Survey panels are an easy way for a company to know exactly when, how and what a certain segment of the population is buying or thinking. This type of market research panel is often a group or groups of people who fit a particular demographic spectrum of the population and are willing to participate in surveys that can be conducted through phone, mail, or online means.
For instance, company A would like to know if it should carry a particular product in its stores. The company, due to demographics, already knows that the people who shop in their stores are Caucasian women between the ages of 25 and 30 with a middle-income level who live in the Midwest. To find out if Brand XX would be a good fit for their store the company may contact a survey panel company and ask them to conduct a survey to see if the product would be successful.
The survey company would then go through its database and contact any members it may have that matches the demographics needed by the client and invite those people to take the survey. This includes the question of whether or not Brand XX is something they would buy, how often they do buy it if they do and sometimes how much they are willing to spend on it.
Once the answers to the questions have been compiled, the company can now decide if the customers at its stores want Brand XX to be carried. This type of information can be invaluable if it is collected and used correctly. Without it, stores would have to stock whatever the buyer for the store thought might work. That can be very expensive if the buyer thought for instance that a store located in China Town needed to carry 2000 cowboy hats instead of white rice.
You might be wondering how a survey or marketing company may have so many different types of people available to join in market research groups. Have you ever seen the ads all over the internet that say you can make money for taking surveys? Often a market survey company will run a website designed to lure people into becoming a member of their market research group. The way they do this is by offering to pay people a very small amount or by using cash or products as prizes in contests.
The truth is no one could possible make a real living doing such surveys or by becoming members of research panels but they can be fun to do sometimes. But to do them correctly you must be completely honest about your responses, which brings us to the problem.
The problem is, with many of these online surveys and research panel sites, the results cannot always be useful to the company who needs it. This is because some of these sites actively recruit the members of their survey teams in an unscrupulous way.
The people are told that the survey pays XX amount or the prize for doing it is worth XX amount, which leads to lies. Because the more surveys you take the more you will be paid, many people are pretending to be someone they are not in order to do as many of these surveys as they can.
So if an Asian gentleman from South Florida lies and says he is a rich, Caucasian woman from Maine the results of the survey will be incorrect and therefore unusable. Market research must rely on the truth of the statements made by the particular demographic group targeted to make any sense or be of any use.
The vast space of the internet has made market research panels almost too easy. While in the past marketing firms needed to recruit people to participate today there are research companies where the information can be bought. Though sometimes the companies are buying lies.