Jay is an industry veteran and has been in the Market Research space for almost 10 years, working with technology and full service insight and data collection companies. He has specialized in working with agencies and universities to use technology to help streamline the survey process, maximize efficiency and optimize their budget. He is currently the Director of Client Development for PureSpectrum based out of New York City supporting the companies clients in the Eastern region.

 What is a Panel Survey?

Panel Survey Definition

Panel surveys are a type of longitudinal survey that measures consumer opinions, feelings, or thoughts over time. Target audiences in a panel survey are chosen for study and data points gathered repeatedly at different points in during the study. Through report analysis and further survey waves, changes in the insights lead to a better understanding of changes in consumer behavior.

The PureSpectrum Marketplace supplies sample to all types of client surveys, including but not limited to panel studies.

The Evolution of Panel Survey

Since as far back as 19th century Victorian Britain, surveys have been used to collect opinions and utilize them to make better and more informed decisions. Jumping to the 1950s, surveys gained further traction for businesses to understand how they were being perceived by their customers. Panel surveys were first used by worldwide governmental agencies to measure constituent income (Panel Study of Income Dynamics), housing, and job experience (National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experience).

With the rise of the internet and major shifts to an online-first culture, panel surveys have taken on a whole new meaning and purpose. Businesses of all sizes now have  access to millions of respondents around the world to answer all of their questions. A world of convenience has opened, allowing researchers to reach any audience in a short period of time, and usually for a low cost. Decision makers today turn to panel studies to assess advertising efficiency, brand recognition, product success, purchasing behavior and much more.

Advantages of Panel Surveys

Panel research also allows for the collection of large amounts of information. By repeatedly asking the same questions in different waves, the difference in respondent answers express the presence of changes over time. 

Additionally, studies that require detailed answers to extensive questioning can often exhaust the respondent, leading to low-quality insightsIn contrast, a panel survey allows researchers to ask  questions in different waves to the same group of respondents, gathering more information and of higher quality. 

Additionally, panel sampling is more cost efficient, as they require interviewing respondents with the same demographics, rather than restructuring the sample group for each study. The survey sampling methodology simply needs to be repeated longitudinally over time, rather than devoting resources to redesigning the entire study.

Disadvantages of Panel Survey

Panel surveys capture behavioral changes over a period of time. There is a chance that the sample may become less representative of the population. Perhaps there is a new demographic that needs to be taken into consideration while measuring answers to these specific questions. The audience of the topic may also have changed and now includes other individuals not taken into consideration during the initial panel survey design. The PureSpectrum platform allows for dynamic editing making its possible to change survey needs while in field and between waves. Learn how by reading more about our marketplace.

Additionally, questions asked in earlier waves might influence future waves. If the same questions are asked, there is the potential for respondents to answer the same way they did prior because they remember the study. Similar but different questions asked in future waves introduce additional factors including language changes and biases. 

However, since panel surveys are repeated and require longer longitudinal time investments, they require greater resource devotion, planning, execution, and consideration for the other waves. Even though the sample remains the same, the survey still needs to be fielded multiple times, gathering large amounts of data that need to be further analyzed.

Deciding if a Panel Survey is Right for Your Study

The aim of a panel survey is to improve analytic potential by collecting data longitudinally instead of in a one time study, yielding better data for testing and understanding casual relationships and changes in consumer behavior. Finding out if a panel survey is right for the insights you are looking for has to be handled on a case-by-case basis. If you are looking to gather comparative data that looks at changes in behavior, a panel study might be worth investigating for your work.

How Do Panel Surveys Work?

The sample size and consistency is the most important part in validating panel surveys. Surveying the same demography of people is the only true way to record changes in behavior in the responses. Through a sequence of interviews most commonly conducted as quantitative research online, researchers ask the same group of people questions and collect data from a sequence of interviews. All of this information is collected at different periods of time.

Panel Research Design

For example, a grocery company wishes to gather information from women ages 18-45 in the United States who are the primary grocery shoppers for their household. They may break up this study into various categories:

Age Groups:

  • 18-24
  • 25-36
  • 37-45

US Region Groups:

  • Northeast
  • Southeast
  • Midwest
  • Southwest
  • West

The final quota groups nested together would look like: 

  • Woman, 18-24 Northeast
  • Woman, 18-24 Southeast
  • Woman, 18-24 Midwest
  • Woman, 18-24 Southwest
  • Woman, 18-24 West
  • Woman, 25-36 Northeast
  • Woman, 25-36 Southeast
  • Woman, 25-36 Midwest
  • Woman, 25-36 Southwest
  • Woman, 25-36 West
  • Woman, 37-45 Northeast
  • Woman, 37-45 Southeast
  • Woman, 37-45 Midwest
  • Woman, 37-45 Southwest
  • Woman, 37-45 West

For more information on setting up nested quotas for fielding and to see how to set them up, visit our Quota Nesting blog article.

The brand may want to know if it is worth it for them to pursue development in an online order and pickup service. They will then choose to present their survey to these respondents to gauge their current purchasing habits, the brands they use, and their satisfaction with it. This will give the business a trend baseline with insight into how these different store brands are viewed and interacted with by women in the United States. 

After 6 months at the close of the campaign, the business will want to assess if behaviors/opinions on grocery shopping have changed. They will then ask this same demographic similar if not identical questions about the attitudes towards grocery shopping, if they have seen the ad or not, and compare these answers together. This asks the same demographic population similar questions, only at different points in time. 

From here, researchers can analyze reports to find significant differences or lack thereof between the two studies and draw conclusions about the success of that particular campaign. They can make changes as needed to ensure future campaigns see greater results.

What is an Online Research Panel?

Panel studies utilize panel companies who have access to respondents available online to answer survey questions. These respondents are interested in answering online surveys for monetary incentives. 

Following the example above, this business may want to target individuals who are the primary grocery shoppers in their households. They will need to utilize panels to find the correct individuals to interview, and trust that they are of high quality. Verified research panels will typically screen, verify and deduplicate respondents to ensure their interviews are valid and can be trusted to base business decisions. 

The PureSpectrum platform connects 50+ suppliers automatically, allowing clients to pull respondents from around the world, direct to their survey.  PureSpectrum Marketplace utilizes technology to expand survey feasibility, reach, and ensures high-quality insights. To learn more about PureSpectrum’s quality measures, check out our respondent quality page or schedule a demo with us today.

Benefits of Using an Online Panel Company

  1. Audiences can be specifically targeted to ensure that only the right people are entering the right panel surveys
  2. Since panel companies capture demographic information about all of their respondents, researchers can dig deeper and access further details about the people they are interviewing 
  3. With access to millions of people, utilizing a panel can speed up your panel sampling time with greater feasibility, and shorten your time to insights
  4. When working with a verified panel, you can ensure they take quality of respondents into consideration

Items to Consider when Using an Online Panel

Panels are a great way to access millions of people and gather opinions from around the world, but here are some considerations that could cause research biases:

  1. Panelists are incentivized through points that can be converted to cash, gift cards, or other kinds of rewards. The types/amounts of rewards are predicated on the length of the survey or the specificity it takes to qualify. Respondents are less likely to start, continue or take seriously surveys they feel are offering a low incentive in exchange for their time.
  2. Panelists can only access surveys online, meaning that only respondents who have access to the internet freely can answer surveys. According to DataSpring, 95.1% of the population of South Korea have access to the internet as opposed to Myanmar, where only 33.1% of the population is online. This can lead to skewed responses and limited access to certain demographics researchers may be interested in interviewing.

Next Steps

When considering a panel survey for your research, consider what you plan on measuring and how. Panel surveys are the best fit for measuring change in population behaviors and attitudes over time. It can help identify how public opinion shifts depending on current climates, ad effectiveness, trends, and more. 

Partnering with a panel company allows you to expand your reach to interview the exact people you need. Working with a marketplace can further increase feasibility by connecting you to multiple panel companies automatically. 

PureSpectrum Storefront works to streamline repeated surveys with unique methodologies, making it a perfect fit for automating panel surveys. Custom built for every client, tracker projects that measure changes in behavior over time can be more accurately measured, captured, reported and utilized all with less overhead costs and labor. 

Want to learn more about launching your panel surveys through the PureSpectrum platform? Explore our platform today.