Is Legacy Online Panel Recruitment Outdated?
By James Rogers
As market research has undergone significant transformation in recent years, so too must the approach to panel recruitment. In an age where consumers are constantly distracted by multiple bids for their time the process is more competitive than ever. Ensuring the right approach to panel recruitment is imperative if representative sample supply is to be sustained.
Additionally, while consumers’ heads are turned in all directions – social media, gaming, on-demand TV – the demand for data and insight has grown exponentially, making the quest for ethical, respectful and efficient panel recruitment much more important.
Traditional panels have and continue to present bias based on legacy recruitment methodologies. Panelist’s engage based on the premise of ‘earning’ for their opinion rather than engaging with a brand they ultimately have an affinity with. Furthermore, faceless interactions with the unknown panel provider causes churn rates to soar and increasing multi-panel membership.
Simply by looking at the traditional recruitment methodologies it is clear that we are limiting the respondent pool to those who are attracted to the ‘$’ rather than having their opinions heard.
Technology has evolved which enables us to reach further than before, and yet methods are still being employed that limit online panels such as:
- Recruitment via reward led SEO – simply Google search (surveys for money)
- Competition prize draw websites and e-shots
- Large scale non-profiled recruitment / databases
- Annoying, inappropriately placed pop-ups
The surprise and wow factor of online panels has been and gone and we need to understand that low response rates, high turnover and even potential data issues are linked to where respondents come from and how we interact with them afterwards.
So how can we preserve the future of market research? Respondents, after all, are the lifeblood of the industry and maintaining and building the supply should be top priority for the industry as a whole. There isn’t an infinite population of respondents to take surveys, so industry players need to work together in the mission to get people to participate in research and respond to surveys – in an increasingly ‘noisy’ space. We need to ultimately be where people are and engage with them in subjects that they are interested in.
The latest GRIT report highlighted the challenges faced by online panel companies in attracting and engaging new participants and as a result, half of MR firms believe the quality of online sample will decline in the coming years.
So what is the answer? We believe that community platforms and exchanges such as Macromill, Vision Critical, Toluna and of course, Cint, are providing a real solution to the issue. Made up of branded panels – there is more success to be had in engaging respondents when they are brand ambassadors. This leads to lower churn rates and higher response rates – as participation is based on brand affinity rather than cash for questions.
The result is a diverse and origin-agnostic respondent pool, and as the respondents are non- traditional MR respondents, there is arguably less bias.
Panel recruitment is a real issue that must be addressed and tackled head-on. The MR industry must take this seriously, because as the GRIT report concluded: The real existential threat to our industry is neither automation nor competing methodologies: it’s the future of research participation.