Panel research

Customer Panels Deliver Quick, Trusted Feedback

Online panel research offers many advantages, but none are any more important than delivering quality findings you can trust in only 24 hours.

Online panel research offers many advantages, but none are any more important than delivering quality findings you can trust in only 24 hours.

CFM was asked to evaluate two print ads and a companion digital ad just days before they were due to launch. Turning to our client's existing online panel, which we helped create, CFM was able to produce solid findings in less than 24 hours, after questions and format were approved. The client thought five days was all it could spare. It was stunned to get results within a day.

In this case, the findings gave a thumbs up to the ads, along with some valuable suggestions, such as adding clearly visible contact information. That's something creative types can forget, but is crucial for the eyeballs of those intended to see the ads.

This quick, on-point feedback reassured senior executives to give the ads the go-ahead. They acted based on solid information. Online customer panels made sure they got the information they needed and deserved when they needed it.

This kind of online research using panels allows CFM to conduct research among targeted groups quickly, accurately and inexpensively and provide clients with information worth knowing.

Panel Research and Engagement: A Perfect Fit

Check out panel research to see whether its information-rich benefits match your need to understand and engage a key audience.

Check out panel research to see whether its information-rich benefits match your need to understand and engage a key audience.

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.

Health Care Embraces Panel Research

Hospitals and health systems are embracing new ways to improve patient engagement and communication by using panel-based research techniques.

The way people communicate is changing rapidly. Almost all households have access to the Internet. Smartphone and tablet use is widespread. Patients want to communicate with service organizations they trust and they want to do it at times that are convenient for them. Panel research allows this to happen.

Panel research uses web-based research tools. Customers are invited by email to participate in online surveys. Participants are asked if they want to continue to participate in future research. Typically, 60 to 70 percent say yes. This group forms the panel for future research.

Research Key to Market Intelligence

Market research can produce credible, actionable data that makes you certified intelligent about your own market.Market research produces a lot more than numbers and pie charts. It reveals market intelligence.

Plugging into your target market can uncover hidden opportunities or lurking competitive threats. It can tune into emerging trends and yield insight into how your customers view your products and your reputation.

Thoughtful, consistent and disciplined use of market research can improve decision-making, minimize risks and enhance branding, messaging and sales.

So with all those benefits, why do some organizations continue to skimp on research? Good question.

Some organizations say market research costs too much. Research does require an investment, but when spending money to position your product or service in the marketplace, why wouldn't you want to know what works — and what doesn't?

If you were investing in a mutual fund or buying a new house, you would do some legwork. How has the mutual fund performed over the last three years? Does the house have an old roof? That's market research.

The only difference is that good market research is more focused — it tests your target audience's responses; it probes to get true consumer perceptions; it is more than a one-off, finger in the wind assessment.

Another blow-off of market research comes from executives who think they already know the answers. In fact, some times they do, especially if they have their ear close to the ground where their consumers walk. But thinking you know the answers and having a high degree of confidence, based on actual research, are very different animals.

The Survey, the Sample and the Question

Political season drives home the point of how many decisions are made based on polling. It's a great time to reflect on what separates good polling from bad information.

The keys to getting accurate and usable research data are:

  • Using the right survey or combination of survey techniques;

  • Interviewing a representative sample of your target audience; and

  • Asking direct, fair and single-topic questions.

Research breaks down into quantitative and qualitative techniques. Quantitative research involves enough interviews to produce reliable statistical results. Qualitative research engages smaller groups of people who provide insight and context on advertising, new product features and pubic issues.

A lot goes into selecting the right technique or combination of techniques for a particular need. One of the most elemental aspects of the choice is getting a representative sample to interview.

Several years ago, Portland homebuilders wanted to embark on a marketing PR campaign to reach young families about buying their first home. The poll they commissioned wound up interviewing a large number of older respondents and relatively few young adults with new families. The "findings" were worthless to the task at hand.

Selecting the right kind of research technique also can be undermined by asking loaded questions. The whole idea of research is to find out what people think, not trying to conspire to get the "right answer." Straightforward, unbiased questions can elicit accurate responses that give you what you need to know, not necessarily what you want to hear.

Smartphone Rage Prompts New Research Tactics

The accelerating switch from landline to mobile phones is undermining the ability of traditional telephone surveys to capture accurate reflections of many target groups, from young shoppers to likely voters.

As anyone watching the just completed 2012 London Olympics could readily tell, mobile phones are omnipresent. Recent data indicates more than half of all Americans with mobile phones have smartphones, which opens an expanding world of smartphone apps. More than a quarter of all smartphone users say they would rather surrender their computer than their smartphone.

That doesn't bode well for landline phones, which don't have cameras and games, and has caused pollsters to scramble to adjust.

Because the demographics of smartphone users differ from the mix of landline phone users, pollsters are having to juggle their samples. In an article last week, The New York Times reported that veteran GOP and Democratic pollsters who conduct surveys for NBC News/Wall Street Journal decided to increase their percentage of exclusive mobile phone users to 30 percent of their overall sample.

The Times reported other polling firms supplement traditional telephone surveys with online surveys in an attempt to capture the same variable demographic of mobile phone users.

Mark Mellman, who polls for Democratic candidates, told the Times, "That group is not only younger, but also attitudinally different from other people of all ages." Mellman said they are "disproportionately urban, African-American, on either the high or low side of the economic ladder and Democratic."

While it is legal to make randomly selected polling calls to landline phones, regulations prevent such calling on cell phones.

"I have yet to see a standard that I believe is anything more than a guesstimate," Republican pollster Whit Ayres admitted to the Times. Ayres predicted the research industry would eventually shift more toward Web-based surveys.

CFM is already well-versed in this conversion. Yes, we still conduct telephone surveys. However, we counsel that web-based surveys using representative and large databases can produce equally reliable results, with the added benefit of enabling ongoing engagement with a panel of respondents.