If you are considering online market research then you have undoubtedly come across online research panels. These are one of the most common online marketing research methods and have proved one of the most effective at providing reliable data on multiple or niche demographics. In this article we’re going to look at the ways online research panels work and determine how effective they can be.
Initially it is worth noting that there are obvious benefits and advantages to conducting research panels online. The key benefit is of course costs. The costs of conducting an online research panels are a fraction of more antiquated research methods. This is largely thanks to the lack of overheads (gone are the days of ground teams, building higher and data pooling) and the vast readily accessible respondent pool that has formed in the online world. This means that online research panels can be a lot more effective than offline research panels, providing you target the correct demographics.
Online research panels work by selecting research participants and incentivising them into participating in the research. This is done in a variety of ways including cash, discounts and vouchers. Key to this process is demographic segmentation into key groups that are categorised based on age, means and a variety of other socio-geo-demographic factors. When you start negotiations with a market research firm you will most likely be presented with a demographic portfolio for sample research panels. This should provide you with the base statistics for each group and the key features of each one. Understanding this information means that you can tailor your online research panel to suit the needs of your market research. Some companies will not present an initial portfolio but will use lead questions to determine the suitability of each candidate. If you are looking at a business to business online research panel then the selection process is very different as participants will be directly contacted and selected based on the market niche or niches your company identifies.
Once the target demographics have been selected you come to the actual question selection for the research panel. This is the most important part of the process as it determines the type and quantity of data you will receive. Initially the first step of this process is identifying your key needs from the research. This will develop your most salient questions that form the key marketing needs of the company – whether it be identifying new and existing markets or planning a new marketing campaign correctly. Central to this process is determining the mixture of quantitative and qualitative data that you will be collecting. Asking the right questions is important but having useable data is even more so. If you are looking for quantitative data then you need to ensure that you are asking well rounded questions that do not slant the respondent to a particular viewpoint and will provide you with data that is pertinent and telling of the overall market situation. With all of this in place you are ready to have your research panel selected and begin collecting respondent data.
Once the research is completed the research company should provide you with all the collected data and give you unrestricted access to data analysis tools. Many companies will do this for you but some will collate the data before providing it to you with access to the tools to analyse it based on your own standards and evaluative techniques. Both approaches work well and the final stages of the online research panel process are the most important. Having two sets of people looking over the data ensures that you get the maximum amount of knowledge to act on so it is worth considering fully.
Chris writes about online market research firms such as Research Now whilst covering various topics such as using mobile surveys and other data collection services for your business projects.