I recently participated in Answer Force Panel Research as a panel member. Few people use panels to conduct their research although it is one of the effective tools of market research. Marketing panel can be used as an alternative to focus groups. Burns & Bush (2000, p.78) defined a marketing panel as people who are recruited and represent the target market and are pre-qualified in participating in studies of market research on an ongoing basis. Answer Force Panel Research is an online research panel company that conducts online marketing research for different companies. They assist their clients to get the opinions of the customers on a given topic, product, a fierce competitor, a loyalty program, usage, attitudes, packaging, competitive positioning or questions that required instant market insight
Like the other panel members, I was recruited in the marketing panel by email and further confirmation by phone and requested to participate in the panel. I was told that I will be called upon many times to give my input on a given category of product. I agreed to participate as a marketing panel because I believe I will be helping in improving the product’s quality that is offered by different manufacturers. I was also promised some gives as an incentive for participating as a marketing panel. Some of the incentives that we were given include money, allowances, meals and t-shirts with the researcher labels. Another thing was that I did not know other members of the marketing panel as my identity just like the others were kept anonymous.
Crouch & Housden (1996) indicated out that one of the main success ingredients for a marketing panel is the ongoing maintenance. I believe the members of the panel were balanced demographically and also in accordance to other variables such as psychographics, sex and region. This is because, on the registration form for the panel members, these were some of the required areas that were required to be filled to be selected to participate in the marketing panel. This is also to make sure that the panel is representing the populations that are being investigated.
As a member of the marketing panel, I believe I was able to offer many things to the researchers and I also had some experiences in the panel. I believe as a selected member of the marketing panel, I offered myself as a ready respondent to the researchers. This helped the researcher on the problem of deciding whom they wanted to interview, developing the questionnaires, choosing a sample. With the selected panel in place, the researchers made the decisions easily o the pre-selected respondents.
As a marketing research panel, I felt it as an obligation to respond to the research instruments from the Answer Force Panel Research that I was given. I felt that I was making a contribution and, therefore, whenever I was called upon to make my contribution or make an input, I was able to participate willingly. I believe this is in contrasts to other research methods where a participant’s respondents is not guaranteed
From the definition of the panel outlined in the essay, the panel represented a certain population that the researcher is trying to make an influence with their products. Given that I represented a particular geographical area, demography and specific gender in the area just like the other panel members, clear picture and outcome desired by the company is gotten. Because I was able to represent my area, my opinion on certain products of different companies would be generalized to and geared to satisfying the customers of my geographical area.
I also believe that conducting a research through marketing research panels is efficient because the members of the panel have been chosen and screened carefully and are qualified. Furthermore, the panel is ready to respond at any given time. This is in contrast to random surveys where the respondents have not been screened carefully and sometimes they are not ready to take the surveys. I also believe I was able to complete the interviews accurately and if this was replicated by other panel members then probably there was a higher percentage of accuracy.
While responding to some questions in the interviews and questionnaires, I realized that it was easier to track the behaviors from my responses over some time. I think this is very useful for a company especially in determining the patterns of buying, consumption and the general usage of the product. Furthermore, having participated in the marketing panel over such along period of time, it was the best way for a company to evaluate the effectiveness of certain stimuli on my behaviors, for instance advertising that could be used or applied to the general population to promote a product of a company.
From my experiences as a marketing research panel, I believe the method was also cost effective. One of the significant budget portions of the research is to find the people to interview. However, I believe the cost was watered down by the panel because the research teams initial investment in the set up. This is because the sample was designed once and there is no need of duplicating the same costs every time a company wants to do a survey.
A person who has participated and become a marketing research panel, I believe that the general belief that doing a research using panels is very expensive is not true. Well, it is true that, in using panels, there are significant costs that are involved in creating and maintaining the panel. However, by analyzing panels from cost-benefit point of view, I think panels are not very costly.
The best way is to make comparisons on different kinds of the marketing issues being explored in the panels and the focus groups. Krueger & Casey (2000) pointed out that focus groups are very useful in investigating issues that are important from group synergy that it offers. These include:
- Concept development for a new product
- Understanding the language of the customer
- Generating hypothesis from the behavior of the customer
However, for the quantitative studies that also include the panels as a subset is the best bets for providing answers to particular answers. For example, some of the quantitative questions the researchers wanted from the panel were:
- Should, a company, introduce a particular product? What is the purchase interest level? How much the products should be priced? What are the products optimal positioning?
- Which positioning is the best for the company’s product line or the products
- Who are the targets audiences for the company’s products?
- What benefit should the company promote in the advertising?
These are some of the specific marketing questions that I was asked as a panel member and they needed precise and definite answers. Therefore, I believe marketing research panel is the best because it allowed the researchers to confirm the findings but, not only to explore and leave the findings unconfirmed such as the focus groups.
Despite the positive things and the advantages of panels, there are also disadvantages of panels that I experienced during the period I was a panel member. I believe focus groups have some advantages more than the panels and this could explain the predominant use of the focus groups compared to the panels. The focus groups are intrusive in nature unlike the panels which are passive. By intrusive nature I mean that the manager sees his/her customers physically, hears their product reactions and is able to perceive how they feel about a particular product, unlike the panel. I believe from my experience that the product managers are very much comfortable when they receive information from the customers first hand. Furthermore, people tend to remember more when they hear information and get the visual reinforcement of data. This is what happens in the focus groups unlike the panels
Another problem I noticed with the panels is the overuse of the respondents by the researchers. This can lead to “professional respondent bias.” However, the research team was able to control this by controlling the maximum number of the research projects I did monthly. I believe this eliminated the potential of one person being an expert in a particular area.
Burns, A. C., & Bush, R. F. (2000). Marketing research. Upper Saddle River, N.J., Prentice Hall.
Crouch, S., & Housden, M. (1996). Marketing research for managers. Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann.
Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2000). Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks, Calif, Sage Publications.