Up until the 20th century, buying and selling was simple. Businesses were largely local which allowed for a close relationship between suppliers and consumers. Competition was non-existent and the opinion of consumers was felt to be irrelevant.
The rapid advancements during the Industrial Revolution quickly changed business operations from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Early marketing students had been educated as economists, schooled in the principle that demand was relevant to purchasing power. However, it became apparent that demand was much more complex than the financial ability to buy and that desire had become a factor in business.
New concepts in advertising proved that purchasing desires could be magnified and shaped by elements beyond mere availability of products. Extended markets allowed greater production of goods and transportation options quickly taught businesses that they needed to know specifics about customers to be able to compete.
With the modern marketplace being fiercely competitive, companies today have a greater demand than ever to monitor the pulse of consumers. However, the busy lifestyles of consumers in general made it more difficult for companies to engage people in telephone and direct mail surveys. Consumers perceived that they were being given a sales-pitch versus participating in independent research. And who has time for that?
The Internet age introduced easy access to consumers for marketing researchers. They could reach both general consumers and business consumers easily by posting their surveys online; however, there was still the issue of enticing people to take the time to participate.
Over the years, consumer science and market research have evolved collectively into a finely-honed craft. Companies spend over $250B globally in an effort to convince people to buy their products and services. Of that amount, over $750M goes for market research alone.
Being the savvy bunch that they are, marketing researchers finally grasped the concept of offering consumers something of value in return for their time and participation versus asking people to participate just for the sake of offering their opinions to help businesses in tailoring their products and services. To meet their own ever increasing demands for consumer information they began offering various incentives in exchange for time.
Consumer survey incentives range from entry into drawings for cash prices, points awards that can be accumulated and redeemed for merchandise and even cash payments to participants. Specialized surveys for professionals such as those in the IT industry often pay quite well. Researchers also pay consumers to participate in paid survey customized studies through which they can learn about their perceptions of specific products and/or services.