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3 Tips to Build an Effective Online Survey Panel

Mathew Maniyamkott

7 min read

Businesses today face so much competition that they are forced to spend in many ways to stay ahead of the game. Market Research is one method that companies are using extensively to stay relevant and become successful. There are companies that have ideas for a lot of products, but they are still on the backburner because they need to ratify the decision from people who would possibly buy the products. Online Survey Panel is the solution here!

Manufacturing a product and testing it out on the market in specific areas might seem like a feasible option but it could mean loads of money down the drain if the target market is resistant towards it. Case in point is the 3D TVs (not the ones sold now) which the TV manufacturers assumed everyone would love based on the success of Avatar. But it turned out to be a humongous dud. This is why extensive market research with effective market research software is important.

online panel survey data

Also, one point to note is that there are incremental changes made to some products over time. This is because they are taking feedback from the customer after the product has been launched. Taking steps to make the product better is a good idea, but giving the customers a minimally defective product will work only if you sell software (you term the flaw a bug and then make it better), but if you are selling a physical product, you need to do market research to validate the demand for your product.

Here are some commonly used market research techniques:

  • Surveys
  • Secondary Research
  • Focus Groups
  • Observation
  • Interviews
  • Experiments
  • Trials
  • CATI
  • One-on-One Interviews
  • Panel Research

All of these methods have different objectives which mostly revolve around making informed business decisions and ensuring that the end product is what the target market wants. In this article, we are going to talk about Panel Research and how to build an effective online survey panel.

What is Meant by Panel Research?

Panel research is a marketing research method where data is collected repeatedly from a targeted set of people. Although many assume that Panel Research and Focus Groups are the same, there is a small difference, the size of the latter is restricted to 5-10 participants while a larger sample size is used for Panel Research.

Panel research provides you with the right audience for feedback on your products or services. By implementing Panel Services, companies can obtain the desired insights for their products or service fast and efficiently. The survey owner gets access to pre-screened and qualified members around the globe to participate in a variety of research studies. It involves building a community of qualified panelists to participate in online surveys. They are generally incentivized for their participation.

online panel survey infographic

What is an Online Survey Panel?

An online panel consists of profiled and qualified audience that accurately represent the general population to participate in your surveys. In fact, the members are pre-screened and double-opted in for participation in a wide range of research studies like online surveys, mystery shopping, etc. Panel members are profiled, detailed demographic and background information is collected to ensure you have relevant and strong data on the table, which is vital for effective data-driven decisions.


Online survey panel for research

Advantages of Online Survey Panels:

There are multiple advantages for a company which has a readily available group of panelists for data collection. The advantages include,

Quick turnaround on fieldwork:

Data is collected online and almost instantly.

Cost savings:

When compared to other methodologies including making phone calls, online survey panels pose a much cost-effective solution.

Online panels are cost effective as the major part of recruitment and profiling is conducted by the provider. Panel providers offer relevant incentives keeps the panel members engaged. A B2B panel usually costs more for the expertise and higher compensation compared to a consumer panel which is relatively affordable.

Higher participation rates:

Panel members are usually incentivized for their feedback which helps in the participation rates.

Get constructive feedback on your features:

You can receive constant feedback and opinion on your product updates. Their experience of involvement in using your product in the previous stages would be helpful to compare and voice their opinion. A dedicated panel would be a boon for the product development cycle.

Measure perception and behaviors:

An online panel will provide you with a realistic view of things pertaining to your business. Collecting data periodically using survey will show the perception of the user towards the products. Tools like NPS will help to measure overall satisfaction and provide you with the ability to focus and drill down and get to the root of a specific problem.

Rich ROI:

The best part about employing an online survey panel is that you get exceptional ROI since the cost can be considered low even though you get respondents who are highly targeted and qualified. Such a combination makes it a highly favored methodology when doing market research.

Remember that you are building up a bunch of people that are willing to respond to you because there have been prior interactions with each other. There are fewer chances of the survey being ignored. Instead of sending surveys in bulk from a random email list that you purchase, it makes sense to invest in an online survey panel which brings richer dividends.

How to Build an Effective Online Survey Panel?

Building the right panel that comprises of people with varying level of expertise on the topic is important. The credibility of the respondents is probably the most important criterion when choosing the respondents. When you have access to your own research panel, you can expect faster results, deeper insights, increased response rates and less biased answers in your survey.

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience

What next? Use these 3 stellar tips to build your own online survey panel:

1. Have Clear Expectations From the Online Survey Panel

First and foremost, your research objective should be well defined and transparent. You will have to choose the relevant audience and have a set expectation from your online panel as well.

Below are some of the expectations that you can have from the panel

  • Does it gauge/measure users’ behavior pattern and attitude?
  • Should the respondents be knowledgeable only about your niche or have a general idea about business too?
  • Are you planning to build a community for the business’ future?
  • Is the data collection immediate or frequency based on a specific time interval (Weekly, Monthly Quarterly)?

The audience requirement can be one of the above-mentioned points or a combination of two or more factors. Make sure you target the right set of respondents who have the legitimate profile and requisite skill-sets to be a part of your online survey panel.

You can use multiple channels to keep the panel member’s engagement and communication. Although important member updates are preferred via email, use of other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, especially a group would also be recommended for effective two-way communication.

Whichever medium you choose, ensure that your panel members are informed about it.

goal of panel research

2. Narrow Down the Expertise of Your Panel Members

As soon as someone becomes your panel member, send them a follow-up survey where you ask them more questions about their profile to collect relevant information. It will help you target them better so that the right people will get the research questions based on their ability and interest. The primary objective of the survey that you send to the new members should not only be about collecting demographic details which will be counted as a criterion when sending surveys in the future, but also to ask questions that establish them as an expert in the said niche.

It is best to send emails to get such information about the respondents as this process can be automated, including the results that can be subsequently put into an excel sheet and used later. Once the users have completed the survey, send them a welcome email along with a simple message which highlights why they have become a part of the member panel and the perks that they are eligible to receive as a part of the panel.

panel research members

Give them a clear idea of what you expect from them, in the welcome email and tell them how they will receive their rewards. Let them know how their responses will help your organization as well so that they feel a part of it. Use the opportunity to also tell them how often you will be contacting them and how you expect them to be a part of the process.

3. Keep Expanding the Panel Member Count

You would be faced with situations when it is impossible to get a lot of responses due to reasons that are completely out of your control. This is why it is important for you to have a huge set of members so that even a fraction of them replying would still be a good sample size. Remember that demographic factors play a role too; the search for panel members should still be within the confines of the rules that we have already established.

When the panelists know that their expertise would be required at a particular period of time, they would be best attuned to be available for the same. Plan your research around when they expect to get a survey from you and vice versa. The need to find a large number of panel members arises because of the fact that there are members who have different behaviors when it comes to being a panel member. Some of them join but don’t complete any surveys, some will do the survey once and won’t bother anymore while some are there only for the incentives- this is why you need to increase as many panel members in your fold as possible.


Once you follow all the steps that we have outlined, you would have added a bunch of panel members based on their expertise and interests. Now is the time for you to have long-term strategies like creating that perfect market research survey. With all that said, online survey panels are an easy and cost-effective way to collect customer feedback find what your customers think about your products and services. The results that you get from the online survey panels are highly specific and are usually used to make important business decisions.

Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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