Online Survey Panels: How to Access Deep Insights Efficiently

online survey panels

When it comes to gathering data on consumer attitudes and opinions, there are a number of options available to businesses. You can go out into the world with a pencil and paper and ask questions directly to the public. You can organize a focus group for detailed, highly targeted responses. 

Or you can try online survey panels.

Online survey panels can offer deep and efficient access to what your potential audiences are thinking. Yet, they have been known to sometimes be tarnished by poor data. Panelists get over-surveyed, for example, and stop providing authentic responses. Or they’re just in it for the compensation – and so speed through questions without giving them enough attention.

Yet, this isn’t always the case. In fact, new methods of conducting consumer research are taking steps beyond traditional online survey panels. 

In this article, we’ll share what we at Pollfish are doing to ensure that you can gain deep, authentic insights from your consumers – in ways that are truly efficient in terms of cost and time. But first, what exactly is an online survey panel? And why would you use one in the first place?

What is an Online Survey Panel?

Survey panels are a research method in which data is collected from a group of pre-recruited and pre-screened respondents who have agreed to complete your survey. In a nutshell, that’s it.

That said, survey panels are often used for a more specific purpose – namely, to collect data repeatedly from the same set of people. In this way, a group of panelists responds to surveys in a number of research sessions over a given period stretching from weeks up to a year. This gives panel surveys some specific advantages over ad-hoc, one-off questionnaires, for example.

Meanwhile, while a focus group has only a handful of participants, from whom researchers can take very detailed data, survey panels use a much larger sample size – well into the hundreds and thousands. This way, they can give businesses access to a much broader section of the population, or provide deep insight into highly targeted demographics.

And whether you want to test a product, or see how audiences respond to an ad campaign, this knowledge of your consumers is indispensable.

What Insights Can You Gain from an Online Consumer Research Panel?

There are a number of reasons why you choose to conduct an online survey panel over other forms of data collection. Fundamentally, though, businesses tend to opt for panels for the specific kinds of insights that they provide.

In-Depth Data from Targeted Audiences

What survey panels offer better than most other methods of research is a targeted audience at scale. Participants in online research panels are profiled and screened – meaning that you can be sure that the panelists to whom you are asking the questions truly reflect your desired audience.

We don’t just mean this in terms of demographics, age, or gender. Pre-screening questions allow for targeted research in very narrow consumer segments. You may not just want to see how a product or ad will go down with the general population. You might be interested in how it will go down with men in the north of England who like jazz music and drink craft beer. Obviously, this is a little more specific.

Opinion Analysis over Time

By returning to the same group of respondents, online survey panels can provide data on changing opinion through time, within your identified audience. This lets you analyze trends within your target demographic, or within those with a certain behavior, to understand how your audience develops.

This continuous approach can offer powerful insights – and it can set up a great baseline to which you can compare one-off survey data too.

A Broader Selection of Data

Ad-hoc surveys provide limited snapshots of consumer opinion. Online panel surveys rather provide a much richer field of data. Alongside the simple responses to the surveys themselves, the initial screening questions, demographic information, and longitudinal data promise a much more comprehensive profile of your audience. And this can better inform key business decisions.

How Online Panel Surveys Can Boost Business Efficiency

Consumer panel surveys offer businesses with authentic, in-depth insights into their audiences. Yet, importantly, they do this at a relatively low cost – while offering quick, efficient results. It’s the combination of these factors that make them one of the most popular research methods.

Here are some of the efficiencies you can expect from online panels.

Repeat Participants Reduce Processing and Costs

online survey panels

With online survey panels, respondents opt-in and provide information about themselves in the process. This keeps start-up costs and time expenditure low. If you had to prepare screening questions and find your specific target audience for every survey you wanted to ask, your work would be never-ending.

The good thing about panels is that once set up, the panel remains there, pre-recruited and pre-profiled. This means that you can move fast whenever you have a question to ask. Changes to your brand can be tested quickly – allowing you to move forward on them in a more favorable timescale.

Quality Respondents Available at an Instant

online survey panels

Similarly, as participants sign up for the panel, you can be much more sure that they are willing to participate in your research. This gives you more data faster – as it tends to boost response rates, while keeping participants free from bots.

All that needs to be ensured is that the quality of the panel remains high. Yet, this saves serious energy and money in comparison is starting from scratch every time.

Efficient, Automated Data Collection and Analysis

Traditional panels are one thing; online survey panels are quite another. Modern technologies have powered efficiencies not only in the ways that you ask questions but in the ways that you understand the answers too.

This inevitably makes the analysis of patterns in data easier and more sophisticated. And it cuts down on the costs associated with labor time. In some cases, insights can be delivered in real-time as they come in. 

Yet, There’s a Problem with Online Survey Panels

Consumer research always has its imperfections. And this is also true for online survey panels. No matter how efficient they may be, there are issues that have plagued this research method since its inception – and are no less significant since the move online.  

Panel fatigue. A common issue, panel fatigue happens when respondents are over-surveyed. While they may sign up in good faith, participants can simply become bored. As a result, they rush through or skip questions, or lean heavily on the ‘don’t know’ option – which is not very helpful for your data.

Professional panelists. Panel participation has often been encouraged through cash-based incentives. But “professional panelists” – respondents who complete as many surveys as possible, to maximize their compensation – have proliferated as a result. These favour speed over quality answers – and are known to manipulate screening questions to ensure access to as many surveys as possible. Again, this affects the data.

Non-organic environment. A fundamental challenge for the accuracy of survey panels is that data collection does not occur within a consumer’s natural setting. Survey environments tend to be artificial, and this affects participants’ thought processes – meaning that quality, authentic data is not guaranteed.

What Pollfish Does Better with Online Surveys

At Pollfish, we’ve moved away from simple online research panels due to exactly these problems. And our consumer research methodology tackles these issues head-on – while assuring cost-effective and efficient insights for your business.

Our access to over half a billion engaged consumers makes this possible. These come through our network of 120,000+ app providers, which deliver surveys to their users in-app in exchange for specific, in-app incentives. This draws a line under professional panelists, who cannot accumulate rewards while assuring that surveys are completed by engaged participants in their organic environment.

Part of our method means that we also remove 30% of our responses. Why? With so many reasons why poor data accumulates – from professionals to fatigued panelists, to bots and fraudsters – we’ve implemented radical measures to ensure that quality remains high. This means that you get more authentic consumer insights and that every data point you receive is more reliable – and better value for your money, too.

Finally, our platform does all the screening. We have pre-collected data on participant demographics, and even mobile usage – so that you don’t have to spend the time doing this yourself. As a result, all you have to do is ask the questions.

How You Can Access Consumer Insights Efficiently with Pollfish

We make it easier to gain deep consumer insights. With the largest audience in the world, living in over 160 countries, we use a rolling profiling model to ensure that the data we hold is always up to date. This keeps your work to a minimum.

  • Define your audience demographics. Tell us who your audience is based on age, gender, education, and more. Then focus the specific consumer segment using our predefined criteria – on behavioral attributes, psychographics, and other biographic information.
  • Refine your target with screening questions. These get you even closer to the audience you want. For example, you may want to include only those who are aware of certain events or who hold certain opinions.
  • Select from question types and research objectives. We have collected common research objectives and pre-crafted question types so that all you have to do is select.
  • Analyze data with ease. Our advanced data tools allow you to filter your findings even further, by location or employment status. Survey results are available to you in real-time too, so you don’t need to wait for all the data to come in.

At Pollfish, we’ve gone beyond simple online survey panels, to make accessing customers insights even more efficient – and less prone to bad data. We do the heavy lifting so that you can dedicate your energies to putting your consumer insights to work.

Frequently asked questions

What is a survey panel?

A type of research method, survey panels are used to collect data from a sample of individuals who have agreed to complete the panel survey. In most cases, survey panels are performed over a period of time to collect data from participants several times.

What type of insights are survey panels used for?

Survey panels are particularly useful for providing insightful data from a targeted audience, understanding how opinions change over time, and providing a more comprehensive view of the target audience.

What are the benefits of survey panels?

A main benefit of survey panels is that you already have an established, pre-qualified group of respondents available to answer your questions. This results in a more cost-effective process and allows business owners to collect information quickly when needed.

What are the disadvantages of survey panels?

Survey panels are subject to some flaws, including panel fatigue and panel conditioning. Both of these occur when the respondents alter their survey responses or change their behavior as a result of their participation in the panel.

How can “professional panelists” affect the results of a survey?

Professional panelists are motivated to join the survey panel to gain the reward that is offered. These individuals may participate in as many surveys as possible, resulting in much lower quality responses.