Market Research Sample Techniques

Trying to gather feedback from every current or future consumer is impossible. That is why market research employs various sampling techniques (depending on the research method) to try and capture a sample of people that can represent the larger population.

What is a Market Research Sample?

Market research sampling is a process, that is both art and science, that is aimed at pinpointing a carefully chosen subset of individuals to act as representatives for a much larger population. When executed with precision, this select group and the insights they provide should serve as a reliable mirror reflecting the characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of the broader population at large. In essence, a well-constructed sample becomes the key that unlocks a deeper understanding of your target audience, enabling businesses to make informed decisions that resonate authentically with their customers. Sampling is the cornerstone of robust market research, ensuring that the findings are not just informative but also truly representative of the market landscape.

Why Is Market Research Sampling Important?

Market research sampling is of paramount importance because it is the linchpin to truly comprehending your target audience. When you obtain the right sample for your research project, it opens the door to a deeper understanding of your audience’s needs, attitudes, behaviors, and preferences. Moreover, it provides a valuable source of feedback on your product and/or service that can be used to refine and tailor your offerings. The data gleaned from the insightful responses of your carefully selected sample empowers your organization to make not just decisions but better, more informed decisions that resonate with your audience and drive success in an ever-evolving marketplace. Sampling is the compass that guides your research voyage, ensuring you navigate in the right direction toward meaningful insights and impactful outcomes.

Market Research Sampling Techniques

In the world of market research sampling, there are a wide variety of techniques and methodologies that researchers can employ to gather a representative sample of the population to gain insights from. Here are a few of the more frequently used techniques for sampling in market research:

Random Sampling

With random sampling, every individual within a population is granted an equal opportunity to be selected for the study. This approach to probabilistic sampling diligently eliminates any lurking biases associated with the target audience, as no one is favored or more likely to be chosen over another. By bestowing each member of the population with the same chance of being part of the sample, random sampling not only ensures fairness but also bolsters the reliability and representativeness of the collected data, ultimately reinforcing the robustness of your research findings.

Systematic Sampling

Systematic sampling offers a structured and efficient approach to the art of sampling. In this method, members of a population are meticulously chosen at a consistent and predetermined interval, forming a sample that accurately represents the entire population. This systematic approach not only simplifies the sampling process but also ensures that the selected individuals maintain a balanced and coherent distribution, providing researchers with a reliable cross-section of the population’s characteristics and behaviors. By its methodical nature, systematic sampling strikes a harmonious balance between simplicity and representativeness, making it a valuable tool in the researcher’s toolkit for generating robust insights.

An example of sampling methodology would be if you wanted to survey a population of 20,000 people, you would select every 200th person to be part of your pool of respondents.

Stratified Sampling

Stratified sampling is a method that adds a layer of sophistication to the sampling process. In this approach, the population is thoughtfully segmented into smaller, homogeneous subgroups, known as strata. These strata are defined based on shared characteristics or attributes such as job function, income level, or any other relevant criteria. By creating these distinct strata, researchers can ensure that each subset is accurately represented in the sample, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the entire population. This meticulous method of sampling empowers researchers to obtain a sample that not only captures the diversity within the population but also provides granular insights into each stratum, making it an indispensable tool for gathering nuanced and meaningful data.

Quota Sampling

Quota sampling represents a refined extension of the stratified sampling technique. In this method, the research process becomes even more deliberate as specific quotas are established within each population stratum. These quotas serve as predefined benchmarks, ensuring that the sample meticulously mirrors the characteristics of the larger population. By meticulously assigning quotas, researchers go the extra mile to guarantee that the sample encompasses not only the diversity within each stratum but also the correct proportions of individuals from different segments. Quota sampling is a method characterized by its dedication to representativeness, making it an invaluable approach for obtaining a sample that accurately mirrors the intricacies of the broader population.

Cluster Sampling

Cluster sampling shares similarities with stratified sampling as it involves the division of a population into clusters or groupings. However, in this method, researchers take a distinct approach by randomly selecting specific clusters as their market research sample. The objective is to ensure that each chosen cluster serves as a microcosm, accurately reflecting the characteristics of the broader population. An illustrative example of this approach could be seen in examining school districts: rather than surveying every student, researchers might randomly select a few school districts, recognizing that these clusters should ideally provide insights that generalize to the entire student population. Cluster sampling offers an efficient way to capture the diversity within a population while managing the logistical complexities that can arise when dealing with large and dispersed groups.

Area Sampling

Area sampling is a type of sampling that is defined by geographical boundaries. This form of sampling is commonly used for geographic or ecological sampling. If it is used to gather insights on human behavior, it should be combined with some form of cluster or stratified sampling so that you do not end up trying to gather sample from a sparsely populated area.

Determining the Right Sample Size For Your Market Research

Determining the right sample size for your online quantitative research project, or any market research project, is crucial for obtaining statistically reliable and meaningful results. Here are a few steps to help you determine the appropriate sample size you need for your research study:

Define Your Research Objectives:

Start by clearly defining the objectives of your research project. What specific questions do you want to answer, and what are your research goals?

Understand Your Population/Target Audience:

Determine the population or target audience you want to study and its potential size. This is the entire group of individuals or entities your research is meant to represent. Understanding your population size is essential for calculating your sample size.

Select Your Confidence Level and Margin of Error:

Choose a confidence level (typically 95% is used) and a margin of error (usually expressed as a percentage). The confidence level represents how confident you want to be that your sample’s results reflect the true population, and the margin of error indicates the acceptable level of deviation from the true population parameter.

Estimate Population Variability:

You’ll need an estimate of the variability or standard deviation within your population. If you don’t have this information, you can use a conservative estimate or conduct a small pilot study to gather data. You can also ask your sample provider; they may be able to answer this based on previous studies to similar audiences they have conducted. Many use 0.5 as a constant.

How to Calculate Your Needed Sample Size

Here is the formula to use to calculate the sample size you will need for your market research project:

Necessary Sample Size = (Z-score)² * StdDev*(1-StdDev) / (margin of error)²

Calculated Sample Size Examples

Here are a few examples for calculating sample size (based on some basic assumptions and).

Example 1:

  • Margin of error: 5%
  • Confidence level: 80%
  • Recommended sample = 165

Example 2:

  • Margin of error: 5%
  • Confidence level: 90%
  • Recommended sample = 271

Example 3:

  • Margin of error: 4%
  • Confidence level: 95%
  • Recommended sample = 600

Example 4:

  • Margin of error: 2%
  • Confidence level: 99%
  • Recommended sample = 4,130

Get Started Today

Want to calculate the actual sample size you may need? Click the button below and we can help!

EMI – Your Market Research Sample Experts

EMI is pretty unique in the online market research sample industry. As a leading sample consultancy, we understand the entire sample landscape, not just a single panel. Our goal is to create a strategic blend of sample based on your project, rather than make your project fit any specific panel. Unlike most market research sample panels, EMI doesn’t own a panel. That means we are not biased toward a specific panel asset, we create strategic sample blends that best fit the goals of your research, not what best fits any panel we might own.

Over the last 20 years, we have developed a knowledge of the online market research sample industry that is unrivaled when combined with our unbiased sample blending approach. We have built this knowledge by not only working with panel partners throughout the industry but also conducting research-on-research for more than a decade into the online sample industry to understand the differences between consumer panels, and how they change over time.

This unparalleled industry knowledge is the driver, along with not owning our own panel, to provide unbiased, transparent sample consulting and advice to our clients that puts the emphasis on what is right for their research, and not what is right for any specific panel.

Strategic Sample Blending

Strategic sample blending  takes traditional blending to the next level and is the best sample design to ensure confident business decisions. It is blending three or more sample providers, but the selection and blending of the selected providers is done in an intentional and controlled manner. Providers are selected to complement one another, while reducing the overall sample bias and any potential behavioral or attitudinal impacts a panel can have. This method ensures that sample blending isn’t done simply for blending’s sake. Utilizing our strategic methodology, we build customized blends that best meet clients’ needs while ensuring the best results possible.

Additionally, by strategically selecting providers and managing their allocation, you increase overall feasibility while avoiding “top-up” situations and panel bias, both of which can skew your data.

EMI’s Online Market Research Sample Panel Network

EMI has built a global network of sample partners that gives you access to one of the highest quality pools of respondents of varying demographic, socio-economic, geographical, behavioral, and psychographic characteristics. This gives EMI the ability to create strategic sample blends that best fit your study and provide you high-quality, deep insights that you need to make better business decisions.

Every market research sample panel in our network has passed our rigorous Partner Assessment Process so we can best understand the recruiting methods, validation process, and other data quality measures they have in place, as well as the ins-and-outs of their panel. Our strict vetting process ensures we only allow the best sample providers into our network, and that we maintain a high-level of data quality for our clients.

You can view the full capabilities of SWIFT

Ensuring Data Quality

EMI has been dedicated to the pursuit and delivery of high-quality, actionable data on behalf of our clients for more than 20 years. This commitment to quality comes from our extensive industry knowledge and our drive to deliver unbiased, actionable quantitative data tailored to the needs of our clients. To that, we have built a multi-faceted suite of quality measures, including both technology and human elements, to provide the highest quality data possible.

Human Elements

  • Partner Assessment Process 
  • Dedicated Quality Committee
  • Response Red Flagging System
  • Screener and Questionnaire Design Expertise
  • Research-on-Research


Technology Elements

  • SWIFT (Proprietary Digital Fingerprinting and De-Duplicaiton)
  • Research Defender’s Advanced Bot and Fraud Detection
  • AI-Powered Data Scrubbing
  • Geo-IP Blocking
  • Quality Optimization Rating (QOR)

Quality Optimization Rating

The Quality Optimization Rating, or QOR, is EMI’s proprietary sample quality metric used to evaluate the quality of the sample that we provide to our clients. It was developed to ensure that EMI’s team of expert consultants had access to data-driven insights to craft solid sampling strategies for the most optimal quality experience for both our clients and panels. EMI’s Quality Optimization Rating considers pre-study traffic health, in-study participant behaviors, and post-study data validity consistency. This metric aids in monitoring and tracking over time how well a panel partner performs within Consumer, B2B, and Healthcare work, both domestically and globally.

World-Class Project Management

We don’t just provide you with custom consumer sample solutions, we back it up with our world-class project management services. The team provides 24/7/365 coverage and works with you as an extension of your team, providing you a single point of contact, utilizing responsiveness, creativity, and flexibility to help you navigate any issues.

The backbone of all projects is SWIFT, EMI’s proprietary, cloud-based, sample management platform. By connecting your survey to our sample network, we are enabled to:

  • Launch your projects.
  • Field and close projects with more speed and accuracy than other panels.
  • Manage multiple partners where we can insure there are no duplicates across panels.

You can view the full capabilities of SWIFT here.

EMI’s experience in identifying, vetting, and managing a network of high-quality market research sample panels, combined with our industry leading approach of strategically blending sample makes us your best option for conducting market research. We will offer your company unique insights that will allow you to uncover exactly who your customer is, how they buy, and why their behavior changes over time. These insights will help you develop your company’s strategies and grow your business.

EMI’s unique combination of expertise, white-glove service, and reach allows us to be your one-stop sample provider — getting it done without compromise.

Ready to take that next step?