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Mastering panel management: Strategies for building and maintaining quality research panels

Published on November 21, 2023 by Akanksha Singh

Panel management is a process to manage a research panel that contributes insights and feedback to ongoing qualitative or quantitative research. Research panels are essential tools for collecting valuable data and insights on a number of fields, from market research to academic studies. Mastering panel management is crucial for ensuring the quality, reliability and longevity of these panels. In this blog, we explore strategies for building and maintaining quality research panels, which would help make the most of research efforts.

What is a research panel?

A research panel, often referred to as a survey panel or respondent panel, is a group of individuals who have agreed to participate in surveys, interviews or research studies. These individuals are typically selected based on specific demographics, characteristics or interests that align with the research objectives.

Research panel management is the process of overseeing and maintaining the survey or respondent panel. The importance of effective implementation cannot be overstated, as it has significant implications for the success and reliability of research efforts.

The importance of quality panels

A quality panel is the backbone of a successful research project. It offers several advantages:

Data quality and reliability: A well-managed panel consists of engaged and reliable participants who provide accurate and consistent data, increasing the reliability of the research findings.

Cost-efficiency: Building and maintaining a high-quality panel can be cost-effective in the long run, as participants need not be recruited for each study, reducing recruitment costs.

Time-saving: Having a ready-made panel at their disposal allows researchers to launch research projects more quickly. This is especially valuable when timely data is needed or longitudinal studies that require tracking changes over time are conducted.

Targeted research: Panel management enables researchers to target specific demographics or characteristics within the panel, making it easier to conduct research on niche topics or specific market segments.

Participant engagement: Engaged and motivated panellists are more likely to respond to research requests and remain active on the panel. Effective panel management strategies can help maintain a high level of engagement.

Data security and privacy: Proper panel management ensures that participants’ data is handled securely and comply with privacy regulations. This builds trust and confidence among panellists.

Community building: Effective panel management involves fostering a sense of community among panellists, leading to a more cooperative and enthusiastic group of participants.

Strategies for building quality research panel

1. Define your target audience

Begin by clearly defining the characteristics of the individuals you want on the panel. Consider demographics, interests and other relevant factors. This will be the foundation for your panel recruitment efforts.

2. Choose the right recruitment methods

You can recruit panellists through methods such as online advertising, partnerships with other organisations or social media. Ensure that the recruitment method aligns with your target audience and research objectives. Common recruitment methods include the following:

  • Online advertising: Using online platforms, such as social media or Google ads, to reach a broader audience

  • Partnerships: Collaborating with organisations or websites that already have access to the desired/required demographics

  • Email invitation: Inviting individuals who match the criteria

  • Referrals: Encouraging current panellists to refer others who fit the target profile

3. Incentivise participants

Offering incentives can motivate individuals to join the panel and actively participate in research activity. Incentives could include cash rewards, gift cards or other non-monetary benefits. The type of incentive should align with the target audience’s preferences.

4. Develop a user-friendly onboarding process

Make it easy for panellists to join and understand the research panel's purpose. It is important to ensure that potential participants easily understand the purpose, how to sign up and what they can expect from their involvement.

5. Screen and validate panellists

Implement screening and validation processes to verify that panellists meet your criteria. This ensures that your panel is composed of individuals who genuinely match your target audience. Validation may involve email verification, phone verification or answering specific questions.

6. Maintain engagement

Foster a sense of community among panellists through regular communication, updates and opportunities for engagement. Keeping panellists engaged leads to higher response rates and more reliable data.

Strategies for maintaining a quality research panel

1. Regularly update profile information

Encourage panellists to update their profile information to ensure it remains current and accurate. Researchers should ensure that updating processes are simple and participants can easily modify their details such as demographics, contact information and preferences. Regular updates help researchers maintain accurate and relevant participant profiles, making it easier to target specific demographics for research projects.

2. Communicate effectively

Maintain open and transparent communication with your panellists. Notify them about upcoming studies, provide clear instructions and share the results of previous research to demonstrate the impact of their participation. Researchers should clearly explain the purpose of each study, the expected time commitment and the incentives offered, ensuring that the panellists know what to expect. Researchers should also provide channels for panellists to contact them with questions, concerns or feedback, and respond promptly.

3. Diversify research activities

Researchers should offer a variety of research activities, including surveys, interviews, focus groups and product testing, to keep panellists engaged; this also enables researchers to gather different types of data based on the research objectives.

4. Ensure data security and privacy

This builds trust in panellists. Assure them that their personal information is handled with the utmost care and is protected from unauthorised access. Researchers should comply with relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, and clearly communicate the data-handling practices.

5. Monitor panel health regularly

Identify and remove inactive or unengaged panellists, in order to maintain a responsive and high-quality group, while saving costs associated with sharing surveys with such individuals. Researchers could set criteria for identifying inactive panellists, e.g., no participation in the past six months, and launch re-engagement campaigns before removing them from the panel.

6. Feeback collection and analysis

Solicit feedback from panellists regarding their experience with the research panel. Gather their opinions on the quality of surveys, incentives and overall satisfaction. Analyse this feedback to improve panel management strategies, recruitment methods and incentives.

Conclusion

Mastering panel management is a fundamental skill for researchers. Building and maintaining quality research panels involve defining your target audience, using effective recruitment methods, engaging participants and upholding data security and privacy. By implementing these strategies, the longevity and reliability of research panels could be ensured, leading to more robust and impactful research findings.

How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help

Our end-to-end market research consultancy helps you understand markets in depth. We are industry-agnostic and work across the value chain of a particular sector/process to deliver value and trustworthy data. Our research is anchored in empathy- and emotion-driven responses for B2C studies and fact- and data-driven insights for B2B studies that help brands and businesses understand the crux of the problem and make informed decisions.

We help clients build and manage research panels representative of the audiences on whom they need to gather feedback for analysis. We have access to 30m+ respondents and could help recruit them for research panels.

Sources:


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About the Author

Akanksha Singh is a Delivery Lead within the Survey Programming and Data Processing line of business at Acuity Knowledge Partners (Acuity). She holds a PGDM in Marketing and Communication and has over 8 years of experience in business development and content marketing for various industries including IT and ITES, Finance Tech, Healthcare Tech, Environmental services, and the Insight industry.

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