4 Panel Survey Examples for Market Research

panel surveys

A panel survey is a method of research that uses a consistent panel of participants, with the researchers returning to the same people to run surveys or host interviews repeatedly over time. This is also known as a type of longitudinal study. In this post, we’ll look at four-panel survey examples – and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of using panel surveys for your research. 

Note: If you’re looking to do market research without the drawbacks of conducting panel surveys, try Pollfish. Our unique methodology guarantees authentic high-quality data, and it’s a fast and reliable way to survey targeted (yet randomized) people while they’re already engaged on their devices.

Panel Survey Examples: What Do Researchers Use Panels For? 

The best way to explain the uses of a panel survey is by setting out a panel survey example. In this section, we’ll see four examples of when panel surveys can be used to good effect. 

Example #1: Tracking Changes Over Time

One of the strongest examples of a panel survey is when researchers ask the same question(s) to a group of the same people over a long period of time. 

For example, if you were conducting a sociological experiment to understand if (or how) age correlates with wealth, you might set up a survey to ask about income, expenses, and assets. And this survey might be repeated every five to ten years. 

Alternatively, if you run a business, you’ll need to acquire ongoing insights into the market – and into audience behavior. For example, if your gym wear company wants to track the fitness habits of people over the course of the year, a panel can be questioned every three months. You can run surveys with the same questions about how long people exercise for, where they exercise, and how they exercise.

Example #2: User Experience Research

Another common example of using a panel survey is in UX and UI design research. When a company is building an app or a digital product, they want to gauge the customer experience as they go. While usability testing (i.e. tracking how a person interacts with a specific feature) is often done using different methods, qualitative research about design and experience can be done using panels or focus groups.  

The benefit of a panel survey here is that the participants remain constant – which removes a key variable. And you can select panel participants based on their background or expertise, which will allow your pool to answer questions in a way that adds value to your product development process. 

Example #3: Customer Satisfaction Surveys

If you want to gauge customer satisfaction and positive/negative sentiment over the lifetime of their interaction with your product, you can take a select group of long-term customers and ask them questions periodically about your value proposition. These surveys can be framed to reveal hidden sentiments, or can be explicitly focused on asking how satisfied they are with what you offer. 

In this panel survey example, the business would be able to track patterns of customer happiness over time – for example, to see whether features continue to add value months or years after the customer signs up. And you can incentivize participation with gifts, reduced subscription fees, or extra services.

Example #4: Employee Engagement

One final panel survey example is for businesses to track employee engagement and team morale. In essence, here, your staff are the members of the panel – and you might survey them every week, month, quarter, or year. In this case, you’re surveying the same people about issues such as:

  • Do they enjoy their work?
  • Are they meeting their goals?
  • Do they understand the company mission?
  • Are they happy with their compensation?
  • Where can the company improve?

If this is the type of panel survey you’re looking for, there are plenty of tools out there that are specialized for human resources and employee engagement purposes. 

Pros & Cons: The Advantages and Drawbacks of Panel Surveys

panel surveys

One of the primary advantages of a panel survey is that the participants learn to trust the researchers, and therefore may be open to deeper and more truthful answers. And this ongoing relationship can allow researchers to dig deeper with follow-up questions. Another advantage is that with screening having occurred at the start of the research, all following surveys are quicker than starting from scratch.

However, the disadvantages of panel surveys include:

  • Panel conditioning: When you’re surveying the same people repeatedly, previous surveys might influence their responses and/or behavior. For example, if they know a certain question triggers a longer process, they may choose an answer that offers the path of least resistance. Or if you’re asking about a particular activity, like eating donuts, they may eat less (or more) thereafter.

    Note: Furthermore, panel surveys don’t tend to occur within a “natural” setting, and therefore the artificial environment might affect thought processes and responses to questions.
  • Panel fatigue: If a person feels like the pay-off for participating in a panel survey is no longer worth the effort, the quality of their response may drop. This leads to incomplete or poor-quality survey responses, and survey “straight-lining” – i.e. answering the same to every question.
  • Declining participation: Over time, inevitably, participants will drop out of the process – either due to panel fatigue, or other reasons. This will damage the quality and depth of your data. 

And with survey panels, you run the risk of accidentally signing up “professional” panelists – especially when there are cash-based incentives on offer. Though screening should be designed to pick up these people before they enter the process, they’re adept at slipping through the net. 

Finding a Better Alternative to Panel Surveys

With increased pressure on people’s time, survey response rates have been decreasing. It’s harder than ever to guarantee consistent high-quality data, and as conventional survey companies scramble to include as many willing participants as possible, the quality reduces yet further. 

At Pollfish, we don’t use conventional panels. Our unique methodology, called Organic Probability Sampling, is built on something called Random Device Engagement (RDE). RDE polling relies on advertising networks and other device portals to engage people wherever they are. This might be through a smartphone app or a mobile game, where respondents participate in return for an incentive. 

Each screened participant has a unique ID, which prevents them from taking the same survey more than once, weeding out bias and fraud.

When working with Pollfish, you don’t need to use conventional panels – which are slow and subject to conditioning, fatigue, and declining participation. Instead, get authentic insights from our pool of over half a billion people (and growing) – who are already engaged on their device and ready to participate. 

Frequently asked questions

What is a panel survey?

A panel survey is a type of survey method that involves repeated interviews of a group of people over a specific period of time.

What is a longitudinal study?

A longitudinal study is another term used to describe panel survey. It refers to any study that examines the same group of people over a period of time.

What are the benefits of panel surveys?

Panel participants often learn to trust the researcher and may reveal deeper, most honest insights. This type of survey is also a good way to track progress or evolution over time.

What is panel fatigue?

Panel fatigue occurs when the participant no longer feels that the reward for participating in the panel is worth it. If panel fatigue occurs, the participant may not give deep answers, but instead try to answer the questions as quickly as possible.

How can panel surveys influence participant behavior?

When interviewing the same people repeatedly, the answers to previous surveys may influence their behavior by causing them to reflect on activities that they previously gave little thought to. This influence is known as panel conditioning.