The benefits and drawbacks of the receipt-based Walmart survey

Where would you go to buy a bicycle? A razor? Or the fresh pair of cowboy boots you like to wear at local rodeos?

For many of you, the answer to each of these items is Walmart. The retail giant has come to dominate the shopping landscape, whether it be online, in-store, domestic, or international. Walmart’s earning reflect its market dominance. The company nearly earns 500 billion dollars per year with over 140 million customers a week—in the U.S. alone!

So how does a company with thousands of stores, millions of in-store employees and hundreds of millions of customers gauge customer satisfaction?

In short-by incentivizing its customers to take a survey following a recent purchase.

What does their incentive look like? How can it improve? Is it working for them? If these are questions you’re curious to know the answer to, you’ve come to the right place!

Curious to learn about the different survey incentive options you can use and when to choose one over another? Learn what one of our survey methodologists has to say. Read now→

What the Walmart survey is all about

Do you have your most recent Walmart receipt on hand?

Why? That’s where you can find the Walmart survey the company uses for tracking its customers’ satisfaction. On the front side, you’ll see small text at the top that introduces it. Now look at the back, you’ll find instructions on how to take the survey and what the terms are in more depth.

In case you don’t have the receipt on you, here’s how Walmart incentivizes customers to take the survey:

They offer 755 individuals a chance to win a gift card to their store. 750 of these individuals are awarded $100 while a lucky 5 win a $1000 gift card. The winners are selected on a quarterly cadence and only adults—ages 18 and over— whose a permanent resident of one the 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia can take it. It’s also worth mentioning that the survey’s estimated time to complete is 10 minutes and the customer has to take the survey within a week of their purchase in order to be eligible for the prize.

Drawbacks to the Walmart survey incentive model

There are numerous ways to incentivize your respondents to take your survey. Walmart chose a common tactic, known as the sweepstakes or raffle incentive.

Despite the potential value and effectiveness in using this type of incentive, there are several drawbacks:

  • The costs in participating heavily outweigh the benefits. The benefit in this case is receiving a gift card while the cost is your respondent’s time.

Since the gift cards are awarded to a tiny fraction of respondents—755 out of potentially hundreds of millions every quarter—the expected value from taking the survey is significantly lower than the cost of 10 minutes of their time.

  • Providing a giftcard is less valuable than cash. Gift cards force your respondent to shop at your store while preventing them from using it in potentially more desirable ways—such as putting it into their savings account or shopping at other stores.

Through experiments in the Science of Web Surveys, the authors found that all else equal, recipients are more likely to respond to your survey if the award comes in the form of cash over alternative forms of compensation.

  • The prizes are awarded too infrequently. People are often impatient and favor the present over future consumption—a term academics coined “Delayed Discounted.” As a result, giving an award further out in the future—in this case, every 90 days—weakens its value and influence over respondents.   
  • Difficulty in learning about the survey. As Walmart’s sales are still primarily store driven, promoting their survey offline is crucial. At the moment, the only offline place you can find out about the Walmart survey is through receipts, giving it insufficient visibility.

Why it still works for Walmart

Despite all this, Walmart doesn’t seem to be in a rush to make any changes. On the contrary, by looking at the history of their quarterly winners, you’ll find that the number has decreased from either 5 or 6 individuals in a given quarter to consistently 5 who receive the $1000 gift card.    

Why is the incentive for the Walmart survey staying consistent?

It’s impossible to know for sure, but here are a few possible explanations:

  • Given their scale, they may only need a small fraction of customers to participate in order to reach a satisfactory sample size.
  • Based on previous feedback and company performance, they don’t see a need to collect more responses.
  • Their team lacks the resources internally to review and act on a significant number of responses.
  • They are targeting feedback from their lowest income customers—an unlikely reason I’ll admit.

How to effectively structure a sweepstakes incentive

Sweepstakes incentives can still be a great choice for your survey. After all, they’re more affordable than direct compensation and can improve your response rate.

Here are a few takeaways on how to create and promote your sweepstakes incentive more effectively:

1) Know who your desired audience is and budget your incentive amount accordingly. Are they university students? Surgeons? As the former earns a much lower income, the value of their time is lower than that of surgeons, allowing you to offer less money towards their incentive.

2) Make sure customers are aware of your survey. Are there clear, prominent areas both online and offline where they can find out about the survey? Is it in big font at the heart of the receipt? Can you include a short description of it on a sign by your door? Could you promote it on a billboard—may be a bit overly ambitious but why not?! Wherever customers look, is a chance to bring it to light.

3) Lengthen the deadline for taking it. A week may be too short for many shoppers. They’re humans after all and let’s face it, taking a survey may not be their priority. That’s ok. Next time they get a reminder about your survey or remember it on their own, let them take it there and then.

4) Offer direct cash in the sweepstakes award. Let them decide how to spend their money! It’s in the best interest of your customers and will improve your response rate.

Now that you’ve finished reading this article, check-out your other receipts and see if they offer any surveys with big sweepstake winning potential!