Research panels are key for conducting high-quality quantitative marketing research in today’s online and digital world. Whenever your company is planning to release a new product or service, upgrade an existing one, or meet many other business objectives, it is incredibly important to conduct market research with a dedicated research firm.
EMI Research Solutions is a leading online sample and quantitative research consultancy. With more than 20 years of experience operating in the market research industry, we provide you with unbiased solutions that connect you to the right sample that best fits your project rather than trying to make your project fit a specific panel.
What is a Research Panel?
A research panel is the group of established survey participants a research panel company has on hand, either for a specific study or overall, to provide data and feedback to companies, governments, and non-profits researching consumer behavior and other trends.
With panel research, this established group of survey responders are typically prescreened through preliminary data provided to the organizers. This data includes the answers to questions on basic household demographics, income levels, and other personal information to streamline the selection process for particular research panels or surveys. For example, a group of survey respondents selected for a car manufacturer may eliminate those who do not already own a car or who do not like to drive.
Through these efficiencies, panel research makes the process of obtaining consumer data faster and more affordable for companies. It also means increased responses to online market research efforts when compared to forming a panel from scratch for one-time or sporadic consumer research. One thing that you need to keep in mind is that panels are different from one another.
Types of Research Panels
Every research panel is different. This is a fact. For the past decade, we have been studying how panels differ from one another and how business decisions can differ based on the sample provider used. Ultimately, this is the most important finding of all the work we do in understanding research panels.
A core reason panels are different is because nearly all market research panels are built to answer business questions. They are not built to be representative of the US (or any other country’s) census. They are far from probability samples despite some claims otherwise.
So, why are they different?
There are many reasons, but the main differences are that they recruit differently, manage their panel differently, members can access surveys differently, they may have exclusive partnerships, or have different incentive structures. While we have spent over a decade working to inform the overarching market research industry that online sample is different, there are many that still believe it is a commodity and should be treated as such.
Research panels can also fall into various categories based on the core target audience they can provide. They fall into three broad categories:
Consumer Research Panels
Consumer research panels are panels whose respondents are primarily consumers who participate in quantitative consumer research.
Consumers who join these panels provide feedback through survey responses on products, services, concepts, ads, public opinion topics, and much more.
Consumers are recruited to join panels from a variety of areas including social media, rewards programs, memberships, loyalty programs, etc.
B2B Research Panels
B2B (or Business-to-Business) research panels are panels whose respondents are primarily used in B2B quantitative research. They are made of various professionals, business owners, experts, advisors, and decision-makers across a variety of different industries.
Respondents who are part of a B2B research panel provide feedback and insights on business-related studies.
Healthcare Research Panels
Healthcare research panels are those whose respondents are primarily used in healthcare quantitative research.
Healthcare research panels normally fall into two main categories: Patient/Ailment or Physician/Specialist.
How Research Panels are Managed
As mentioned above, no two research panels are the same. Every research panel is different and constantly changing. When getting ready to pick which panels to work with, there are numerous things to be aware of about how they manage their panel that can have an impact on the results their panelists provide.
One key factor that differentiates panels and their respondents is how they recruit. Some of the information to consider about the recruiting practices of a potential panel partner include how their respondents are recruited, the sources used to recruit, how respondents are verified, profiled, and monitored, and what type of targeting is available.
Another key factor to take into account when selecting a potential sample partner is the type of information they have on their respondents and how much. Some things to consider are the information they are collecting on their respondents, the type of profiling questions being asked, and if they include additional information from third parties.
How a panel incentivizes their panelists is another factor that can impact the data you may get from them. Consider how respondents are incentivized, the average incentive, how incentives are provided, and at what frequency.
How panelists are contacted and the frequency can also factor into the kind of panelists the provider has, as well as the turnover a panel may have. Consider if the frequency and method of contact seem reasonable to take into account the likelihood a panelist may have contact fatigue.
Any panel provider considered should have quality control measures in place to combat any fraud or poor-quality respondents. It is important to note whether a provider has a documented quality control process, how they mitigate poor quality, if they use a respondent scoring system, and if they communicate with respondents to help them improve or provide guidance.
Finally, the customer service level a panel provides may not impact the data you achieve, but it will impact the difficulty level it may be to work with them, and it could lead to frustration and problems while in field. Take into consideration what their customer service looks like, who their escalation point is, who will be “on-call,” and the normal bid turnaround time.
Importance of Research Panel Selection
One aspect that many researchers overlook when conducting online quantitative research is the selection of the right research panel provider. Many people believe that panels, and the data they provide, are all the same. That could not be further from the truth. Research panels are different from each other, and they change over time. Selecting the right research panel provider can be key to getting the relevant actionable insights you want.
That’s where EMI’s superior online sample and research panel industry knowledge and market research expertise can help.
For the past 20+ years, EMI has been identifying, vetting, developing, and managing a strong network of high-quality research panel sample partners. Each research panel we work with must pass our rigorous Partner Assessment Process, where we take a deep dive into exactly what value each research panel brings to the industry, and what types of studies they and their respondents are a best fit for. Only 30% of research panels who have been through our Partner Assessment Process have successfully passed and have been admitted into our network.
EMI - Your Research Panel Experts
EMI is one of the only unbiased sample consultancies in the industry. It is because we do not have our own proprietary panel, which means we are not biased toward a specific panel asset. This makes EMI unique among research panel companies. For over two decades, we have been identifying and maintaining a strong network of research panel partners, as well as building custom research panel sample solutions for our clients and marketplace. Our vast network of high-quality research panels gives us access to a wide variety of profiling points across consumer, B2B, and healthcare, so you can better uncover the insights you need.
We like to think that we are protecting our clients through unbiased sample consulting and extending our honest advice in procuring online sample. We are doing what’s right for the research, business decisions, and panels.
Our Approach to Research Panel Selection
EMI has been the leader in online sample and strategic sample blending since our founding in 1999. We have been a sample consultancy since not only our inception, but since the infancy of online sample.
Over the years, we have developed a knowledge of the 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 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 providing 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.
We start with our Partner Assessment Process. To join our research panel network, sample providers need to fill out our rigorous application. Through that, we learn about each panel’s unique assets and how a partnership with them will benefit not only EMI, but our other panels and their respondents. The questions touch on topics like recruitment process, representativeness of sample, technology, sample management and quality, participation of panelists, respondent incentives, and service, along with other general panel statistics. We also review additional materials like panel books and ESOMAR questions.
We also put each of our panels through our research-on-research. This can include testing panels on their quality, respondent experience, and how they work with different device types. By putting them through research-on-research, it’s easier to compare their results to other panels and better understand their differences. This can be critical when it comes time to pick a panel for a specific study.
Building a network of research panels is hard and takes time. It is something we have been carefully building and maintaining for 20 years. Our network is the crucial first component in delivering valuable, unbiased, actionable insights. The second is our industry-leading approach of strategically blending sample.
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.
Discover more about our approach here.
EMI actively manages its network of panel providers to make sure it is always up to date, current, and has the target audience that fits your project specifications. We offer access to a wide range of panels comprised of respondents from many different demographics that cover target areas such as: seems like it cut off
Our global network of consumer sample partners gives you access to one of the highest-quality pools of consumer respondents of varying demographic, socio-economic, geographical, behavioral, and psychographic characteristics that give us the ability to create custom strategic sample blends that best fit the target of your study, and provide high-quality, deep insights.
You can get more details on our consumer panel capabilities here.
Our global network of B2B sample partners allows us to access one of the largest pools of B2B panelists of varying firmographics, locations, company sizes, responsibilities, and areas of expertise. Our network contains sources for different business segments that give us the ability to use the ideal source for your work.
You can get more details on our B2B panel capabilities here.
Our global network of sample partners gives you access to one of the highest-quality pools of healthcare panelists, including physicians, specialists, patients, and other respondents in healthcare positions. Our network provides respondents of varying demographics, geography, organization size, area of expertise, responsibilities, and more.
You can get more details on our Healthcare panel capabilities here.
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.
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Research panels are key for conducting high-quality quantitative marketing research in today’s online and digital world. Whenever your company is planning to release a new product or service, upgrade an existing one or meet many other business objectives, it is incredibly important to conduct market research with a dedicated research firm.
Research Panel Benefits
With the right research panel provider, you can discover valuable information about your target audience. This intensive market research allows your company to better develop new products and improve existing products and service offerings before release or launch. By targeting specific respondents, we make sure that the data collected is relevant and personalized to your business and industry.
EMI actively manages its network of panel providers to make sure it is always up to date current and has the target audience that fits your project specifications. We offer access to a wide range of panels comprised of respondents from many different demographics that cover target areas such as:
- Health Care
At EMI we excel in finding panel members from hard to reach groups so that we obtain a sample that fits your exact needs. Our access to so many diverse respondents means we can deliver quality results for even the most challenging sample groups and quotas.
What is Panel Design in Research?
With research panel design, a consistent group of individuals is used to answer survey questions repeatedly instead of relying on the selection of new survey respondents at different points in the research process.
In some industries, the repeat interviewing of regular respondents allows for the tracking of variables over time. For example, food companies or toy manufacturers may want to track the evolving habits and preferences of parents over a given time period. Tracking the same group repeatedly provides enhanced insight into changes in consumer behavior versus finding new parents for each review.
Panel design also makes it possible to more quickly and affordably tap a consumer group in a time-sensitive situation. When cultural issues or sensitive topics arise, having an established sample of persons provides more immediate access to feedback to formulate the next steps forward. For product and service providers, the same principle applies when a product faces consumer backlash or a company is struggling to resonate.
In business-to-business research, panel design makes it possible to target a specific industry and gain valuable insights into new market areas. In healthcare, it can provide easy access to panel members who face specific health issues or meet certain criteria needed for research purposes.
What is a Research Panel?
A research panel is the group of established survey participants a research panel company has on hand, either for a specific study or overall, to provide data and feedback to companies, governments and non-profits researching consumer behavior and other trends.
With panel research, this established group of survey responders are typically prescreened through preliminary data provided to the organizers. This data includes the answers to questions on basic household demographics, income levels and other personal information to streamline the selection process for particular research panels or surveys. For example, a group of survey respondents selected for a car manufacturer may eliminate those who do not already own a car or who do not like to drive.
Through these efficiencies, panel research makes the process of obtaining consumer data faster and more affordable for companies. It also means increased responses to online market research efforts when compared to forming a panel from scratch for one-time or sporadic consumer research.
How Do You Make a Research Panel?
Making a research panel requires a firm understanding of an existing customer base and the customers a business is attempting to reach with a new product offering or service.
For the business wanting to maintain customer loyalty and focusing on an existing customer base, examining the demographics of regular purchasers can provide insight into the preferred composition of a research panel. A high-end toy company would focus on parents of a certain income level while a drugstore cosmetic brand may focus on low- to moderate-income women in specific age brackets.
A research panel may be recruited through targeted social media advertisements and email blasts to existing customers. A consumer-facing brand can also select a research group from the membership of existing survey panels or market research firms with an in-house base to screen for likely participants.
What is a Panel Company?
A panel company acts as the intermediary between a business looking for survey respondents and the respondents. These companies have an established consumer base at their fingertips and can filter through would-be participants based on the specific demographics a brand requires, allowing companies to reach extremely niche audiences for specific brands and services. They also provide an online cross-section of respondents across many consumer classes for businesses wanting to feel out new areas for product development. It is important to note that they may charge an upfront fee for screening and also assess a fee per completed survey.
Panel companies also undertake a lot of the heavy lifting in the research process by weeding out members who may provide responses without actually reviewing product information or who are responding without reading questions or otherwise engaging with the content provided.
What is an Audience Panel?
An audience panel is the people who are actually taking a survey. They may work directly with the business conducting the research in-house or work through an intermediary firm like a panel company or a firm focused on market research.
These people may actually test physical products and provide feedback virtually or in-person or operate 100% remote through online surveys featuring images and details on potential products and services offered by a firm.
An audience panel may also provide more generalized feedback to companies based on hot-button social issues or long-term concerns in a given industry.
When an audience panel is obtained from a panel company, the company typically processes any compensation provided to respondents from fees charged to the business requesting the survey.