Using Games to Engage Respondents

Understand the Psychological Effects of Gamification in Surveys

People taking a survey
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Consumers do not typically find survey-taking a personally valuable activity. But the more that a market researcher can make the process entertaining, the more it is possible to delight and engage the respondents. From there, it is an easy jump to say that the more engaged and happy the respondent, the better quality the consumer input will be in the survey.

Bill MacElroy of Socratic Technologies asserts that people are more likely to repeat their participation in future surveys if the experience has been engaging or particularly entertaining.

Fostering engagement requires consideration by market researchers of both intrinsic and extrinsic qualities.

Engagement is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when the mind is highly focused on a specific task or activity. A state of focus can be elicited through interesting, important, fun, novel, or challenging qualities or activities. The market researcher can take steps to make surveys research entertaining to respondents without letting the requirements of good research slip. Below, are descriptions of the characteristics of online tasks and activities that MacElroy argues can actually drive focus.


In a game of concentration in which consumers attempt to match identical images, successful matches evoke pleasurable experiences in the respondents. To make the game more interesting and novel, the surveys can use techniques such as blur tests – with a slow reveal of the images to be considered in the match rounds.

These techniques require only a simple interface in digital environments. Consumers can happily engage in a game of recognition or challenge their associative memory as they participate in the survey's research.


In this surveys game, consumers are asked to find the images of things that don’t fit.

The specific techniques commonly used in this survey strategy include: Rapid viewing of mnemonics (which are applicable to shelf impact questions) and collage building wherein respondents play with the brand by adding images that represent feelings.

Sorting and Matching 

Consumers gather or sort into images or items into sets in this surveys research strategy. One technique focuses on sorting and reaction speed. In this technique, attributes are shown to the respondents, but the goal is to get top-of-mind, instantaneous reactions from consumers. As a result, respondents are not given as much time to think about their sorting and matching as they are when they engage in the game of concentration.

Learning and Exploration

This game approach uses clutter books, which are attractive constructions using ample colorful images and script, to conduct the survey's research. Clutter books are designed to entertain and intrigue. New concepts are introduced to respondents that require consumers to think about what is shown and respond. A similar technique, read and react, is helpful in catalogs, brochures, and other image dense collateral where the market researcher’s goal is to identify the most appealing content in materials with a lot of clutter.

Problem Solving

It is important that market researchers remember that only certain portions of the general population like puzzles and problem-solving activities. To those consumers who do find challenging puzzles and problem-solving activities fun, these can be compelling techniques that respondent may look forward to, thereby making them more agreeable about responding to similar surveys in the future.

Manual Skills and Direct Involvement

Many people like to be involved in hands-on experiences and, even though it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, this is a viable form of surveys research. Market researchers can us participatory research to attract surveys research responders. One technique is to use a dial that people can turn or otherwise manipulate. A dial or a slider mechanism can produce a second-by-second, real-time rating of something experienced by the audience or the respondent.

This technique has been found to be especially effective when used with commercials.

Creative Construction

This strategy is an iterative process that builds structure and takes a particular form. For people who enjoy putting things together in different ways – market researchers label these people configurators – high-level satisfaction is the result of participating in a survey process that results in tangible outcomes. Survey respondents engage in a step-by-step decision-making that shows the results of their choices as they progress through the exercise. While market researchers could accomplish these tasks through discrete choice, the content of this exercise is much more fun. This technique is a good way to look segmentation from a different perspective, and the tangible outcomes are highly motivational to respondents.

Games of Chance

This strategy is basically a The Price is Right game. Consumer choices result in a rating or score that typically generates an exclusionary focus in which the choices respondents can make are progressively limited. Guessing games are not appreciated by everyone, but a fairly large proportion of the general population enjoys participating in these activities.

Market researchers can apply many of these strategies to their surveys research, experimenting in pilot studies with little initial cost.