There has been much conversation lately about the decline of panels among our colleagues where we hold a very different opinion. They make many spot-on observations about issues we as an industry have been discussing for many years. Excessively long and boring surveys seeking very difficult audiences that force sample vendors to terminate high percentages of participants are certainly part of the issue. A much larger issue that they don’t seem to grasp is there has been a fundamental shift in how people/respondents/panelists engage online.
Take a trip with me and let’s go back 10 years, its 2006. There is no Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter or millions of snappy, witty blogs (like this one:) We have MySpace and yes, it sucks, no wonder it isn’t around any longer (sorry Arnie). Surveys are new and interesting, we don’t get invited to participate in CSAT surveys a minimum of 3 times per day and the rewards are generally meaningful. We get $2-$4 for consumer surveys and $10+ for B2B surveys. Ahh the good ole days!
Now come back to 2016. We’re joined at the hip with our mobile devices and we have so many options of where and what to do with our free time online. Survey rewards aren’t meaningful, we see an average of $.50-$1 in most panels. If you were taking surveys back then, are you taking them now? Exactly, you aren’t. The result is that traditional online panels are dying. They aren’t engaging, novel or rewarding like they were in the past. At Precision Sample we figured this out in 2011 shifted to a new model of building panels.
Luckily we have the magic of the sharing economy and Sharing Economy Panels which falls under the category of digital media in the supply and demand graph above. We’ve all seen the infographic. The world’s largest cab company owns no cabs (Uber) and the world’s largest lodging company owns no properties (Airbnb). We’re not there yet in the sample industry but we’re getting there. Within the next 5 years I predict the world’s largest sample company will have no panelists. And that’s a good thing!
If we want to engage people we need to engage them where they live. We can no longer expect them to come to us, we need to go to them. Luckily advancements in technology make this possible. Leading sample companies today are actively forming partnerships with web properties who have the audiences our client’s demand. We integrate with APIs to build “Surveys” areas in places you would never expect to find them. Have you been on a shopping or mommy site recently and were pleasantly surprised to find a highly functional panel-like experience? What you’ve just encountered is a sharing economy panel powered by a sample company you’re probably very familiar with although all are not as transparent about it as we believe they should be.
Sharing economy sample is considered panel sample by sample industry. We’re collecting registrations with PII, vetting & validating panelists and controlling email invitations, sample frames and user experiences as we always have just under many, many different brands. For the purposes of sample and market research there are tens of thousands of properties with millions of monthly visitors that represent a huge untapped resource. Integrating directly with partners also offers the opportunity to give fair incentives that drive participation. Rather than $.50-$1, our partners can offer incentives with a much higher perceived value than their actual cost. Think free Skype minutes or additional online storage from cloud storage provider or an Amazon Prime membership in exchange for survey participation. We’re only limited by our creativity and direct cash payments will become a thing of the past which will promote increased quality.
From our perspective, the future of panels is bright with technology enabling so many new and exciting ways to engage with consumers.