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Survey Panel: What Is It & Benefits Of Using One

Updated: Feb 22


Survey panel - what is it and the benefits of using one - positive, neutral or negative responses

What is a survey panel?


A survey panel is a database of individuals who are often incentivised to sign up to take part in a range of surveys, based on their demographic profile, interests and other information. This allows the targeted audience to answer surveys that are relevant to them.


Survey panels are often sourced from panel providers who allow these individuals to express their views, opinions and behaviour regarding the topic of interest that is relevant to them. Thus, letting the owner of these surveys (individuals, businesses or organisations) the opportunity to gather valuable insights and strategic decisions can then be made with confidence.


This can cover different types of participants for a variety of surveys such as B2B (business to business), consumer, health care and other specialist types of audiences. Survey panels tend be online based but can also be for telephone and qualitative research like focus groups and in-depth interviews. They are available to answer a variety of topics that tend to be ad hoc based such as concept testing, ad evaluations, polls, pricing research but can also be used for tracking studies like brand trackers or usage and attitude studies.



11 Advantages of using a survey panel


There are a number reasons for using survey panels, the following are 11 benefits of why survey panels are utilised by individuals or businesses:


1. Access to a large targeted audience

These survey panels have already been built, where the panellists are willing to take part in a variety of surveys and have been screened and profiled. So, you can target the relevant panellists to take part in your survey without having to build one with the confidence of knowing, you are reaching individuals that are meeting your basic criteria.


This is great for all types of buyers of these survey panels especially as they are likely to not have a large enough audience that are active and willing to take part or you are looking interview a different audience for a new product or website.


2. Gather results quickly

This is particularly true for online survey panels, where you can get responses to your survey within days and sometimes even hours. Depending on survey length and screening, you get these results quickly and in real time, which is great when you need to make decisions in a fast-moving environment.

3. Higher completion rate

Using a panel where panellists have opted in to take part in the research, you are likely to have a higher number of people completing the survey rather than blindly sending survey invites cold where the response rate let alone the completion rate will be far lower. These panellists are often being incentivised to take part, which could be survey points for vouchers, prize draws or donations to charity.


4. Relatively inexpensive to use

For online survey panels they relatively inexpensive to use especially if specialist audiences like doctors or health practitioners are not required, where you can fulfil large sample of respondents for your survey and still be cheaper than other research methods like telephone.


5. Big resources are not required to carry out the research

An individual can tap into an online panel to carry out the research at scale for their business without the need for a massive number of resources or infrastructure. This is perfect for businesses of all types especially for small businesses or entrepreneurs, where reach and resources are likely to be limited.


6. Respondents are willing to take part in longer surveys

Due to the fact that individuals have signed up to take part in surveys and are likely to be incentivised then they are more willing to take part in lengthy surveys up to a point (up to 20-30 minutes). If follow ups are required such as another survey on the subject matter, you can ask these respondents for their permission even for focus groups or in-depth interviews providing the panel provider allows this.


7. Superior screened resources in survey panels

These individuals who sign up to take part in surveys are screened and profiled, so survey buyers are able to source and target these participants who meet the criteria of the survey. The screener survey questions will allow these participants to either qualify, screen out or be segregated. Not to mention there is another stage of screening during the early part of the survey for participants to meet more complex criteria of the survey.


8. Improved sampling

These panels are regularly pre-screened and refreshed to ensure they are able provide relevant quality sample quickly to buyers for their surveys. Otherwise, is becomes virtually impossible running a survey without sampling correctly where a very large volume of data will be wasted churning through potential participants in order to get the right respondents who fit the profile, which is where quota sampling comes in.


9. Allows research to be conducted on sensitive issues

You can pre-screen and obtain permission to survey individuals who may be interested in subjects of a sensitive nature or are relevant to the subject. For example, you can run a survey on attitudes towards sex or alcohol consumption with individuals who are open to take part in this type of research as not all panellists are, plus they may be very sensitive to the topic of interest.


10. Fresh and up to date survey panels

Survey panels are regularly updated to keep the panels up to date by removing inactive panellists and those who acted inappropriately during surveys such as speedsters (finishing surveys too quickly without properly answering the questions). Also, the panellists profile data is refreshed such as the mediums they use, the area they live in, preferred brands, income, interests and so on.


11. Enhanced tracking surveys

As tracking surveys are continuous to monitor brand trends, competitors, customer attitudes, preferences and behaviour over different time intervals, you need a reliable large sample source to carry out the research. This is why survey panels are ideal not only for ad hoc surveys but continuous tracking as well.


How do survey panels work?


Survey panels work by firstly active recruitment of panellists by panel providers through advertising, social media and word of mouth. This pool of individuals will sign up to the survey panels via a screening process where they are profiled by obtaining information such as gender, age, location, income, brand preferences, interests and other information.


There will be individuals or businesses who are looking to run surveys but have no sample, so will then go to panel providers to source a sample of respondents who fit the buyers survey criteria. These panellists are invited to take part in surveys by mainly email or text. Panellists will then login into their panel account after clicking on the link from the survey invite and may choose to take part in the survey. There are often incentives such as prize draws or vouchers to encourage participation.


Once the survey has been completed, the respondent will collect their points for vouchers or be entered into a competition. This will be counted as a complete and after the target number of completes and sampling quotas have been achieved, they can receive the results in different formats from Excel tables, charts or CSV files either directly from the fieldwork portal to download or from the panel provider.


This is just a summarised example to give you a basic idea of how a survey panel works but can be more extensive when other parties are involved such as fieldwork agencies.


Limitations of a survey panel to be aware of


Although survey panels are great for different types of research, you need to be aware of the limitations of using them. One concern is of professional respondents who have taken part in a huge number of surveys in order to receive the incentives, so they become adept to the answers they provide of what’s expected of them rather their own viewpoint. There are also other respondents who try to speed through the survey.


Good panel providers have measures in place to combat this by removing respondents that have answered the survey too quickly and also limit the number of surveys that panellists can take part in over a given period of time. Also red herring questions are sometimes used to catch out these types of respondents.


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