Use Gamification to Ensure that your Respondents Feel Engaged, Not Caged

JULY 8, 2015

Use Gamification to Ensure that your Respondents Feel Engaged, Not Caged, in your Qualitative Research Sessions



By Gail Ritacco, Product Ventures VP Consumer and Market Research

It’s not news that respondent engagement and enthusiasm are crucial to obtaining actionable insights from qualitative research. All too often, however, researchers blame unproductive groups on “low-quality” respondents, rather than on the structure of the research itself. The moderator thus begins each group unsure of whether they’ve lucked out and gotten a group of all-stars, where the room is alive and vibrant, with energized respondents effortlessly putting forth a free discussion flow - or, whether they’ll have a sea of blank faces to keep them company for the next two hours.  

By structuring research sessions that put as much thought into keeping respondents engaged as into which questions to ask, researchers can avoid the dreaded motivational “black hole” of disinterested respondents and garner the high-quality insights that only emerge from an energized, fully-engaged room.  


Gamification is a technique being used increasingly by Market Researchers to do just that.  A methodology that involves the application of game elements to non-game contexts (e.g., focus groups), gamification has become a popular buzzword in the industry as researchers scramble to find a solution to this growing respondent engagement problem. Despite being relatively new, it has already proved to be an effective approach for motivating respondents and elevating overall data quality.

One way to “game-ify” your qualitative research is to go beyond simple questioning and include exercises that tap into natural human motivators, such as the desire for competition, cooperation, learning, or reward. For example, instead of simply asking how much respondents would be willing to pay for a given product, consider creating an “auction” exercise where respondents must outbid each other in order to “win” the product they desire most. If implemented correctly, you will find that activities like these can inject a burst of energy into a tired group and also help to garner insights that simply wouldn’t come out otherwise.

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that gamification does not mean simply playing games during a research session. It means creating carefully-constructed exercises that are designed to engage and motivate respondents using techniques adapted from games, while still keeping the ultimate research objectives at the forefront.

What issues have you had with respondent engagement during qualitative research sessions? What are some techniques that you’ve used to try to keep respondents motivated and talking? Please share your experiences and insights in the comment section below!