The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Online Research Panels in Market Research

In order to recruit participants or respondents for a market research study, researchers often turn to online panels.

What is an online research panel? Online research panels include a group of pre-recruited participants who have signed up to take part in future market research studies such as online surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews.

Typically, there are a few factors of a study market researchers are aware of before they reach out to an online research panel. This includes factors such as:

  • The type of study
  • Goal number of completes
  • How long the survey takes to complete in minutes
  • Number of survey questions
  • Target audience
  • Target geography
  • Incidence rate
  • Quotas

After this information and criteria is sent, the online research panel will provide a cost estimate. Select market research companies such as Drive Research also have access to an in-house panel in which they've qualified and recruited participants from past studies.

The process seems pretty simple, right? Sometimes it is easy and other times it is more difficult. It all depends on the type of methodology or study and how difficult it is to reach the desired audience.

Before choosing to use an online research panel learn more about the advantages and disadvantages below!

advantages and disadvantages of online research panels | computer research panels | computer with address book

Online research panels are growing in popularity every year. Before choosing this type of recruitment for market research, learn the advantages and disadvantages associated with using a list of participants from online panels.

Advantages of Online Research Panels

Ready to learn why market research panels are a huge part of the market research industry? Online panels offer several advantages to market research buyers and suppliers. Here are some advantages of online research panels.

1. Project feasibility: Targeting capabilities offered by online research panels drive down the overall cost of a market research project. Oftentimes, market research seeks feedback from specific types of people. A client may want feedback from specific types of job functions/titles, industries, demographics, and habits.​

For example, a client may want feedback from people who live within a 50-mile radius of Minneapolis and drink at least 2 cups of coffee everyday. Seems specific right?

Some online research panels gather information like this about their members. This allows them to target survey invites more effectively. Targeting invites limits the payouts they process to survey respondents to encourage engagement. Remember! Happy survey respondents = happy data analysts.

2. Ease of sampling: The ability for market research panels to target invites can also make gathering responses easier. Online research panels have resources to manage quota requirements and process incentives. Processing incentives can be tricky, but online research panels make it easy because they handle the entire process. Some online panels also give respondents points to use towards gift cards, cash per survey, etc.

3. Cost: Online research panels have resources and partners which help decrease cost. Other ways of getting completes (e.g., online ads, purchasing email lists, etc.) can be costly if does not produce the expected return. Online research panels give analysts a full cost breakdown so they understand the cost for each survey complete.

4. Automated data collection: Project managers for online research panels can control data collection. This can include managing quotas, conducting the fieldwork in batches, and pausing fieldwork after a quota is met. This saves time for research analysts.

5. Convenient for respondents: Another huge benefit of online research panels is respondents know how it works (i.e., how to log in, how to access surveys, how rewards are processed, etc.). This diminishes the ambiguity of how to reach survey respondents since online research panels manage that process.

Disadvantages of Online Research Panels

There are some sources of caution when using a market research panel. Learn more about the disadvantages of online research panels.

1. Population must have internet access: First, using an online research panel to gather completes to an online survey means participants have internet access and it's likely easily accessible. This is somewhat common in the U.S., however, it's still limiting survey completes to people who have easy access to internet rather than everyone. Depending on the target audience for the survey this may make sense.

2. Bias: Bias is bad word, especially in market research. Research analysts try to avoid bias at all costs. When using an online panel, its important to add effective screener questions to help diminish bias or low-quality responses. Here are 5 types of bias in market research.

3. Participating in multiple panels: Be sure to look for duplicate respondents whether you plan to use one or several online research panels. Oftentimes, online research panels have partners they work with. While most try to avoid duplicates, it's important to review the data to remove duplicate respondents.

4. Assessing data quality: In addition to assessing bias and removing duplicate respondents, there are several data-quality checks to assess before closing fieldwork. This includes reviewing routing worked properly, reviewing all open-ended questions, checking for speeders, checking for straight lining, and more. Here's a data quality checklist for market researchers.

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