Not all research is compiled by businesses on their customers. Often students are the subject of both market research and scientific research, as the sample is easily available. Yet students, like all groups, need to be incentivized if they are going to be expected to take the time to fill out the survey.
Guessing what will incentivize college students is simple. Most likely they want money, or at least some form of a prize that will help them get through their college life. Yet you may not need to guess what college students want. In some cases, others have already completed the study for you.
What the UC Davis Study Found
The survey conducted at the University of California – Davis found that students took a fairly balanced approach to the type of prize they wanted. None wanted a meaningless $1.00 token prize, nor did any of them want a 1 in 1000 chance to win a $350 gift. Most wanted a fairly good chance at winning something not insignificant, and the most common option chosen was the 1 in 30 chance of winning the $30 gift, followed by the 1 in 15 chance of winning a $5.00 gift.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. College students understand the odds of winning a prize at 1 in 1000 and don’t like their odds, but they also don’t like the idea of getting something that is essentially worthless (a $1 prize). They preferred the more balanced option, trading risk for reward, while not avoiding risk altogether.
The research itself is nowhere near groundbreaking, but it does help pinpoint the mindset of college students for those that need to conduct research on that sample and have a small incentive budget. It also brings into question the level of research that is being conducted by businesses that use traditional incentives for their own market research needs. So many marketers today tend to use the “enter for a chance to win $XXXX” approach where the odds of winning are astronomically low. One wonders if that is the most effective approach for getting respondents, as the University study shows that people like the idea of winning something more than a high likelihood of winning nothing.
Still, the research on the UC Davis students was not mean to be conclusive. Only to highlight the mindset of students when it comes to the incentives you need to reach them.