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Private Online Research Panels
Private Online Panels Versus Online Communities
Private online panels or communities are typically groups of customers that are willing to participate in surveys, focus groups, and other types of research.
The primary advantages of a company having its own private panel are reduced costs and perhaps more rapid study execution. The cost of a typical survey is
reduced by 50% to 80% via a private panel, although part of this savings is offset by the cost to design, build, and operate a private panel. The terms
“panel” and “community” are often used interchangeably, but we think of them as being quite different:
- Private online panels. Generally, these panels are made up of thousands of customers, and are used primarily for surveys,
focus groups, and depth interviews. Frequency of participation must be balanced between limiting participation to minimize respondent bias and avoid respondent
conditioning, yet must be frequent enough to keep respondents interested and responsive to surveys. Usually, these types of panels are ongoing and long-term.
- Private online communities. These “panels” are usually smaller (fewer than 100 and up to several hundred participants)
and are often organized for a specific purpose and for a limited time, although some are ongoing. They are used primarily for qualitative research; or ideation,
but some companies use them for surveys as well (which we do not recommend in most instances).
Common Uses of Private Online Panels
Since private panels tend to be made up primarily of customers (i.e., they are more likely to join your private panel), this tends to restrict “private
panel” research studies to those that are appropriate for customers, such as;
- Product usage studies among customers.
- Customer preferences for new package designs.
- Customer reactions to proposed advertising concepts.
- Customer taste testing or customer reactions to products.
- Screening of promotion ideas among customers.
- Customer focus groups, online or offline.
- Customer ethnographic studies.
- Geographical mapping of customers.
- Customer media usage.
Reasons to Outsource Panel Management
Most corporations do not have the internal staff, systems, legal agreements, and resources required to create, host, manage, and operate a private panel.
For example, if the private panel has some European respondents, then the Safe Harbor Agreement between the U.S. and the European Union comes into play (it
governs the transfer of personal data from Europe to the U.S.). Digital fingerprinting of respondents’ computers is essential to prevent cheating, yet this technology
is generally too expensive for an individual company to buy. If the private panelists get upset for any reason and file “spamming” complaints,
the corporate website might get blocked by some Internet Service Providers, if the website is hosted on corporate computers. It is usually safer to host
surveys and the panel database at a remote hosting facility, so that corporate computers are not exposed to potential hackers or viruses. Also, whoever operates
the private panel must answer emails, phone calls, and letters, as well as clean and update the database of panelists on a regular basis.
Setting up Your Private Panel
If you think a private panel might be appropriate for your brand or your company, please contact us. We can quickly develop a detailed proposal with precise cost
estimates. Please contact Jerry W. Thomas, President/CEO (email@example.com),
or call 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.
Additional Resources from Decision Analyst
Online Research Brochures
Proprietary Panel Case Histories
Online Research White Papers