Market Research Panel Definition: Everything You Need to Know

A market research panel can be defined as a selection of research participants, chosen specifically for market research purposes.

These participants (panelists) help researchers better understand the strengths and weaknesses of – or sentiments towards – a particular product, service, brand, or message. Because researchers are often fact-finding on behalf of brands, these panels are also known as ‘brand research panels’.

Market Research Panels: Why Do They Matter?

Against the backdrop of social media and second screening, product owners and service providers are fighting tooth and nail to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. And while USPs are becoming harder to differentiate as brands compete on price points and features, there’s still one area up for grabs: a customer’s experience.

Market research panels help you get to the heart of that matter. The goal is to actively listen to and act upon the insights gleaned from your target audience. Once you understand how your product or service makes your customers feel, you can make the necessary changes to position your brand more effectively — irrespective of price or feature-set.

How Are Market Research Panels Put Together?

Today, market research panels are recruited via online channels. Participants are invited to join through web ads, email lists, or third-party app partners. They are then asked to opt-in and complete an onboarding questionnaire, which helps to organize them based on certain distinguishable factors, such as age, gender, location, profession, and personal interests.

Participation in a research panel is often incentivized. Members receive rewards in exchange for their feedback and time. These rewards can vary from one vendor to the next but can include cash, gift cards, vouchers, or a points system, which can be redeemed against goods and services.

Are There Different Types of Market Research Panels?

Market research panels can be split into two distinct groups: B2B panels and B2C panels.

  • B2B (business-to-business) panels are made up of business owners, professionals, industry experts, and decision-makers. Panelists often respond to business-related surveys regarding industry type, segmentation, or market demographics.
  • B2C (business-to-consumer) panels comprise of customers or end-users of a brand, product, or service. Businesses use these panels to access feedback from their target audience.

So, What Are the Advantages of Using a Market Research Panel?

Online market research panels tend to be more popular than other, more traditional research methods.

Take telephone interviews, for example. These require a lot of time and expense to run, and there’s no guarantee that the person answering the phone is 1) interested and available to speak, and 2) fits within the target demographic you wish to hear from. 

Research panels, on the other hand, are made up of pre-screened individuals who have already opted-in to respond to surveys. This makes panels more cost-effective (and faster) to run.

Other advantages of market research panels include:

  • Higher response rates: Respondents are motivated to take part in research and are less likely to be “caught cold” by a survey. This is usually because they’ve signed up themselves via an app or website, have subject matter knowledge they wish to share, or they’re incentivized by the rewards, such as cash, vouchers, or points.
  • Diverse viewpoints: A well-run, established research panel can be made up of any number of individuals from different backgrounds, professions, age groups, or locations. This level of variety allows you to mirror your own specific audience during a research project.
  • Reliable data sampling: The onboarding process of a panelist means their demographics are captured and categorized from the outset. This makes market segmentation easier and allows research panels to be convened quickly to gauge opinion or test the waters with a new product or service.

How Does Using an Online Market Research Panel Benefit Brands?

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, research panels have specific benefits to the brands and businesses that utilize them:

  • It offers quicker research turnaround: If a brand has entered the final stretch of a product development initiative or marketing campaign, and they wish to check-in with their target audience, pulling together a focus group at the last minute can be challenging – and expensive. Market research panels let brands access insights and feedback faster than other research methods.
  • Multimedia elements can be included: Online market research panels can seamlessly include video, photographs, and sound clips to enrich the survey experience and provide a far better level of feedback. Using multimedia elements in other forms of market research can range from difficult to impossible.
  • Products/services can be tested with real end-users: Prior to releasing products or launching services to the wider market, brands can test them with a facsimile of their target audience. Panels allow brands to gather actionable insights quickly, gauging sentiment and performance in the process. 

Are There Drawbacks to Using an Online Market Research Panel?

While market research panels do benefit both analysts and brands alike, they’re not immune from some glaring pitfalls.

  • Limited to those with internet access: As the name suggests, an online market research panel requires internet access. This is fine if your target audience is from a country where the internet is easily affordable and accessible, but if you wish to learn more from an older and/or remote group of people, it’s perhaps not the best research method.
  • Risk of duplicate respondents: People who enjoy participating in surveys (or motivated to do so via incentives) will likely sign up for multiple survey vendors. This can result in the duplication of responses, skewing the data in the process. While some vendors will do their best to remove duplicate respondents, it’s still important that the data is scrutinized carefully.
  • Risk of poor data quality: Speaking of data, surveys can attract a range of less desirable respondents, motivated solely by the incentives and with no interest in sharing considered opinions and feedback. Speeders, straight liners, survey professionals, fake accounts, bots, and more, these types of panelists can quickly derail a survey.

How to Combat Reduced Quality Using Organic Probability Sampling

Research panels can deliver a range of benefits, from higher response rates to diverse insights and quicker turnaround times. 

However, the market research panel definition we shared at the start of this article only tells part of the story. Yes, these panels are largely comprised of motivated research participants — yet, survey participation has been on the wane. This means the quality of research panels are fast becoming compromised as traditional companies scramble for participants from anywhere and everywhere.  

At Pollfish, we avoid using conventional panels for this very reason. Instead, we’ve developed our very own market research methodology called Organic Probability Sampling. This involves sourcing our own audience of real consumers via partnerships with app publishers, which allows us to conduct randomized, yet targeted survey distribution to verified respondents.

And with over half a billion people in our network, we never have to worry about data quality, delivering only the best, most authentic, and most useful insights to our clients.

Frequently asked questions

What is a market research panel?

A market research panel is a group of individuals who have been recruited to take part in market research, which may include surveys, online panels, or in-person panels.

How do B2B market research panels differ from B2C panels?

B2B (business-to-business) panels focus on the relationship between two businesses and may consist of business owners, industry experts, and other professionals. B2C (business-to-consumer) panels focus on the relationship between the business and their target market (the consumer). B2C panels will consist of members who represent that target market.

What are the advantages of an online market research panel?

Online market research panels are more popular than their traditional counterparts for several reasons. Online market research panels are most cost-effective, faster to deploy, have higher response rates, provide better data sampling, and allow for diverse viewpoints to be heard.

Why is poor data quality a risk of online market research panels?

Online surveys can attract individuals who participate in surveys solely for the incentive or reward. These respondents are less motivated to share genuine opinions. There is also the risk that fake accounts and bots could be used to game the system.

How can you improve data quality of online market research panels?

The results gathered through online market research panels can be improved by using organic probably sampling, a market research methodology developed by Pollfish. This approach sources survey respondents who are motivated to participate for genuine reasons.