market research panel

Market Research Panel Definition: All You Need to Know for Meaningful Market Research

Market Research Panel Definition: All You Need to Know for Meaningful Market Research

market research panel

Have you ever considered using a market research panel to lead your research campaigns? This method is typically applied to market research, which is essential to understanding and satisfying your customers.

Market research is critical for all businesses, no matter how attuned you may consider yourself to be with your customers. The importance of market research cannot be understated; it helps you keep continuous tabs on your most important customers: your target market.

There are many routes you can take in the broad field of market research, as there are many market research techniques available. This includes primary and secondary methods of obtaining the research.

A market research panel is one such technique. This research method grants researchers participants who opt into a study, typically one that is conducted through multiple rounds of research, whether it is through surveys or other tools. 

The panelists that make up the research panel are not randomly selected; instead, they are recruited and pre-screened.

Panels have various nuances that you ought to know about before selecting a research method, especially one that concerns how you’ll reach your target market. You should also compare panels with organic sampling, which is a different approach to identifying and gathering respondents for your research studies. 

Luckily, this exhaustive guide allows you to do just that.

This guide explores the market research panel in full depth, delving into why it matters, how it is put together, their different types and much more. In addition, this article covers their drawbacks and how organic sampling is the better research method

Table of Contents: How To Conduct A Survey That You Can Trust In 8 Steps

  1. Defining the Market Research Panel
  2. Market Research Panels: Why Do They Matter?
  3. How to Put Together Market Research Panels?
    1. The Need to First Identify Your Segmented Target Audience
    2. Market Research Providers and In-House Research Teams
    3. Determine your panel size
    4. Using Online Channels to Opt-In Potential Panelists
    5. Vetting Your Panelists
    6. Incentivize Your Panelists
    7. Carry Out Panel Research
    8. Maintain and Manage Your Survey Panel
  4. Are There Different Types of Market Research Panels?
  5. What Are the Advantages of Using a Market Research Panel?
  6. How Does an Online Market Research Panel Benefit Brands?
    1. Are There Drawbacks to Using an Online Market Research Panel?
  7. Combat Reduced Research Quality Using Organic Probability Sampling
  8. The Need for a Strong Market Research Platform to Leverage Organic Sampling and More

Defining the Market Research Panel

A market research panel can be defined as a selection of research participants, chosen specifically for market research purposes. But there’s much more to this.

A market research panel is a pre-recruited group of people who have agreed to take part in market research studies. These studies can be conducted through a variety of methods and tools. 

The research tools and methods used with panels can include the following:

  1. Online surveys
  2. In-depth interviews (IDIs)
  3. Focus groups
  4. In-home use tests (IHUTs)
  5. Mobile ethnographies
    1. This involves studying customers in a natural environment but with the addition of technology to document and analyze real-time customer experiences.
    2. For example, it may use mobile ethnography app systems to conduct these studies. This allows you to remotely research human behaviors, journeys and experiences.
  6. Field research

Those selected to partake in a market research panel are usually used in more than just one research survey, even if they only enlist in one survey campaign. That means they can be expected to partake in several rounds of interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc. 

This is why researchers who typically opt to reach participants via a research panel use the panelists to conduct longitudinal research. Longitudinal studies involve repeatedly examining the same individuals to detect any changes that might occur over a certain period. 

Longitudinal studies are a kind of correlational research; researchers gather and observe data on a variety of variables without influencing the variables in any way. 

This kind of research uses longitudinal surveys and can last years. 

Despite being associated with the research of change and development, a market research panel can also be used in cross-sectional research. These kinds of studies deal with collecting research about a particular population at one fixed point in time. Due to the nature of this research, it is often referred to as a snapshot of a target population. 

You can use a panel for this kind of research by using cross-sectional surveys

A market research panel helps 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 also can be known as brand research panels.

Market Research Panels: Why Do They Matter?

Market research panels matter for a variety of reasons.

First off, they provide both researchers and businesses who have no dedicated research personnel, with a go-to set of participants they can study firsthand continuously. This is critical, given that a major aspect of research is to target the correct audience in your study.

In market research, studying your target market is an absolute necessity. Panels provide easy and constant access to a target market sample, the pool of participants who represent your target market. 

market research panel importance

As such, the panelists are the research subjects, which is the crux of any research (unless you’re not studying humans). They are key to market research, as this research type is centered on understanding your customers to test the viability of any new product or service, and most importantly, sell to them. 

Thus, the market research panel provides researchers et al. with a reliable group of research participants that they can turn to continuously

This is a major convenience, given that it means researchers won’t have to scramble for research participants each time they need to conduct a research campaign. They also can rest assured that they’ll have research subjects to use in any ongoing research project, such as in longitudinal or prospective studies.

Aside from long-term research, panels can also be used in the aforementioned cross-sectional research studies as well.

In addition, panels provide businesses with a method to be more noticeable to their customers in an oversaturated market. Against the backdrop of social media and second screening, product owners, service providers and marketers are fighting tooth and nail to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace

While some are becoming harder to differentiate, since many brands compete on similar price points and features, there is still one area up for grabs: a customer’s experience

Thus, by designing a pleasant research experience and mentioning your business in the study, customers will associate their good memories during their research experience with your business.

panel research

In this scenario, the study itself serves as a marketing tactic to make your business resonate with its target market. 

All in all, market research panels ensure you have constant access to your target market for your research study. They get to the heart of the matter of your area of study. The goal is to actively listen to and act upon the insights gleaned from your panelists.

Once you understand how your product or service makes your research panel feel, you can make the necessary changes to position your brand more effectively — irrespective of price or feature set.

How to Put Together Market Research Panels?

Today, market research panels are usually recruited via digital channels, as opposed to in-person scouting and interviewing. The latter is still possible, but not very common, given the ease, speed and prevalence of the Internet. 

The following sections explain how to form, recruit and manage market research panels. 

1. The Need to First Identify Your Segmented Target Audience

It’s important to ensure that you identify the target market segments you’ll need to include in your study before you recruit your panel. As such, we recommend conducting market segmentation first. 

This way, you’ll know the distinct segments that make up your broader target market. In addition, performing segmentation allows you to identify your customer personas. These are fictional characters that represent unique members of your target market who fall under specific demographics, psychographics and the like.  

find survey panelists

You can conduct market segmentation with the help of market research software, particularly survey software. This will allow you to conduct surveys on any topic, including narrowing down your target market into segments

Once you’ve segmented your target market and created various customer profiles, it is time to move on to determining the correct target audience. 

Your survey target audience and your panel target audience specifically need to be determined before you recruit your panelists. 

Your target market is not the same as your target panel audience

Keep in mind that neither your target market nor its segments are equivalent to the target audience of your panel. This is because a panel, like other research techniques, is centered on different topics. 

Each topic may require different audiences. 

You may have a survey campaign that relies on studying one market segment, or a few. Additionally, you may need to conduct another research campaign on another topic, one that involves different segments and customer personas.

Although you’ll be choosing from the same market segments, each segment will not satisfy or be appropriate for every panel study you conduct. Thus, your panel audience is separate from your market segments. 

This is crucial and must be done before you reach out to your potential panelists. 

2. Market Research Providers and In-House Research Teams

Once you’ve determined the panel audience you’ll need for your market research studies, you’ll then need to choose from one of two main options to put together your panel.

market research panel providers

The first main option is to use market research panel providers that you have discovered and trust. Typically, this is done via the Internet. The panel provider would recruit and opt-in the panelists. 

However, you and your team would still be involved in the process of targeting the panelists, as you would need to share your target market segments with the panel provider. Most importantly, you would need to inform them of your target panel audience. 

As discussed in the previous section, these are not the same populations.

Alternatively, some businesses with in-house research teams find their panelists by releasing their ads and notices online. This is the second main option for creating a market research panel. You would need to enlist the panelists via your online platform of choice. 

There are many options available for obtaining panelists in the digital space.

3. Determine your panel size

Before you recruit your panel, you’ll need to determine how many panelists you’ll need to participate in your research panel. To do so, you need to consider the following factors:

  1. Your ideal sample size, 
  2. Your response rate
  3. The number of studies you intend to execute

For example, imagine you need 700 responses per survey; you have a response rate of 40%, and you’re seeking to run two studies each month. You’ll need to plug each variable into the following formula to find your panel size.

The panel size formula is:

(sample size per survey / (response rate) x (studies per month) ) x 100 = amount of panelists needed

(500 / 40% X 2 ) x 100 = 2500 panelists

Bear in mind that some people will not want to remain for the entirety of the study and will thereby leave. This is known as panel attrition. As a safety net for attrition, make sure to form a panel that consists of 10-20% more panelists than what the formula calculates as your ideal panel size. 

Make sure you have all the requirements in hand before you start recruiting and aim to go 10-20% above your minimum number to cover you in case people opt out of your panel or you don’t hit your target response rate.

4. Using Online Channels to Opt-In Potential Panelists

There are a variety of online channels that you can choose from to obtain and opt-in your potential panelists.

online market research panels

You can invite participants to join your panel through web ads, email lists, social media, website landing pages, homepages, or third-party app partners

They would then be asked to opt in and complete an onboarding questionnaire, which helps to organize them based on certain distinguishable traits. such as age, gender, location, profession, and personal interests. 

These can be — and oftentimes are — based on the potential panelists’ demographics, psychographics, behaviors and geographical locations. 

5. Vetting Your Panelists

The questionnaire you use should vet your potential panelists on a wide range of traits and their subcategories. You wouldn’t want to enroll the wrong audience in your panel. In addition, you would want your panelists to align with all the requirements you determined for your panel audience in one of the previous sections. 

As such, you should vet your potential panelists, those who opted in through any of the online channels you chose, with a rigorous set of panel criteria.

survey panelists

The following explains the criteria for choosing the correct research panel:

    1. Demographics 
      1. This involves basic groupings based on the potential panelists’ gender, age, income levels, race, ethnicity, employment type, education, salary, etc.
      2. You can get as granular as you wish, provided you have the right tools to do so.
    2. Psychographics
      1. This involves the attitudes, interests, lifestyles, aspirations, values and other psychological criteria you would need to group your panelists by.
      2. It also involves whether they engage in particular customer behavior, such as frequency of purchases, brand preferences, consumer loyalty to certain brands, etc.
    3. Geographical locations
      1. This can include macro and micro-locations.
      2. As such, you may need to target panelists based on their country, state, territory, city, zip code and more.
      3. The granularity of targeting will depend on the kind of methods your panel provider or your in-house researcher team uses.   
    4. Firmographics
      1. This category applies when you seek to form a panel of business personnel, which you will need for conducting B2B research.
      2. As such, it requires running B2B surveys
      3. Assure that the company you aim to use panelists from matches the needs of your study.

6. Incentivize Your Panelists

Participation in a research panel is often incentivized. Few people would devote their time and efforts for free, not least for a continuous project, which most panels often are used for. 

As such, remember to offer panel members rewards in exchange for their feedback and time. You’ll need to consult with your panel provider if you don’t recruit and work with your panelists yourself and are concerned about incentivizing them.

These rewards can vary from one vendor to the next but can be monetary or non-monetary. Thus, they can include cash, gift cards, vouchers, free subscriptions to a service and free products. You can also offer a points system in which panelists can redeem for goods and services.

7. Carry Out Panel Research

Now that you have formed a market research panel, it is time to use it for your various research purposes. You’ll want to first split your panelists into different market research campaigns and studies. As mentioned earlier, each panel study will require a different audience.

Therefore, before you begin conducting your research with your panel, make sure to assign it to its designated research campaign, its sub-campaign and its particular study. Once you do this, you can conduct your studies.

To reiterate, once you have put together your panel, you can choose from various research tools and methods. You can opt for surveys, focus groups, phone interviews, mobile ethnography, in-home use tests and more.

During your research sessions, make sure you record as much information from the panelists as possible. This is why using surveys is an ideal route, as they collect all the insights your panelists share, as opposed to experiments, product testing and focus groups. 

8. Maintain and Manage Your Survey Panel

Managing your survey panel is not the same as recruiting it. It takes practice and best practices to ensure you maintain your panelists and build a strong relationship with them. They are people, after all, and not solely those who take your survey once.

As such, you should attempt to form strong connections with your panel. Whenever you reach out to them, whether it's over email or phone, be friendly and use language that makes your panelists feel important and appreciated.

Avoid sounding too generic and make your outreach personable — and personalized. Ask yourself, before you send any emails, if you would open the email, read it in its entirety and respond.

It’s crucial to ensure your research is easy to partake in, yet another reason to distribute surveys, as they take less time than field research, experiments and the like. 

If you’re managing a panel in-house, you should consider assigning a designated person to manage the panel. Use someone from your business to keep in touch with the panel members and serve as the head of the panel.

Always keep your research promises to avoid panel attrition. This means, that if you’ve set a specific cadence of 1 study a month or 3 interviews per month, make sure to honor that cadence. Going above or below it will frustrate your panelists and make you untrustworthy.

It will therefore cause chaos in your study, which can easily lead to attention. 

Are There Different Types of Market Research Panels?

Market research panels can be split into two main groups: B2B panels and B2C panels. There are many other subgroups within each category, but it is key to know their presence and differentiating qualities.

  • B2B (business-to-business) panels are made up of business owners, professionals, industry experts, advisors and decision-makers. 
    • Panelists often respond to business-related surveys regarding industry type, segmentation, or market demographics.
    • This kind of panel would require vetting members based on firmographics. 
  • B2C (business-to-consumer) panels comprise customers or end-users of a brand, product, or service. 
    • Businesses use these panels to access feedback from their target audiences.

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. Often called legacy research methods, they usually take more time and effort to complete and don’t provide the same precision as a smart online survey platform does. 

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. 

online survey platform

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 are incentivized by 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 specific audience during a research project.
  • Reliable panel screening: 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 survey platforms

How Does an Online Market Research Panel Benefit Brands?

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, research panels have specific benefits for 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 wishes 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: Before 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. You should be aware of them before selecting this method for conducting research. 

  • 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 are 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.
  • Risk of poor data quality: Speaking of data, surveys can attract a range of less desirable respondents, motivated solely by 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.
  • Acquiescence bias and other biases: Also called agreement bias, acquiescence bias occurs when panelists are inclined to provide only positive or agreeable answers. With this bias, respondents feel more social pressure to answer in a particular way, as their identities are known to your business or the panel provider.
  • Longer recruitment and vetting periods: It doesn’t take a few minutes to vet and recruit a panel. That’s because you would first need to target its members, have them opt-in, review their self-identifying questionnaires to confirm their qualifications and ensure you have the required panel size before you even form the panel, let alone conduct the research with it.

Combat Reduced Research Quality Using Organic Probability Sampling

Although research panels can deliver a range of benefits, the market research panel definition we shared at the start of this article only tells part of the story. 

While these panels are largely comprised of motivated research participants — survey participation has been on the wane. This means the quality of research panels is fast becoming compromised as traditional companies scramble for participants from anywhere and everywhere.  

organic survey sampling

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 audience of real consumers via partnerships with app publishers, which allows us to conduct randomized, yet highly targeted surveys to verified respondents. 

Our unique process is known as Random Device Engagement, (RDE), which uses the organic sampling approach for finding and obtaining survey participants. 

This randomized method of reaching respondents ensures you avoid acquiescence bias from respondents, due to the anonymous nature of this route. 

In addition, it allows you to steer clear of the sampling bias, which occurs when the respondent selection process is not conducted at random, which then leads to under or overrepresentation of a certain market segment. 

A kind of organic probability sampling, RDE polling relies on advertising networks and other digital platforms to engage potential respondents wherever they visit voluntarily. This includes a variety of digital platforms and properties, such as:

  1. Mobile sites
  2. Apps 
  3. Website 
  4. Mobile games

With over 250 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.

The Need for a Strong Market Research Platform to Leverage Organic Sampling and More

Our final word involves highlighting not merely the importance of organic sampling and RDE, but the need to leverage the right online survey platform to carry out your entire research campaign.

A potent online survey provider, one that offers enterprise survey software will do all the heavy lifting for your market research campaigns. That’s because such a platform doesn’t simply facilitate creating surveys.

Instead, it allows you to hyper-target your survey audience, set quotes, reach populations from far and wide and ensure your survey gathers the exact amount of respondents as you input into your audience requirements section.

It would enable you to target respondents based on screening questions, along with inputting a large swath of respondent qualifications, including the four main categories of demographic, psychographic, geographic and firmographic identifiers. 

In addition, a strong survey provider grants you options aside from the Random Device Engemanet method of reaching respondents. Instead, it should also afford you the option to survey specific people, via the channels you specifically choose to deploy your surveys through.

This includes using channels such as via email, or whichever digital channel you seek to use. Fortunately, we offer the Distribution Link feature, which allows you to do just that.

All in all, a strong survey platform that offers random sampling through RDE and a variety of market research features and tools trumps market research panels.

Luckily, the Pollfish platform uses the RDE method and offers a variety of market research features such as A/B testing, conjoint analysis and much more to ensure a quality research campaign and avoid survey biases and fraud. 

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.


research panel

What is a Research Panel and is it Necessary for Market Research

What is a Research Panel and is it Necessary for Market Research

research panel

A research panel is a frequently used means for conducting research, including market research (the study of your customers). This method involves studying the same group of opted-in participants through various methods and stages that are developed as part of a research campaign.

The technique that underpins a research panel counters organic sampling, which seeks out research participants, particularly survey respondents, in their natural digital habitats. As such, a research panel is an alternative to random sampling and has various differentiations. 

You ought to know all the differentiators of research panels, how they stray from organic sampling, as well as what makes a research panel tick.

With this key information at hand, it will make your research endeavors simpler; it will also allow you to choose the best research method. This is a must, considering that there is a wide range of market research techniques. Panels are just one of many.

You may be wondering if panel research is a viable research method for your business needs or research campaign. Or, you may consider using it in tandem with another research technique or tool. 

do you need a research panel

Luckily, we’ve got you covered on this topic. 

This article explains the concept of the research panel in full depth, which can serve as a possible avenue market researchers can explore within the vast array of market research techniques. 

What is a Research Panel and is it Necessary for Market Research? Table of Contents

  1. Defining the Research Panel
  2. The Role of a Research Panel in the Market Research Process
  3. When to Use a Research Panel</a
  4. The Pros and Cons of a Research Panel
    1. The Pros
    2. The Cons
  5. Research Panel Examples
  6. Why Online Polling Software is Better
    1. Organic Sampling and RDE
    2. Greater Privacy
    3. Greater Reach to Research Participants
    4. Upfront Incentives
    5. Less Time Consuming
    6. Less Room for Attrition, Boredom and Bias
  7. The Online Survey Tool: A Stronger Alternative
  8. What a Machine-Learning and AI-Powered Survey Tool Does for Your Market Research Campaign
    1. How else do research panels compare to an online survey platform?
  9. The Ultimate Verdict on the Research Panel for Market Research

Defining the Research Panel

A market research panel is a pre-recruited and pre-screened group of research participants who have opted in to take part as the studied subjects of a market research campaign

This kind of research method can involve studying its members repeatedly. In this case, the particular study is called a panel study

It is also referred to as a longitudinal study, although longitudinal studies don’t necessarily need to involve panels, as there can be longitudinal surveys completed by non-panelists. 

As such, it is a way of describing those who have agreed to take surveys on an ongoing basis, which, in market research, are typically members of your target market

You can use a research panel for a wide range of subject matters. The members of the research panel can include a wide range of people across multiple sets of populations

what is a research panel

Whether you seek to study the workforce of a company or a major constituent of a national population, the term research panel can apply to all such groups. 

The key is to use participants who represent members of your target market and most importantly your target audience also referred to as your survey target audience. That’s because a research panel is a recruitment method used to get respondents to take your survey.  

In market research, the participants in a research panel are usually the people who belong to a business’s consumer base. 

Moreover, they belong to a particular audience, known specifically as a survey target audience in survey studies. This label can also apply to research panelists, as they too can be asked to take surveys. 

The members making up a research panel must share several traits, such as demographics, psychographics, geographic location and more. A market researcher may also study various segments that make up a target market.

There are various methods researchers can employ in their research campaigns, in which a research panel provides insights. These include:

  1. Interviews
  2. Focus groups
  3. Surveys
  4. In-home usage tests
  5. Experimentations
  6. Test marketing

The Role of a Research Panel in the Market Research Process

A research panel is but one process within the encompassing practice of market research. Some businesses may decide to extract data from a research panel alone, while others may use it alongside probability sampling.

Also called organic sampling, this method involves reaching out to all the individuals who fall under the qualifications of your subjects of study. As such, it allows more individuals to take part in the sample.

Unlike many of the sub-methods of organic sampling, a research panel is not anonymous, in the sense that the panelists’ identities will not be hidden from the researcher. 

research panel in the market research process

They are still kept anonymous when it comes to sharing the findings with the public, as you wouldn’t reveal the panelists’ identities. 

This allows researchers to study the members at a greater depth, in that researchers can match answers with the respondents themselves. This is due to the nature of pre-recruiting participants; when you do so, you’re going to need to collect information on each panelist, some of which may be personal.

This method will allow you to understand if they’re qualified to partake in your studies. As such, you’re effectively putting names and faces with data, essentially identifying each member. Additionally, this allows you to build a profile on each participant, adding bulk by applying multiple studies. 

Forming profiles gives you a glimpse into the presence of personas in your target market. A research panel is the starting point in building a persona. 

When you’ve profiled panelists through various means (interviews, focus groups, etc.), you have several kinds of data, from which you can form an analysis and draw conclusions.

You can test the prevalence of these conclusions by surveying other members of your target market, i.e., those who are not in the research panel. 

Various survey sampling methods will not only complement your research panel but also give it validity and statistical relevance. After all, there are only so many panelists you can interview or meet with.

Even if you study your research panel via surveys, it is not practical to spend a lofty amount of time vetting people to ensure they fit your research campaign. Thus, a research panel may not be the strongest of the various market research techniques.

When to Use a Research Panel

While businesses and market researchers can use a research panel liberally, it is not always in their best interest. This can be due to the size of a business, a limited budget, the objectives of a research campaign and the length of the research study. There are also times when it makes sense to engage in research yourself and other times in which it may be beneficial to work through a professional market research agency such as IntoTheMinds.

when to use a research panel

With this in mind, there are particular times in which companies and researchers alike can benefit from using a research panel. These include the following instances:

  1. Obtaining a constant, in-depth read of a certain group of participants.
  2. Conducting a more intimate study on a particular group of people.
  3. Running continuous studies on the same people, ie, for longitudinal studies
  4. Gathering data on subjects with scant studies due to rarities. Ex: people aged 100+
  5. Large research projects that will involve multiple modes of data collection
  6. When you are performing market segmentation.
  7. When you are building research or customer personas.
  8. To fulfill the preference of conducting research in a group setting.
  9. To gain insights on a topic that you may not have considered from your list of questions/concerns.
    1. These insights typically arise in conversations, as participants bring up points and considerations that you may not have originally thought of when forming your research plan.
  10. To assist or act as a helping agent in conjunction with another form of research, such as survey studies

The Pros and Cons of a Research Panel

The research panel tactic offers advantages and disadvantages that all market researchers should be privy to. Like other research techniques, it is not perfect and for some, the disadvantages may outweigh the benefits, while to other researchers, the opposite may be true.

You should mull over both the advantages and disadvantages that come with this form of research. 

The following lists the advantages and drawbacks of using a research panel.

The Pros

  1. Panel members have a more advanced understanding of the research topic since they can be recruited through a longer vetting process.
  2. It can be used multiple times on the same survey, to study change within a particular group that represents segments of your target market.
  3. It’s easier to conduct in recurring intervals, given that you have all the panelists’ information and don’t need to screen them as you would with a new set of participants.
  4. Deeper reads and longer researcher/panelist interactions are suitable for the 3 main types of survey research methods
  5. It is much easier to follow up with panelists, should you need more research, as you already have their contact information.

The Cons

  1. Lack of privacy: face-to-face interviews, along with phone interviews in which researchers know the identities of panelists can be intimidating.
    1. Even a panel study lacks privacy, which can lead to intimidation or fear of answering honestly. 
  2. Acquiescence bias: along with other biases, this issue can take shape, as respondents may feel pressured to answer in a particular way, leading to forced or inaccurate responses.
  3. Panel attrition: Due to re-interviewing, research panels are susceptible to fatigue, loss of interest, or pressure (Points 1, 2), making them easy candidates for attrition.
  4. Ingenuine change of attitude/ opinion: Interviewing and reinterviewing can change attitudes, in ways that are not always genuine, due to re-interviewing.
  5. Expensive: Whether you hire an in-house panel or use an external one, it is often an expensive affair, as you will need to pay each panelist. Since this is an ongoing study, you may have to pay them for each session.
  6. Poor data quality: This is especially true when a panel member is a participant in multiple panel companies. 
    1. The quality of the data may be compromised when a respondent is a member of two or more panels. 
    2. This is because the respondent may partake in the same survey.
    3. If they answer the same way, you will have duplicate data, but if they answer differently, there might be bias. At any rate, you’re getting data from the same person twice, which doesn’t improve the trustworthiness of research findings.
  7. Missing out on a larger survey pool: This relates to the aforementioned lack of privacy. Not everyone in your target audience will want to give away their contact info, let alone have their answers be tied to their identity. 
    1. As such, you may not get enough participants for the specific quantity required for your survey sampling size.  

Research Panel Examples

A research panel can be applied to all kinds of scenarios and has various use cases. Remember, they can be applied to both long and short-term research, despite being associated with the former more often.

They can be used in market research, which is for business purposes and is centered on customers. Or, they can be used for a wide range of other research types, such as medical, scientific, social, behavioral and educational research.

To help you better understand research panels, the following list includes seven examples of them across different areas of study:

  1. A business studying the customer buying behavior of three of its customer market segments. 
    1. This is especially useful to compare segments with high and low consumer loyalty
  2. A university research group studying the effects of sleep deprivation among students over a semester or year.
  3. An enterprise company seeking to release the most resonating ad campaigns by comparing how it's received across the world.
  4. A condiment manufacturer who is interested in comparing flavor and texture preferences across different parts of the country.
  5. A business that is intent on following its target market’s shopping habits and how they compare to their competitors.
    1. This will need to involve research on competitors. That means you’ll need to inquire about them in the panel, as well as perform secondary research to complement the study.
  6. A healthcare company seeking to find the relationship between device usage and obesity.
  7. A government program that tracks the success of a new social program for certain populations.

Why Online Polling Software is Better

Online polling software trumps research panels for a variety of objective reasons. There are also various subjective and preference-based justifications for leveraging an online survey tool instead of a research panel. 

polling software

Organic Sampling and RDE

First off, online survey platforms allow you to run random organic sampling, which allows you to reach non-professional survey takers and gain a far larger reach than you otherwise would have.

This is because organic sampling involves what’s known as Random Device Engagement (RDE), a kind of polling that relies on advertising networks and other portals on devices, to engage random people where they are, voluntarily.

Additionally, in Random Device Engagement, the surveys are delivered to users in their natural digital environments, capturing them where they prefer to be. They were not pre-recruited and thus do not face the same pressures and conditioning that they would in a research panel.

As such, they are more likely to answer questions truthfully, as they have no one to answer to, are kept anonymous and have nothing to lose

Greater Privacy

With far more privacy afforded to them, respondents of organic sampling surveys are also less vulnerable to acquiescence bias and all the other biases that involve the respondents’ reputation. 

On the other hand, there’s polling software. This method, as aforesaid, provides respondents with the most privacy, as they are not pre-recruited or pre-screened. In many cases, polling software reaches respondents organically, which affords respondents the most amount of privacy.

Some survey platforms (such as Pollfish), allow you to send surveys to specific individuals instead of simply across a vast network of online platforms; in this case, the study won’t be as private. However, it is another deployment option to expand how you run your survey study.  

Greater Reach to Research Participants

It also has a far greater reach to respondents. This, however, will depend on the online survey platform you use. We suggest one that allows you to conduct global surveys with the same ease as you would with local surveys. 

Upfront Incentives

When you use an online survey platform, survey incentives are usually mentioned upfront. This is typically the case with a survey platform that partners with gaming sites and other digital platforms that offer in-app awards, which can be either monetary or non-monetary.

With incentives being offered (or at least mentioned) at the fore, all kinds of customers will be more willing to participate in the survey study.

Less Time Consuming 

Moreover, an online polling platform isn’t as time-consuming for respondents. This is because such a platform does not simply conduct longitudinal studies — and even when it does, it can target random people who fit into certain customer profiles and customer personas.  

It is also far less time-consuming for researchers. That’s because they don’t need to conduct interviews or other actions to recruit participants; the polling software does it for them.  As such, it’s a win-win for all the people involved in the study: the respondents and the researchers. 

Less Room for Attrition, Boredom and Bias

As such, it isn’t reliant on using the same people repeatedly to take part in a study. In this way, it cuts survey attrition. This is because some panel members may feel exhausted, burned out or simply frustrated with having to continuously be part of a study, especially if it covers the same subject. 

As such, using polling software grants you the opportunity to ward off boredom from your respondents, as well as gain accurate responses. As mentioned earlier, panelists are far more prone to acquiescence bias and other biases. 

Respondents of a polling platform offering organic sampling are at a far lower risk of being biased or getting bored. The latter is especially true in a platform that offers a mobile-first environment. After all, mobile dominates online web traffic, as over half of web traffic comes from mobile devices.

Thus, a good survey design, especially one built for the mobile space creates a pleasant survey experience, one that intrigues respondents to take a survey in the first place, and most importantly, complete it.  

Aside from these advantages that online polling offers over research panels, there are many more. The other pros deal largely with the survey tool itself as opposed to its distribution and high-level polling aspects.

The Online Survey Tool: A Stronger Alternative

While a research panel has several benefits and use cases, online survey tools present a stronger alternative. First off, they have even more use cases and can be applied to all with greater ease.

This is because the survey tool itself does all the recruiting and screening for you. As a researcher, marketer, or business owner, you don’t have to worry about whether your survey respondents fit your target survey audience’s qualifications.

Identifying and acquiring respondents are both taken care of by an online survey platform, that is if you choose a potent one. This means you don’t need to have a pre-study interview to vet potential participants. Instead, everything is automated.

A strong online survey platform offers machine learning and artificial intelligence software to run all of its functions and mechanisms. This means, there is little to no manual labor required on your part. 

AI survey platform

All you need to do in your survey campaign with a strong online survey tool is:

  • Set your screener so that your survey targets the correct populations
  • Create your questionnaire
  • Analyze the survey

Those are the three steps involved in the Pollfish platform. If you’d like to learn how to make your own survey in just 3 easy steps, read the article in the hyperlink.

The online survey platform should handle all the rest. When it comes to running a high-quality market research campaign, there is a lot that goes into staving off poor-quality data and ensuring accurate results.

The following lays out what an AI-powered survey platform can do for your survey campaign:

What a Machine-Learning and AI-Powered Survey Tool Does for YOur Market Research Campaign

A lot is going on behind the scenes of an online survey platform. Luckily, you won’t have to worry about nearly all of them. Regardless, it is crucial to understand the depth of survey SaaS that runs on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Here’s what to expect from an AI-based survey platform:

  1. A strong adherence to targeting
    1. No respondent partially matches the demographic and psychographic screening that the researcher inputs into the platform.
    2. All survey participants must match 100% of the respondent qualifications. If not, they are disqualified from taking the survey, no matter how close to filling all slots of the criteria they get.

      market research survey
      The Audience section on the organic sampling survey platform Pollfish has a rigid adherence to granular respondent targeting.


  2. Respondent verification
    1. This mechanism checks respondents for duplicated IDs to ensure each survey completed is done by a unique person, as opposed to one person taking a survey more than once.
    2. The platform checks IP and MAC addresses, Google Advertising and mobile device identifiers.
    3. In addition, the platform works with vetted publishers to send unique IDs as an added layer of protection against survey fraud
  3. A layer of security in the questions themselves
    1. In-survey questions are designed as yet another layer of security against survey fraud.
    2. For example, a question can request respondents to answer a simple math problem.
    3. Or the survey would include identical questions with the response options re-ordered to verify answer consistency.
  4. Antibot Policy
    1. Bots are no match for an AI-powered platform that is designed to disqualify them from taking a survey.
  5. Zero tolerance for VPNs
    1. Most businesses and research campaigns put qualifications based on geographies. 
    2. A respondent on a VPN would tarnish any study with filters on who gets to partake in the survey based on location.
    3. The Pollfish zero-tolerance approach to VPNs ensures the veracity of respondents’ location.   
  6. Removal of incomplete surveys
    1. This speaks for itself, as surveys are meant to be fully completed. A partially complete survey would provide insufficient data.
    2. Incomplete surveys are especially problematic in surveys with follow-up questions to past questions, or those seeking more depth to a certain issue. 
  7. Removal of surveys with suspicious activities 
    1. Surveys with any questionable behaviors are rejected.
    2. This includes the removal of the following:
      1. Answering open-ended questions with nonsense 
      2. Attempting to sign in from multiple countries/devices at once.
      3. Taking an inappropriate amount of time on the survey.
  8. Multiple layers of quality checks
    1. The survey platform uses a technical layer to perform other quality checks.
    2. This process includes our technical experts continuously working to avoid survey fraud. 
    3. There are several layers that we use to maintain good data quality. These include checks on the following:
      1. Hasty answers Check: catches respondents who answer faster than the average time needed to read the questions.
      2. Reset ID Check: Activates when the respondent answered the same survey previously, but with a different device to avoid the same respondent from taking the survey more than once.
      3. Gibberish Check: Checks for answers contain nonsensical text. This is the kind of text without real words, such as “jnfjv vdf gre.”
        gibberish survey answersAvoid receiving gibberish answers thanks to the Pollfish AI-powered survey platform
      4. Same IP Participation: Checks if a survey has been completed before within a certain time from the same IP address of the respondent’s device.
      5. Carrier Consistency: Assures that the carrier of the respondent’s internet service exists in the targeting market.
  9. Specialized questions to identify those not paying attention 
    1. Aside from a layer of security in all questions, we offer specialized questions that detect poor data quality.
    2. These include the following question types:
      1. Red herring questions: Asks questions with odd answers to assure respondents are paying attention.
      2. Trap questions: Finds who is paying attention to a command, usually one that asks to select a negative response. Responders who choose positive responses will be caught.
      3. Quality Questions: Similar to red herring questions, they check if respondents read and understand what’s being asked.
  10. Constant iteration until all quotas are met
    1. With the agile research approach, the platform doesn’t merely provide speedy insights.
    2. Instead, it creates constant iterations until all the quotas and the desired amount of completed surveys are met.
    3. As such, the platform doesn’t cease, or pause (unless you set this command on your dashboard).
    4. It allows you to gain the proper amount for your sampling pool.
    5. With this, no survey pool is too large (relative to the necessary sampling size).

How else do research panels compare to an online survey platform?

Respondents can rest assured that they do not need to give away their data. To add to this, they can still be incentivized to take part in a survey study. 

An online survey platform does all the heavy lifting in terms of retrieving responses, while in a research panel, the researcher has to make sure that all the participants respond adequately. This is to say that the researchers themselves must check for gibberish answers, questions left unanswered and much more.

This is especially more difficult in focus groups and one-on-one interviews, in which a researcher has to make sure everyone participates in the former, and that the panelists are willing to truthfully answer all the questions in the latter.

An online survey tool also effectively eliminates the need to worry about survey response rates, as it keeps iterating until the preset requirements are met (including the number of respondents).

As such, researchers have plenty to gain for their research needs from using an online survey tool in tandem with a research panel, or even as a replacement for a research panel.

The Ultimate Verdict on the Research Panel for Market Research 

A research panel is a useful method for conducting market research, particularly for studying the same group of participants to monitor their opinions and behaviors and changes thereof.

However, a productive market research campaign will rely on using more diverse methods to extract data. This involves using random organic sampling, which forgoes the conditioning and pressures of a research panel.

As such, you should opt for a survey platform that offers RDE, or Random Device Engagement, which, as mentioned earlier on, distributes surveys randomly, across a wide network of digital properties. This includes websites, mobile sites and mobile apps. 

With this survey function, the platform does all of the work when it comes to identifying respondents and covering all quotas. That means you don’t need to do anything in this regard, as the platform performs these tasks.

But there’s more.

To piggyback off of the section on the role of the research panel, online surveys and research panels do have some beneficial similarities. For example, they’re both ideal for creating and validating personas. 

A research panel can identify a persona over several rounds of interviews/ surveys/ etc., while an online survey tool can conduct further research to find whether those personas are statistically significant.

Thus, these methods work well hand-in-hand when it comes to conducting market research. A strong online survey platform will ensure a synergistic relationship between random sampling surveys and research panels.

It should allow you to survey specific people, such as via email, or whichever digital channel you seek to use. Luckily, there’s the Distribution Link feature, which enables you to do just that. 

Frequently asked questions

What is a research panel?

A market research panel includes participants who have willingly opted to participate in a research group regarding a specific subject. These members are pre-screened and pre-recruited.

Why are research panels important in the market research process?

Research panels are essential because they are not anonymous, unlike the respondents who take the surveys incognito. This is important because it allows researchers to find out everything about the members to match answers with the respondents themselves, ruling out chances of inaccuracy.

When should businesses use a research panel?

Businesses should set up a panel to facilitate in-depth research of audiences and their behavioral patterns or conduct a detailed, intimate study on customers. Large research projects that require multiple modes of data collection or market segmentation also work well with a dedicated research panel. You can also use them when building customer profiles.

What are some pros of using a research panel?

Panel members usually have a more advanced understanding of a research topic. Research panels are also easy to conduct in recurring intervals, and researchers do not need to screen information as they would with a new set of participants. In this way, it is faster and more efficient.

What are some cons of using a research panel?

With a panel, participants do not have privacy. They may have to participate in interviews which can be intimidating. This may pressurize a respondent to answer in a particular way, leading to an incorrect response. Research panels are also prone to fatigue, loss of interest, and panel attrition. Also, hiring a research panel is usually costlier as you may have to pay the participants for every session.

Survey Research Methods: A Deep Dive

Survey Research Methods: A Deep Dive

Although survey research methods are just one tactic under the enveloping market research field of study, they too are administered in a number of ways. 

That is because much like market research, there is no single or universal technique when it comes to survey research. Instead, there are various survey research methods, those that only pertain to the survey aspect of market research.

Survey research methods include different sets of classifications, from types of surveys, to data organization and more. It is key to become familiar with all of them to determine which is most suitable for your market research needs. 

This article will navigate all the nuances that pertain to survey research methods.

Surveys for Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Market research relies on both primary and secondary research; surveys fall under the former and have several classifications. The first major one conveys the duality within survey research methods: that of quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative research surveys: 

Quantitative research involves gathering quantitative, or numerical data. Surveys amass this data by asking questions that quantify attitudes, opinions, feelings and behaviors. The point of this kind of survey research method is to form generalizations. 

Quantitative research surveys therefore use a larger sample size in order to crunch numbers on different issues and variables. This survey research method is highly dependent on using and creating mathematical and statistical data. 

These surveys use this data to identify patterns in a target market, find averages, make predictions and test relationships.

Essentially, this survey research method uses respondents to understand the “what” and “how much” of a studied subject.

Qualitative research surveys:

Qualitative research zeroes in on experiences, ideas and opinions, instead of focusing on statistical or quantitative results. Instead, this survey research method seeks to holistically interpret an issue, occurrence or phenomenon.

As such, qualitative research seeks to perceive an issue in more depth, find the cause of an occurrence, create inferences, find solutions to problems and uncover trends.

This research method is centered around the “what” and even more so, the “why” of a research subject. 

Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research uses a smaller sample size for a deeper understanding of causes, motivations and sentiment. 

This kind of survey research method uses open-ended and exploratory questions in natural environments, in which respondents freely discuss their opinions to help researchers identify the “why” behind an issue.

Understanding the “why” is then used to make decisions on how to resolve the issue or how to improve on an existing productive situation.

Survey Panels Vs Random Sampling

The second main classification of survey research methods is categorized via the sampling pool. There are two main types of sampling pools, i.e., the type of respondents that take part in a survey. 

Market Research Panel: 

A market research panel is a pre-recruited group of survey respondents who have agreed to take part in online surveys. This method is most commonly employed by market research panel companies, which require the panelists to share personal information about themselves. 

This includes the information you’d find at the screener section of a survey tool such as demographics, but can also include behavioral data. The panel can be used for more than one survey; this way is convenient for market researchers who require long-term survey campaigns such as longitudinal surveys

Random Sampling Pool:

A random sampling pool is a group of survey respondents who have not been recruited to take part in a survey. Instead, this method involves, as the name suggests, a random group of participants. They take a survey once they reach a publisher’s website or app, which is triggered by an online survey tool. As such, they take a survey due to their being real-time users on a site or app in which the survey has been launched.

Any business can take this automated approach, which does not require seeking out participants manually, as a market research panel would. Although the pool of respondents has been gathered randomly, the qualifying participants are not random.

This is because the survey software used to launch this survey includes screening questions and demographic requirements that respondents must meet to take the survey. As such, researchers still get the exact kind of participants they seek to survey. This survey research method includes probability and non-probability sampling.

Survey Research Methods Based on Campaign Type & Macro Applications

Survey research methods can be further divided based on the type of macro application (or discipline) you need the data for. They can also be categorized into different campaign types, which can fall under the macro applications, or exist as their own application.  

You should understand these purposes before you choose the proper survey type for your research needs. Here are the major campaigns and applications to base your survey method on:

  • Marketing: A broad term that includes a wide variety of processes to raise awareness and demand in your company, promote it and understand your target market.
  • Advertising: One of the key practices in marketing, advertising refers to communication using overtly sponsored messages to promote or sell a product or service. 
  • Branding: The development of a brand’s reputation and image, along with increasing the recognition of your company. 
  • Market Segmentation: Facilitates targeting those most likely to be satisfied customers of your company or content. It involves splitting your target market up into smaller groups of people with similar characteristics. 
  • Competitor Analysis: It is the process of identifying and assessing your competitors based on their strategies to unearth their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand.
  • Employee Satisfaction: The degree to which employees are content and fulfilled with their jobs, including their schedule, work environment and banter with fellow employees.
  • Customer Satisfaction: The measurement of how happy customers are with a company's products, services, experiences and interactions.

Types of Surveys

Finally, we arrive at the types of surveys, the most granular aspect of survey market research methods, that is, unless you delve further by looking into survey questions. 

These surveys are classified as belonging to either quantitative or qualitative methods, along with their best application type. As for the latter classification, you ought to know that these surveys are not necessarily limited to these applications. 

Rather, they are most apt for the named applications and campaigns, but due to the versatile nature of surveys, the following can be used in other applications, including those not mentioned in this article.

  1. Cross-sectional surveys: Gather data to make inferences about a population at some point in time. 
    1. Used to provide snapshots of the populations they survey.
    2. Drawn from a few specific variables to narrow down a unique and smaller population.
    3. Method: Quantitative surveys
    4. Best used for: advertising, market segmentation, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, branding
  1. Longitudinal Surveys: Study variables over longer periods of time. (Weeks to decades)
    1. Require more dedication from respondents and researchers, including time and money. In this regard, a larger pool of participants is used and studied for much longer.
    2. Like cross-sectional surveys, these are also observational and study the exact sample pool for the length of the study.
    3. Method: Primarily qualitative, but can be quantitative
    4. Best used for: marketing, competitor analysis, market segmentation
  2. Retrospective Surveys: Merge aspects of both cross-sectional and longitudinal survey methods. 
    1. Observe changes that occur over a longer period of time, but are facilitated just once. 
    2. Thus, responders discuss occurrences, attitudes and feelings from the past. 
    3. Method: Qualitative and quantitative surveys
    4. Best used for: Marketing, branding, competitor analysis

Going Beyond Survey Research Methods

Understanding the various survey research methods are crucial to forming the most fitting market research campaign for your brand. However, it doesn’t end here. With innovations in the market research field, other survey methods and sub-methods are going to emerge.

Moreover, after you’ve found the best survey research method(s) for your company, you’ll need to conduct the proper survey data analysis

As such, you’ll need to analyze your surveys, and this can be done in a number of formats. Some are going to be more visual than others. 

After all, conducting surveys is one thing, but understanding the surveys is the centerpiece of any research campaign.

Frequently asked questions

What is a quantitative research survey?

A quantitative research survey is one in which all responses can be assigned a numerical value so that results can be easily analyzed. They are used to quantify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to make generalizations about the target market.

What is a qualitative research survey?

A qualitative research survey is used to gain a deeper understanding of the ideas, opinions, or experiences of a group of people. This type of survey uses open-ended questions that allow respondents to discuss their opinions freely.

What is a market research panel?

A market research panel is a group of individuals who have been selected to participate in a series of surveys over a specific period of time.

What is a random sampling pool?

A random sampling pool is a group of individuals who have been selected at random to participate in a survey. In an online survey tool, a sample pool is derived via automation.

What is a longitudinal survey?

A longitudinal survey is one that studies a group of individuals over a period of time, which can range from weeks to decades.