Panel research and engagement go together. You can gain feedback, share information and reap the benefits of extended conversations.
There really isn't any other formal research technique that can deliver that full set of benefits.
The research technique used always should match the objective of the research. Panel research works best under these conditions:
• You want a large, representative sample of opinion from — for example — your customer database or registered voters.
• You want the ability to segment your sample for follow-up research based on answers they give, not random selection.
• You want to engage people in an extended dialogue, with repeat conversations about multiple products or in-depth discussion of an evolving piece of legislation.
Web-based panel research offers other virtues, such as the ability of respondents to answer survey questions at their leisure, not when someone calls them on the phone, or to participate in an online focus group instead of trooping to a hotel room equipped with a camera and cold sandwiches.
While erasing time and space concerns is valuable, the bedrock value of panel research lies in its capacity to engage. You can do more than ask questions. You can cultivate the panel by sharing the findings of the survey they participated in, asking follow-up questions or soliciting their volunteered thoughts.
Unlike a phone call during dinnertime, panel research isn't intrusive. It is inclusive. Respondents can participate at noon or midnight. They can offer more than the one answer to a multiple-choice question. They can ask questions and seek answers. Your research goes from an uneasy transaction to satisfying involvement.
Two-way involvement is a very different quality than you get from a traditional telephone poll, in-person survey or point-of-sale intercept. The richness of information that panel can yield is the argument for doing it.
Not all situations require rich information. But many do. Panel research is worth exploring to see whether it is the right choice to meet your challenge.