Market Research Panels – from a Panelist POV

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Market Research Panels – from a Panelist POV

What do market research panelists feel when they see a survey they are interested in and decide to participate?

What do they perceive to gain from an interaction in an online survey? We know that the vast majority of market research consumer respondents are incentivized by, well, the actual tangible incentive. Cash, accumulation of points to cash, gift cards, merchandise…these standard offerings are more than satisfying items to receive for exchanges of non-intimate or vulnerable information. Top of mind feelings, likes and dislikes, preferences, tastes – these opinions are relatively easy to decisions to make or thoughts to offer. But when surveys explicitly state time of completion, and can range from 5 minutes to 25 minutes (on the long end), why do participants willingly engage in them outside of the obvious monetary reward? Why fill out surveys, participate in focus groups, go through a sometimes gruelling at-home product tests… for sometimes ill-matched incentives that may arrive quite some time after completion. What is the motivation?

Firstly, the strength of established local privacy and personal identification protection norms widely instituted and adhered to by the market research community makes it safe for participants to candidly share their perspectives without any external influences or biases. Respondents are made aware of the use of their shared information prior to joining the panel or continuing the survey. The lack of peer pressure in individual online surveys of a single user interaction enables honesty and safe space for expression. In a world full of judgement, market research offers a much needed, non-judgemental escape! If an online research participant is correctly recruited in a survey topic for which they have previously expressed interest or experience with, the recruit is not only more likely to stay for the duration of the survey but can be expected to provide highly intelligible insights throughout. Detailed profiling of panelists during the membership onboard process tends to foster greater commitment and response rates.

Naturally, surveys and feedback systems have become even greater vehicles for enabling voices to be heard. The information age has transformed the relationships between companies and consumers with consumer-centric business models greatly outperforming categorical competitors. The fast flow of information and seemingly electric feedback loops create real-time changes with the consumer in mind. Not only are consumers aware of their thoughts and opinions directly influencing moves of companies and organizations to better serve their needs, but they also expect brands to be prompt in adjusting their offerings—and those changes to be in their favor. Consumer feedback surveys elicit a greater response in the all-accessible consumer-age. To add to this, researchers can also assume that when panelists are requested to participate in their surveys, they feel an obligation to the brand or company that is collecting the data.

Advances in survey technology and the focus on fun and easy user experiences make online surveys that much more welcoming especially from brand-loyal customers. From progress bars to illuminated charts and buttons, surveys are a lot cooler than they used to be. Respondents that are engaged with interesting and relevant topics combined with ease of flow from one question to the next (a process dependent on the combination of excellent questionnaire design and programming awesomeness), tend to stay committed to their surveys. Meaningful insights are often derived because of programming elements that use smart survey logic tactics, a mix of media including videos and images where appropriate and are mobile optimized. Researchers that build consumer-centric research programs can often trigger feelings of reciprocity from panelists that will recognize the time, effort and resources that were engaged by the researcher for the study. It would be unwise to underestimate the power of survey appearances on the respondent’s willingness to participate!

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