Online Technology for Research & Insight

Press Release 29 October 2020

Demographix warns researchers against panel bloat

LONDON UK: Demographix has warned research organisations to keep on top of maintaining a slimline panel management environment and avoiding unnecessary feature bloat that yields little in the way of reliable data.

The company has issued a 5-point Panel Health Check to highlight those areas where panels can get out-of-hand, costly and produce little of value.

Demographix director, Bobby Pickering, said that successful and useful panels allow organisations to tap into a pool of people who know their market well. "You want to be able to reach those people quickly and get their collective view on issues that arise," he said. "Effectively, that means being able to email survey invites out to selected sub-groups of an up-to-date panel list and get their views fast. You want that data in a report tonight!"

"Organisations can pay through the nose to agencies who have sold them expensive panel solutions, but the real name of the game is keep it simple and cost-effective," said Pickering. "You are not providing social media solutions, newsletters, forums and so on; you are effectively running a mailing list that allows you to get quick and reliable research results. Once you have realised this, there are big cost savings to be made."

5-point Panel Health Check

1. Don't waste your money on forums and social media hot-air groups. Little can be gained from monitoring online groups where "wild west" attitudes abound. The loudest and most aggressive bully in the herd will, over time, come to dominate ideas and opinions, or intimidate others with differing viewpoints. The same goes for newsletters – providing content for passive readerships is not a good basis to build research channels on.

2. Distinguish between brand communities and market awareness groups. Valuable data and insights is more likely to come from groups who know your market and competitors well. Brand loyalty can count against you here – the kind of person who may be attracted to signing up for your brand may be only after the freebies or the prizes or the rewards for mouthing platitudes. They may have little insight into wider market issues, or be too afraid to tell you the truth because they've already "bought into the brand".

3. Regularly clean your panel members' core demographic and lifestyle data. Personal preferences change, product ownership changes, email addresses change, and even names change – and how much is it going to cost you to manage it over time? Data warehouses are extremely expensive to run, and quite frankly what are you amassing all that data for? Keep the data as streamlined as possible, and collect it afresh on a yearly or two-yearly cycle. That means getting your panellists to fill out a registration survey that has their latest preference and demographic data that will allow you to target core groups of them for survey invites. Make sure your panel system then allows you to send emails based on how panel members have answered questions in that registration survey – a feature at the heart of the Demographix system.

4. Don't over contact your panel members. And certainly don't feed them marketing bumf in an effort to make them buy your stuff. You want them on your side when you need to get data from them. Treat them as a respected group of people whose opinions and knowledge you value. Make sure you ask them to take part in some important research at least every 6 months, but also incentivise them to offer good honest feedback where your strengths and weaknesses are acknowledged.

5. Think carefully about what incentives you pay for panel members to take surveys. Not only is it a headache to manage the admin behind tracking and fulfilling payments for taking surveys, it's also dubious in its efficacy. Do you really trust the opinions of people who are really only in it for the money, pittance though that can be? But don't rule out incentives entirely. Prize draws attached to each survey can be just enough incentive for most people. If they do win, it's a nice surprise. Make sure you advertise the winners and make the payouts though! To ignore that could lead to serious brand embarrassment.

About Demographix: Demographix is the leading UK developer of online research tools, specialising in the publishing, broadcast, health, public, academic and hospitality sectors. The company develops technology compatible with a wide range of browsers and form factors, including tablets and smartphones. Demographix is the registered trademark of Demographix Limited. Demographix is a company partner of the Market Research Society. Company registered in England and Wales No. 4358487. Registered with the ICO No. Z1244335.