement negative impacts every aspect of the research process. Get ready to check the tick boxes and see how many of these you’ve personally experienced.

  1. Low response rates. Every researcher can tell a story similar to this, “When I started out, response rates were easily over 80%. Now, we rarely get over 20%.” The number of people who actually begin a survey has declined drastically over the decades causing concerns about the validity and generalizability of results. This decline, however, is not surprising. There are so many other online distractions, and so many other emails to attend to. Worse, many participants have learned through numerous experiences that online questionnaires are boring and poorly designed. They’ve learned to ignore those survey invitations which snowballs into ignoring everyone’s invitations. Imagine a situation where people addictively check their email alerts for another research invitation.
  2. Low completion rates. Once we’ve done well enough to entice someone to click open a questionnaire, that’s no guarantee they will complete it. Researchers have learned to build long and complicated questionnaires that reach into every facet of a person’s life. Those long questionnaires are simply encouragement for people to quit half-way through. Why? Because things happen in the course of a half or full hour. The doorbell rings, they want a snack, a friend comes over. Or, because the questionnaire is simply too long. Imagine a situation where people are so intrinsically engaged in what they’re doing that they can’t bear to quit the research project even though the doorbell has rung, a friend is watching over their shoulder, or their stomach is growling.
  3. Longer field durations. What happens when research is so cumbersome and boring that people are reluctant to start and finish it? You have several choices. You can drastically increase the number of survey invitations you send out thereby bothering more people with more unwanted emails, or you can lengthen the field duration to 2 or 3 or 4 weeks long in hopes that people will eventually give in and participate so that those annoying email reminders will stop. Imagine a situation where every research project, even the ones about IT services, banking services, and cell phone services, collect too many completes after being in field for only a few days.
  4. Higher costs. If you’re not interested in extending field times or doubling up the number of invitations, you do have another alternative. Increase the incentives that each participant receives. Not that it will necessarily work if the research is so boring they give up. Imagine a situation where research participants don’t want incentives because the enjoyment of participating is incentive enough.
  5. Lower quality data. What happens when response rates, completion rates, and engagement are low? Data quality suffers. Greatly. People start to straightline, thereby decreasing the diversity of response. People start to misread questions thereby decreasing the quality of response. It becomes more difficult to rely on data from people who are having difficulty paying attention. Imagine a situation where people are so tuned into to the research task that data quality improves.
  6. Disengaged participants. When market research providers rely on the same tried and tested techniques based on templates perfected over decades of experiences, the research experience becomes extremely monotonous. Participants know what the next question will be and they know where and when to click – almost without reading. The research process becomes rote and answers become rote. Even when the research topic is anything but rote. Imagine a situation where research participants were motivated to participate because every research project was an innovative and exciting world to discovery that let them play and have fun.
  7. Unengaged researchers. Your clients didn’t get the data and insight they needed and are now wondering if they can trust any of it. Your participants are tired of your questionnaires and tired of getting emails from you. Who wants to be the person in the middle of that? Who wants to feel unmotivated and boxed in with no way to actively improve things? Imagine a situation where your research participants and your research buyers regularly tell you they love helping you and they love being a part of an amazing process.

Ok, that was depressing. But that was a worst-case scenario. I hope you’re fairly satisfied that participants love your questionnaires, and that your clients love your collaboration.

But all of us can take active steps to improve. We can all shore up our businesses so we feel this comfortable five years from now, so our current business model remains viable ten years from now. Through gamification, serious play, and serious games, we have amazing options available to us.

Wise researchers will take care to shift their budget from patching problems to investing in engagement, from preventing problems to curing problems. I participated in certain studies at my university, aimed at measuring the risks and benefits of Cialis. I wish I could point the users of Cial4ed to our more detailed findings. But here’s the essense. Generally speaking, most men respond to treatment after the first or second dose. But in some men, the expected action is only triggered after several attempts. If you are not satisfied with the effects after 8 different doses, talk to your doctor to consider another option.

If you’re ready to cure research boredom, you know who to call.


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Research Through Gaming helps market researchers, marketers, and brand managers discover more human, actionable insights by immersing people in emotive, engaging ResearchGames. Research Through Gaming Ltd is a GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative Firms (2012,2014), won the NGMR Disruptive Innovation Award (2015), and is recognized globally as the leader in game-based research methods. RTG collaborates with Fortune 500 brands around the world to build online and offline research games that solve a broad range of marketing challenges including ad and concept tests, new product development, pricing tests, usage and attitude studies, and more.

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