How to recruit inside and outside of your product?

Loïs Gauthier
June 1, 2023

This article is written in collaboration with Screeb, a tool for continuous product discovery.

There are different ways to segment your participants for UX research: demographic, psychograpgic and behavioral criteria. You can also consider their relationship to your product:

  • do they know you?
  • have they been on your website?
  • have they used your product?
  • have they used a specific feature of your product?

Depending on your research question, you will target different segments among these options. Explore Screeb’s article on why and when you need work with your users or non users.

Recruiting users and non users for your UX research will be 2 very different processes and will require you to activate different channels. We will study each of these channels and explore ways to approach and recruit your participants.

Comparison of UXR with users and non users

Where to find them?

Recruiting the right research participants will define your ability to conduct relevant research. Even a carefully designed research plan doesn’t hold any value without participants.

Recruiting inside of your product will require access to internal ressources, working with your stakeholders and leveraging already existing data.

On the other hand, recruiting your non-users will require a whole different set of tools: reaching out to a large and external audiences. This will be possible through a more diverse and experimental toolset.

Inside your product

Recruiting your own users means you already have the contact information of those you want to reach. This data can be found in your CRM, your mailing list or other tools your company uses. Considering this, we could hypothesise that it is easier to recruit your own users. However, this is not always the case, especially in the following situations:

  • another team is owner of the data and is not cooperating to share it for UXR purposes
  • legal reasons prevent you from contacting your database for UXR purposes
  • unenganed or churned users because they are less likely to answer

Channels to recruit UXR participants within your product:

Insert in transactional emails

This technique consists of adding UXR call-to-action to transactional messages (especially emails). When deployed globally, they allow to ensure a constant and passive flow of users. This method doesn’t allow for targeting users, except if you segment your communications with behavioral criteria

Dedicated emailing campaign

This is the technique with the highest scale because you can reach all types of users: newly acquired, loyal or churned. Another advantage is its versatility: it can be activated when a specific UXR need arises.

Here are some of its limits. Data protection policies might not always allow you to push messages dedicated to UXR if you did not specify it in your opt-ins.

Depending on the frequency of your email communication with your database, it might not be possible to add another instance of email (if your audience is already saturated).

Intercept widget

An intercept widget is a piece of code that will be installed in your product and will allow you to reach users according to product based, behavioral criteria related to their activity within your product. The users you target will reach your predefined message, in the context of UX research, you can send them to a recruitment link or ask for their email so that you can reach out to them later.

This technique allows for increased precision in your UXR recruitment in addition to other benefits such as contextual ratings and enhanced analytics.

This recruitment technique is especially useful for research questions where you need to target a specific behavior: reached X page, spent >x seconds on X page, came back twice on the same day etc

Explore how Screeb can help you reach your users as they interact with your product.

Outside your product

Channels to recruit UXR participants outside of your product:


Working with this research target is not a best practice but can be used in early stages to kickstart your user research. If you reach out to your relatives (friends, family or colleagues) for your research, it will be especially important to use a screener to maintain participation relevancy high.

When sending out your participation form/screener form, you can use both group posting and direct text messages. Provide instructions to people (sharing to their network even if they are not among the target themselves, leaving a comment or like to support the post etc).

Organic social media

The reach and relevance of this channel will vary depending on the scale of your brand’s social media audience. Although not all of your social media following are users of you product, there is usually an important overlap. So if your goal is to reach non-users, be careful about your screener.

Paid social media

The cost and time investment can be pretty high but if you find your audience, you will gain access to a very  scalable source of research participants. Like most digital options, you will not be able to reach people with very low tech savviness.


Although hardly scalable, forums can be efficient for one-shot studies for a specific target of users. Start by identifying the most relevant webistes and sub stacks for your subject. You will be surprised of the specificity of some of the channels you can find. When entering these forums, clarify your intentions with moderators to avoid being banned. If they refuse to allow you within the forum, they might still be able to share your link themselves. If you choose to go dark and enter these forums as a “fake” user, note you face the risk of violating these platforms’ terms of use.

Recruitment agencies

Based on panels or other tools of the ecosystem, recruitment agencies will usually take longer to deliver than automated recruitment tools while being more expensive. They can be relevant for very specific targets wgich you are not able to find otherwise.

To work with them, you will have to brief them and sometimes outsource some of your research process to them. Their processes usually require more back-and-forth without direct integrations with your tools.

UX research recruitment tools

These tools provide the best value for money to recruit outside of your customer base. Their reach is usually higher than previously mentioned sources while staying affordable.

You can usually launch your recruitment autonomously and find your first testers within a few days.


There are different different types of incentives and whether your UXR participants are users or non users will play a great role in the choice of your incentive.

There are different types of incentives: monetary, in kind, lottery and donation.

Generally speaking, your users are more likely to accept product-based incentives than non users. Take this into account to boost participation.

If you wish to send incentives yourself, consider the logistic workload as well as legal concerns. Otherwise you can use an externalize service, either directly with a retailer (Amazon Gift Card for example), a payment method (PayPal) or a specialized in payouts like Tremendous.

Read our article on the subject for more info (FR).

Conducting research with a combination of users and non-users allows to answer a wider set of questions and brings additional and more diverse insights. Wether working alone or with a partner, creating diversified sources of participants will make it easier to reach your research goals.

Unlock your user research superpowers with Tandemz!

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