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September 27, 2023
4 participant recruiting methods, 10 tools, dozens of fresh insights. Find out how much ROI you can get from popular UX research tools.
Using the formulas above, we analyzed the cost of 4 different recruiting methods (User Interviews, DIY, agencies, and other recruiting tools), depending on how many participants a user is looking to recruit on a monthly basis.
Here’s what we learned 👇
Take a look at the chart below. You’ll see that the cost of recruiting 5 to 10 participants is somewhat similar, regardless of which method you choose—but the cost rises sharply for all but User Interviews as the size of the recruit increases.
If you’re recruiting with an agency, it will cost you $7,037 on average (B2B + B2C) to recruit 50 participants. For 100 participants, you’re looking at $13,944. For 200 participants, a soaring $27,710 on average.
If you’re recruiting on your own, the average (B2B + B2C) cost of recruiting 50 participants comes out to $7,387. For 100 participants, you’re up for $14,774. And if you decided to recruit 200 participants on your own (😳), those user hours could add up to $29,548.
The average (B2B + B2C) monthly cost of recruiting with our leading competitors is $4,562 for 50 participants, $8,977 for 100, and $17,809 for 200 participants.
Meanwhile, with User Interviews, the monthly cost of recruiting 50 participants comes out to $2,102 (B2C+B2B), including the labor cost. For 100 participants, you’re looking at $3,757 on average; for 200, you can expect to pay $7,069.
In short, as the size of your recruit increases, you’d be spending thousands of dollars less with User Interviews than you would with an alternative solution.
Now let’s look at how this breaks down for B2C and B2B recruiting. (Remember that the cost includes labor cost of time spent actively recruiting).
Let’s say you need to recruit 20 B2B participants in an average month. With a competitor solution, you’re already looking at nearly $1,000 in extra recruiting costs compared to the amount you would pay with User Interviews. With an agency, you can expect to pay an additional $2,200 for the same recruit. And DIY-ing it could run you over $3,000 in extra costs.
The story is similar for B2C recruiting, although you’ll notice that the DIY approach fares better here in terms of ROI. Not great—but better.
That’s because recruiting general consumers is much less time consuming than trying to target by occupation or professional expertise—especially at scale. Still, you can expect to pay roughly $1,600 more for a 20-person B2C recruit than you would with User Interviews; for 100 participants, your additional cost may be over $16,000.
As your recruiting needs scale, DIY, agency, and competitor methods all offer diminishing returns.
Let’s say you need to recruit 20 B2B participants in a month. Making the switch from DIY recruiting to User Interviews results in an ROI of 258%. The comparative ROI increases to 292% for 50 participants, 335% for 100 participants, and so on. This isn’t too surprising since DIY recruiting is so expensive compared to most tools.
When switching from agency recruiting to User Interviews, the ROI for 20 B2B participants is 190%. For 50 B2B participants, you’re looking at an ROI of 209% compared to agency prices. For 100 participants, the ROI is 240%. As with DIY, the numbers just grow from there.
Compared to other recruiting solutions, User Interviews offers an ROI of 140% for 20 participants, 164% for 50 participants, and 194% for 100 participants per month.
The charts look similar for B2C recruiting 👇
✨The more research participants you need in a given month, the more money you’ll save with User Interviews compared to DIY, agency, or alternative tooling methods. ✨
Now let’s take a closer look at how User Interviews compares to each of these methods.
🧰 There’s so much UXR software on the market, it can be difficult to choose. Discover the tools your fellow researchers use in the 2023 UX Research Software Report (based on a survey of 900+ researchers!).
Research teams looking to recruit between 10 and 20 participants in a month can save an average of $713 for B2C recruiting and $719 for B2B recruiting with User Interviews compared to the average rates of leading competitors.
For 50 to 100 participants, research teams save an average of $3,773 for B2C recruiting and $4,013 for B2B recruiting with User Interviews compared to other self-serve tools.
Teams that do a lot of research (like, 200 qualitative participants per month), are looking at potential cost savings of over $11,000 for B2B and over $10,000 for B2C.
And the threshold for positive ROI starts with a single participant (on our PAYGO plan).
If you need 10 participants a month, User Interviews offers an ROI of 47% for B2C and 87% for B2B. ROI only grows as recruit size increases—for a monthly recruiting need of 300 participants, you’re looking at an ROI of between 142% (B2C) and 243% (B2B) when you use User Interviews instead of a competitor solution.
Unless you genuinely only need 4 or fewer B2C participants or just a single B2B participant, trying to handle recruiting on your own is just not the most economical or time efficient approach.
For 10 to 20 participants, research teams save an average of $659 for B2C recruiting and $2,245 for B2B recruiting with User Interviews compared to a DIY approach.
Teams that recruit between 50 and 100 participants per month can save an average of $4,141 for B2C recruiting and $12,281 for B2B recruiting with User Interviews, compared to recruiting on their own.
We genuinely don’t know why or how you would recruit 200 participants a month on your own. But if you did, you’d be paying between $16,376 (B2C) and $42,720 (B2B) for every month you were recruiting. That’s between $11,507 to $33,450 more than you’d pay with User Interviews.
With this method, the threshold for positive ROI starts at just 2 participants for B2B and 5 participants for B2C.
By the time you’ve recruited 10 participants in a month, you can expect an ROI of between 68% (B2C) to 168% (B2B). That number keeps growing as your recruit scales; for 300 participants you’re looking at a return on investment of 271% (B2C) to 408% (B2B).
Out of the three alternatives, switching from recruiting B2B participants on your own offers the highest average ROI of 345%.
With DIY recruiting, there’s no tooling cost (well, you may want to invest in a Calendly subscription and an espresso machine, but that’s another story). The cost of recruiting all boils down to the number of salaried hours it takes a user to recruit any given number of participants.
For 10 B2B participants, you can anticipate spending about 33 hours recruiting on your own. Compare that to the 2.5 hours you’d spend with User Interviews or the 2.5 hours with an agency and the downside of this method becomes obvious.
And if you plan to recruit 50 B2B participants in a month, you better not be planning to do anything else with your month—a 50-person B2B recruit will take you an estimated 165 hours on your own. With User Interviews, on the other hand, it would still only take about 3.5 hours.
💰How much is your time worth?
Say you’re a product manager looking to recruit 20 B2B participants for some continuous research.
Remember, the average no-show rate is 0.1, so you’ll need to recruit 10% more people than you actually need—so you actually want to recruit 22 participants. If we run with the assumption that each B2B recruit takes up to 3 hours, that means the entire process could take 66 hours—over a week of full-time work.
According to Glassdoor salary data for 9 US cities, the average hourly salary pay for a mid-career PM is $73.20. That means that those 66 user hours will cost you (well, your company) $4,831.
On the same PM salary, the actual cost of recruiting 20 B2B participants with User Interviews is just $870—or a cost savings of $3,961 and as much as 63 hours of work.
Recruiting with an agency can be more economical than DIY recruiting at scale, but it’s still much more expensive than User Interviews or similar self-serve options.
Teams that recruit 10 to 20 participants on a monthly basis will save an average of $1,242 for B2C recruiting and $1,677 for B2B recruiting with User Interviews, compared to recruiting agencies.
For larger recruits of 50 to 100 participants, research teams stand to save an average of $6,428 for B2C and $8,814 for B2B.
Making the switch from agency recruiting starts to yield a positive ROI from the very first recruit (roughly 30%).
Teams that need to recruit an average of 10 participants per month are looking at an ROI of between 127% (B2B) and 159% (B2C); for 20 participants, the ROI of recruiting with User Interviews over agencies is between 190% (B2B) and 240% (B2C).
For a 50-person recruit, User Interviews offers an ROI of 209% (B2B) to 283% (B2C) compared to a typical recruiting agency. For 100 participants, the ROI is between 240% (B2B) and 329% (B2C).
As with other methods, the returns scale with the volume of participants required—by the time your recruiting needs scale to 300 participants a month, User Interviews delivers an ROI between 294% (B2B) and 403% (B2C).
That’s an average ROI of 249% for B2B recruiting and 339% for B2C recruiting.
💸 See the cost savings for yourself. Sign up with a free account to make the switch to User Interviews today.
A solid recruiting solution is just one part of the user research toolkit.
The most basic UXR stack requires a video conferencing platform (for interviews), a whiteboard/prototyping tool (for prototype testing, scrappy card sorting, moderated studies), and a word document/spreadsheets (for notetaking and analysis). And a participant recruitment tool, of course.
But the more research you do, the more sophisticated your tools need to be. In addition to the tools mentioned above, a complete UXR toolkit will typically include a platform for running moderated, qualitative studies (like card sorting, prototype testing, and moderated usability tests) and one for unmoderated usability testing and surveys.
🗺️ Explore your options: Check out the 2022 UX Research Tools Map, a complete guide to the user research software landscape
Now, you might think that buying a single tool for all your research needs would be cheaper than multiple subscriptions—but in most cases, you’d be wrong.
As we found when we added up the costs for different tool stacks and compared them to an enterprise all-in-one platform, a modular toolkit of best-in-class recruiting and testing tools is not only a more flexible option, but can often be the more economical one as well.
Anyway, here’s how different UXR stacks stack up.
According to the 2022 State of User Research Report, the majority of UX research teams utilize multipurpose, collaborative tools like Miro, Figma, and Zoom. And you can do solid qualitative research using just these tools.
For example, User Interviews + Miro + Figma or User Interviews + Figma + Zoom offers:
The costs above are based on a single user of a free Zoom Basic plan, paired with a Miro Business plan ($16/ user/ month) and a Figma Professional plan ($12/ user/ month). Both tools offer a free version, but the limitations make them impractical for serious UX research.
The two stacks are more or less the same, pricing wise. Combined with User Interviews, either pairing would save you over $2,000 when researching with 5 participants, compared to an all-in-one panel. For a 20-participant recruit, you’re looking at a cost savings of over $7,600. Need 100 participants a month? Switching from an all-in-one could save you nearly $40,000.
Perhaps you’ve already got a Zoom subscription and a tool like Figma or Miro at your disposal—those costs aren’t a factor here and you’re just looking to suss out your options for a paired recruiting + testing solution.
Here’s what your cost savings could look like:
You’ll notice that the ROI of each stack peaks around 100 participants (per month) with an average ROI of 1366% (cost savings around $38 -40k per month — or $456,000 to $480,000 a year).
Assuming that the all-in-one platform offers a volume discount, we might expect this ROI to start diminishing with very large numbers of participants. If you need 300 qualitative participants a month (3600 per year), switching from an all-in-one will deliver a positive ROI of around “only” 600-700%.
By pairing User Interviews with Maze, you get:
Compared to a major all-in-one platform, and based on the rates above, you could save over $5,000 on a 10-participant study recruited through User Interviews. For 20 participants, you would save over $7,600. To research with 100 participants in a given month, your cost savings could be nearly $40,000—an ROI of 1466%.
Note: Maze pricing calculations are based on the most affordable subscription for your needs. If you’re recruiting 30 or fewer participants per month, you’ll probably do just fine on their free plan. Otherwise, we applied a flat rate of $75/month for their Professional tier for up to 180 participants per month, or an estimated $150/month for a custom, high-volume plan.
With User interviews + Optimal Workshop, you can do:
If you’re recruiting 10 participants each month, you can save over $4,800 compared to our all-in-one example alone. For 20 participants, the cost savings are over $7,400; for 50, over $14,600. With a monthly recruiting need of 100 participants, you’re looking at monthly cost savings of over $39,000 (1392% ROI).
Note: Optimal Workshop pricing is based on a flat rate of $208/month for a single user (for 3-5 users, $191/user/month; for 6-9 users, $174/user/month).
With User Interviews with Lookback, you get:
Plus, we integrate!
To recruit and conduct research with 5 participants on a monthly basis, this stack will save you over $2,100. For teams that do research with an average of 50 participants per month, the monthly cost savings of User Interviews + Lookback vs. our all-in-one example is $14,558 (800% ROI).
Note: Lookback pricing is based on the number of sessions you conduct per year. Their plans start at $25/month for 10 annual sessions—for an average of 5 per month, you’re better off with their $149/month plan (100 annual sessions). For recruiting and research needs that exceed the limits of their published pricing tiers, we estimated a $900/month cost for unlimited sessions.
With User interviews + Usability Hub, you get:
UsabilityHub bills itself as the “Swiss Army knife” of UXR tools—it’s a much more affordable “all-in-one” testing platform that lets you bring your own customers.
With an average monthly recruiting and research need of 10 participants, this tool pairing will save you nearly $5,000 a month. In the event that you’re looking to conduct user testing with 100 participants (recruited through User Interviews) on a monthly basis, you’re still looking at a cost savings of over $39,300 (1466% ROI) compared to our all-in-one example alone.
Note: UsabilityHub offers a free plan, but you’re limited to 2-minute tests with a maximum of 15 testers. We based our pricing calculations on their $75/month Basic plan, which comes with a 5-minute duration limit but no participant limitations. For $175/month, you can remove this time limit altogether.
To recruit and conduct research with 5 participants on a monthly basis, this stack will save you over $2,100. To talk to an average of 10 people per month, you’d pay nearly $5,000 more for an all-in-one than you would with User Interviews + Sprig (the ROI of switching at this scale is 737%). For teams that do research with an average of 100 participants per month, the monthly cost savings of User Interviews + Sprig vs. our all-in-one example works out to around $39,200 (1409% ROI).
Note: Sprig pricing is based on their $175 Starter plan.
Finally, let us consider a scenario in which you’re building your user research tool stack from scratch and are evaluating the costs of a complete, modular testing kit against an all-in-one.
How does our all-in-one example compare against a 5-tool stack of, say, User Interviews + Figma + Zoom + Sprig + Lookback?
At this point it won’t surprise you to learn that the single platform costs more than all 5 tools combined. The ROI peaks at 100 participants per month (1037%, or $38,300). That’s a cost savings of $459,600 per year.
Looked at another way, the annual cost of a single all-in-one platform is 60 times greater than the cost of 5 integrated, best-in-class tools put together.
It’s no great secret that many teams save money on SaaS subscriptions by sharing seats. But a single login can only support so many users. What do the cost savings of layered solutions look like with 3 users? 8 users?
With a single user, conducting 20 moderated sessions a month with User Interviews + Figma + Zoom offers an ROI of 1086% compared to an all-in-one platform. On teams of 3, this stack offers a 953% ROI. For 8 users, that ROI drops to a still-impressive 744%.
Recruiting and conducting research with 50 participants per month using a fully-loaded research stack (UI + Figma + Zoom + Sprig + Lookback) offers an ROI of 716% for a single user, 679% ROI for 3 users, and 605% ROI for an 8-person team.
What if you need to recruit 100 participants a month for a variety of usability tests and moderated studies. Compared to our all-in-one example, User Interviews + Usability offers an ROI of 1466% for a single user, 1406% for 3 users, and 1260% ROI for a team of 8.
Not too shabby, if we do say so ourselves.
So far, we’ve been talking about cost and ROI in quantitative terms. But that’s not the full story. Maximizing the ROI of UX research tools isn’t just about how much money you’re saving.
In this next section, we’re going to look at some of the additional factors that can influence your decision to invest in a new tool for user research. We’ll discuss the ‘hidden costs’ (and potential ROI) associated with:
User research is a fast-evolving field, and as a cross-analysis of our annual State of User Research report data shows, teams are scaling quickly. The tools you invest in should be able to bend, not break, as your research needs change.
Here are some of the ways we believe integrated, modular tool stacks win against all-in-one platforms:
Let’s dig into these arguments👇
All-in-one tools claim to have everything you need to conduct user research.
But bundling features and solutions into a single package often means you’re getting a rigid and costly solution, when something simpler and more flexible would have served you just as well.
With an all-in-one solution, you’re often stuck with a pre-packaged set of features you might not ever use or need. Or even more frustratingly, an “all-in-one” may be missing a key feature that you do need to scale your research. You don’t have a say in which features you want to pay for when it comes to all-in-ones—and that can cost you.
Modular tool stacks (like the ones we cover above) offer a smarter and more flexible approach than to use all-in-one platform tools because they give you more control over how you invest your resources.
As we’ve mentioned multiple times in this report, it’s hard to get a good read on a “typical” subscription price for many all-in-one platforms. But according to one online review,
“Their plans come with limits on the number of participants per study, if you want more participants per study you have to pay more. Instead they give you this annoying workaround where you can do an unlimited number of studies, which means you have to send them out in batches and then combine the data later, which can get tedious.”
On top of that, you’re paying for both the testing tool and their panel of testers—meaning you’re locked into a fixed annual rate for all the features that come with the platform, regardless of whether you use them or not.
At User Interviews, we want to make it easy for both small and large teams to recruit the high-quality participants they need. Need 5 participants for a one-off study? You can pay as you go. Planning to do research with 300 participants a month? We’ve got a subscription plan for that.
Our pricing tiers scale with your needs, and become even more economical as you grow.
Let’s talk about switching costs. Not just the monetary cost of switching from one tool to another, but also the time, stress, and frustration of being “locked in” to an all-in-one tool.
There are many types of lock-in, but this definition from Wikipedia summarizes them all nicely: Put simply, lock-in is something that “makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services.”
When you invest in an all-in-one solution, you become increasingly reliant on this one tool. You’re locking yourself into a web of long, fixed financial contracts, a platform system that’s not easily replaced, and loads of business data embedded into a single system.
Trying to migrate from such a platform becomes messy—like a divorce where all a couple’s assets are tied together and nobody can remember whose grandmother gave them that beautiful coffee table.
Just ask this one Reddit user:
“[**] is painfully hard to use with external panels, overpriced, has critical issues with unmoderated prototype testing on mobile, and has nowhere near the feature set of its competitors… [but] I'm forced to use this platform over far superior tools and it turns usability testing (a process I really used to love) into a bit of a nightmare.”
With an integrated tool stack, you’re less beholden to a single solution. It’s easier to walk away when the situation becomes untenable.
Switching from one integration to another or adding a new tool to your research toolbox becomes easier and more cost-efficient with tools that support API-ready technology, open source software, and multiple data sources.
👉 Visit our integrations page for the full list of tools we integrate with. And if you don’t see an integration that meets your UX research needs, you can also build a custom integration with our API.
“You do research because you want to have impact. […] If you don’t have high-quality participants, that’s kind of a non-starter […] If you're not talking to the right people, it's really hard to make the right decisions.”
— JH Forster, SVP of Product at User Interviews
All–in-one solutions offer access to a large number of (typically) consumer participants, often at an attractive per-participant price.
The idea of having your tester panel and testing tool all in one place is certainly appealing. And there’s no denying that the low price per tester offered by UX testing platforms is extremely tempting.
But unless your research practice consists entirely of high-volume, unmoderated testing, at some point you’re still going to need to recruit high-quality participants for targeted, qualitative studies. And that’s where generalist tools simply fall short—targeted recruiting just isn’t their forte.
Take it from this user in r/UXdesign:
“This is a common problem with u[***].com panelists. They aren’t regular users because they have essentially become professional website feedback providers over their time doing tests.”
Or this review of another popular “all-in-one” that also struggles to maintain the quality of their participant panel:
“If your company can avoid them, look for an alternative now. PS - Their participant panel has a really high incidence rate of cheaters too”
So what are the alternatives? You could try:
… or you could sign up for User Interviews and start talking to the participants you actually need. Not only does User Interviews boast a pool of 2.4 million vetted participants, we also offer unmatched participant quality with flexible pricing and unbelievably fast, targeted recruiting (we’re talking hours, not weeks). Best of all, it’s free to get started.
If you made it this far in the report, give yourself a pat on the back.👏
You’re now equipped to make a very solid argument in favor of the best-in-class recruiting and testing tools your team deserves.
Of course, the best way to make a business case for investing in certain tools is to substantiate the business value of user research in the first place. Namely:
📕 Find more statistics on the value of user research in: 32 User Experience Research Statistics to Win Over Stakeholders
Here’s a summary of each recruiting method to refresh your memory👇
And a quick review of all-in-ones vs. integrated tech stacks 👇
We think we’ve done a pretty good job of showing how a stack that includes User Interviews can save you time and money when recruiting participants for moderated research at scale. (And that’s without even talking about how we offer high-volume unmoderated recruiting and the #1 user research CRM and panel management software on the market, Research Hub.)
If you care about participants quality and investing in a flexible tool stack that can grow with your needs, make the switch to User Interviews today. Sign up for a free account and start talking to participants (the right ones) in a matter of hours.
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a line at rachell [at] userinterviews.com, or katryna [at] userinterviews.com.
Katryna Balboni, Content Director at User Interviews: Content marketer by day, thankless servant to cats Elaine Benes and Mr. Maxwell Sheffield by night. Loves to travel, has a terrible sense of direction. Bakes a mean chocolate tart, makes a mediocre cup of coffee. Thinks most pine trees are just okay. "Eclectic."
Content Marketing Manager
Rachell is a (former) Content Marketing Manager at User Interviews. Content writer. Marketing enthusiast. INFJ. Inspired by humans and their stories. She spends ridiculous amounts of time on Duolingo and cooking new recipes.