What are custom market research panels?

Often compared to an online research community, a panel is a pre-profiled group of participants on standby to take part in your survey research. Such panels are usually large in scale and segmented by a variety of factors so the right participants can easily be selected for every survey task.

Market research panels can be either first-party or third-party in nature. Third-party panels, sometimes known as online access panels are maintained and hosted by a specialist provider. When you have a survey to field, it is sent to relevant to the provider who will distribute it to participants who meet the target criteria. First-party panels are owned and maintained by you - providing greater control over data quality, custom segmentation and participant experience.

A flexible database

InsightHub supports custom data fields and a wide range of sample sources.

In order to build a first-party panel that provides a consistent return on investment, it’s important to have access to the right data. With the InsightHub database, our clients can add and record custom data about each panel member. This data can be used to create custom segmentations, feed into survey reporting and provide for a shorter, more enjoyable participant experience.

Additionally, new panel members can be added through a variety of recruitment methods that include imports from CRM databases and third-party panel providers, open link surveys and sign-up pages promoted across marketing materials.

Information security

FlexMR holds the ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus certifications.

We take our commitment to information and data security seriously. FlexMR holds two internationally recognised information security certifications and enforce robust data access controls. These are Internationally recognised standard-specific requirements in security management and define comprehensive security controls. In achieving these certifications, we gladly commit to continually managing information security in accordance with recognised and audited best practices.

You can rest assured that your panel data is in safe hands. We have extensive experience building panels and insight platforms across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, complying with the highest information security standards in each region.

Benefits of an online research panel

Research panels remain one of the most popular online methodologies, and for good reason. They are cost-efficient, easy-to-run and provide instant access to data - helping to inform key decisions at the speed of business. Here are some of the most frequently cited benefits of running a first-party research panel.

Pre-screened participants

Panel participants have already agreed to take part in your surveys, leading to high response and engagement rates.

In-depth profiles

As participants take more surveys, you can build up a more accurate and robust portrait of their profiles.

Multi-use assets

Your research panel can be used for a variety of purposes, including tracking studies and one-off projects.

Quick time to field

With direct access to panelists, you can get surveys into field and responses analysed in record time.

Lower incentive costs

With no third-party between you and your panelists, you can keep costs low and return on investment high.

Flexibility and scale

Your panel can grow with you, encompassing new customers, groups and segments as your brand expands.

Honesty and trust

As your relationship with panelists grows over time, so too does the honest feedback that they will provide.

Research panel software plus service

We don’t believe in maintaining the status quo. We thrive on making insight more relevant, more accessible and more impactful, while overcoming the core challenges that research, product and marketing teams face.

Frequently asked panel questions

Building a successful research panel with engaged participants that reflects your customer base and wider consumer research needs can be a complicated challenge, but well worth the effort. Here are some of the most frequently asked market research panel questions with advice from our team of experts.

How large should my panel be?

Research panels come in all shapes and sizes. Primarily, you should expect to determine your panel size by understanding and evaluating your needs. First, determine what type of panellists you need to answer questions on a regular basis. Are you looking for customers of your brand, or a specific product? Do you require representation from an entire market segment? Or are your needs broader at the general population level?

Once you have your criteria in place, determine the overall population of the group (or groups) and from there a minimum required sample. We recommend that your panel is 50% larger than the minimum required sample in order to account for drop out and typical panel engagement rates. This process can result in panels that comprise of just a few hundred members for niche and B2B needs, up to tens of thousands for products with a broad international market. To make the most efficient use of your panel budget, it's important to get this process right and ensure your panel is neither too large, nor too small.

How can I keep panelists engaged?

Long-term panel engagement remains one of the biggest challenges that insight teams face. That's simply because of the number of factors that can impact it. Here are some of the best and easiest ways to boost your panel engagement:

Communicate and Feedback Often - the most successful research panels act as a two-way dialogue between brands and members. In recognition of their contributions, it's important to keep community members up to date with the latest brand developments and the impact that their feedback is having. This can be delivered through regular newsletters, updates to the homepage or dedicated news items.

Lead By Example - the InsightHub platform includes a number of social features that can be used to bolster panel engagement. To encourage regular login, vary the activities available on the platform homepage often, feedback to participants and be direct in your requests - highlighting the impact that surveys will have and why they are important to your brand.

Incentivise Engagement - a staple of the market research industry, incentivising participants to take part in surveys can provide a massive boost to engagement. This can be achieved by introducing point systems that provide either regular payouts or entries into prize draws. Consider weighting the activities want to encourage more of with the greatest rewards to really drive and direct behaviours.

How can I keep a clean database of market research panelists?

Maintaining a clean database of members is an important factor in the success of your panel. A large group of un-engaged or unreachable members leads to low levels of activity, harms the reach of your surveys and can often be found at the root of disapointing response rates.

In order to maintain a robust database, it is first important to consider what will be stored in it. That is to say what user fields do you wish to record and how will these be used to segment members for future activities. Once you have settled on a structure, we recommend running a minimum of two initial recruitment waves with a further wave to top-up (or ideally grow) the panel size every six months. During these waves, it's also important to manage and remove unresponsive participants. This can be done by sending a re-engagement email asking if they would like to remain a part of the panel.

How much time does it take to manage a market research panel?

The answer to this question depends on a whole range of factors, the most important of which is what you hope to get out of the panel. In low-touch panel, a few hours per week to design new surveys, analyse existing results and manage database administration will be sufficient. In other cases where the panel forms the core of a research schedule, it may be more appropriate to hire a dedicated Panel Manager to lead such activities.

As a flexible research partner, the FlexMR team can advise on the time required to manage your panel and can provide a number of services to reduce the pressure on your team - including database, communication and engagement management.

Empower better decisions

We have developed a game-changing insights empowerment framework that addresses the three major pressures placed on modern insight teams. We use the framework to construct bespoke partnership programmes - delivering measurable business value through agile research technology and a flexible approach to supporting services. Is your brand ready to take the first step towards insights empowerment? Find out what we can do for you on the pages below, or get in touch today.

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Got questions for us or simply want to know more? Schedule a call with our team of research experts to see how we can help you streamline, scale and supercharge insights.

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Our services span a full and diverse spectrum. We offer everything from dedicated platform support and research education to in-depth consulting, project implementation and insight delivery.

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