Pew Research Center recently announced that their American Trends Panel was the main data source for most of the Center’s reports on U.S. social and political attitudes and behavior in 2018. Changing social and communications habits among consumers have caused telephone survey response rates to decline, while other trends – such as increased Internet usage in the household – have made self-administered online surveys more appealing. This shift in research methodology used for U.S. population sampling indicates that multifaceted digital research platforms may be the key to running top-of-the-line market research.

Community vs. Panel

As a refresh, the main difference between Community and Panel is access. A research Community is a specially-selected group of people who have agreed to take surveys and participate in various research-related activities. A third-party research Panel is a sampling capability that enables businesses to collect data from millions of registered users outside of their private research Community. The secret to gathering more powerful and predictive insights is using Panel and Community together.

Comparative Data Sets

One of the biggest benefits of using Panels in addition to Community is the opportunity it grants marketers and researchers to conduct comparative analyses. Individuals who make up a Community are screened in, often through rigorous requirements, and tend to be particularly invested in the brand or industry. While this allows researchers to understand the perspective of a loyalists, it doesn’t help gain insight into the folks who rarely or never interact with the brand. That’s where Panels can pick up the slack. By running the same research project with Community members and respondents who are more distantly connected to the brand, companies can see how their concepts are landing with fans as well as the general population.

Quantity Plus Quality

When Pew Research Center’s panel began back in 2014, nearly two-thirds of respondents took their surveys on a laptop or PC. In a November 2018 wave, just over half of the surveys were taken on a smartphone. While the dedicated group of users that make up a Community may be more willing to participate in labor-intensive research activities that require the usage of a laptop or PC, most everyday consumers can be reached more conveniently via mobile. Panel also allows for the speedy collection of hundreds or even thousands of survey responses, making it the ideal way to get a quick pulse within the context of a larger, more complex study being run with Community.

Final Thoughts

Any research study can be elevated by combining the strengths of Panel (collecting lots of inexpensive responses) to conduct quick quantitative research with the strengths of Community (capturing fewer, slightly costlier in-depth responses) to harvest rich qualitative data. Leveraging Panel plus Community helps companies get closer to their existing customer base and make more accurate predictions about how potential products, services, and advertising strategies will perform out in the real world beyond the drawing board.

This is precisely why Fuel Cycle offers its own proprietary Panel solution as part of the Fuel Cycle Exchange (FCX), the industry’s leading insights ecosystem. For more details about Fuel Cycle Panels, check out this previously published article.