21st Century Research Panels… Not Like Grandma Used to Make

Mike Kuehne

Imagine a way-back-machine dystopian universe where research surveys were administered door-to-door. Where panelist contact information was kept on punch cards that had to be sorted and put back into a stack of thousands for every project. Imagine a time when research conducted through panels was not digital at all. For those familiar with the dystopian research universe known as the 1960s and 1970s, the research panels of today are the equivalent of a jump to lightspeed.

Research panels have evolved significantly since then, and are now quite complex. However, much like in the ’60s and ’70s, creating a panel is a commitment that can pay dividends if built and managed to scale with business needs. Blasting into the present, it is also important to understand the difference between consumer panels and online communities, when to use consumer panels and how to manage them. With this knowledge at hand, organizations can answer nearly any research challenge.

Consumer panels are highly effective in providing researchers with a fast, high incidence sample that can be used for a variety of business needs. Here are core differences between consumer panels and online communities are as follows:

Consumer Panels

  1. Generally small, with a population anywhere between 15-4,000 people
  2. Category/Brand specific
  3. Cover a variety of research engagements, which are often product or package focused
  4. Utilize both Quant and Qual methodologies, both remotely and in central locations

Online Communities

  1. Large, with a population in the thousands
  2. Not category specific
  3. Not product or packaging based, generally used for branding and idea incubation

Some of the largest hoops researchers must jump through when building consumer panels are cost and time to deployment. In fact, consumer panels are like infants, with basic needs that must be respected:

  1. Both must be fed to live and grow
  2. Both act out when they haven’t received enough attention
  3. Both can be very expensive to take care of

When these needs are addressed, consumer panels can provide a powerful source of research opportunity. According to a recent ESOMAR research paper, consumer panels can and should be used for a combination of:

Advertising Pre-Testing: Knowing that likeability is one of the key features for successful advertising, it is not always necessary to interview a balanced sample of the population to understand what does work and what doesn’t. Also, knowing that ad-testing can be made very entertaining, it’s an ideal tool to apply in branded environments supporting the community feel.

Advertising Post-Testing: Typical day-after-recalls can be supplemented with deeper knowledge on the perception of the brand within the core user group.

Packaging Testing: Similar to ad testing, packaging concepts can be easily pre-tested within the user base.

Open Innovation: The challenge in open innovation is to overcome the situation in which the transparency of the actual product development process is relatively low, and access to the product source code is restricted. The value of open innovation initiatives lies much in immersing in your community and infusing the product with an extended meaning beyond the utilitarian one. As such, brands may benefit from the communication among (potential) product users and their steps in giving meaning to their activities with the product. This requires a more qualitative approach and offers direct feedback in the early stages of the innovation funnel.

Whether you’re looking to build your own panel or have a third party coordinate it for you, a critical success factor is to utilize panel management technology that allows your panel to effectively scale up or down as business needs change.

Benefits of highly scalable panel management platforms:

  1. Screen respondents within the platform management system
  2. Utilize dashboards for panel statistics
  3. Utilize online payment options
  4. Save cost and monetize your panel
  5. Reduce overall time in the field

KinesisPanel by FocusVision is the leading panel management technology platform. It is a robust, industry agnostic and highly scalable management solution, with all the tools needed to effectively build consumer panels that fuel your innovation pipeline. With KinesisPanel in your research cockpit, you can easily make the lightspeed jump from 1960s dystopia to 21st century business success.

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