Introduction to Panel Research Part 1

Recently we had an article about potential shortcomings of consumer panels. Since we’re on the topic, let’s look at another type of research – panel research. Panel research is used by a number of different Panel research is a style of survey research that doesn’t use a large sample to try to gauge the opinions of a larger population. It’s designed to track changes in opinion, buying habits, etc., and often used by companies that are implementing something different into their programs.

The Characteristics of Panel Research

Panel research is fairly straightforward. Nearly all panel research is longitudinal, meaning that the value isn’t the data you receive now, but how that data changes over the course of the study. Rather than a large sample, panels involve a much, much smaller sample that agrees to take part in multiple surveys over the course of X amount of days, months, or years.

Data is collected to track and understand changes. A hypothetical example of how a panel would be used is as follows:

Apple releases an iPhone or an iPhone upgrade every year. Sometimes they change the hardware itself, sometimes they change the operating system, and sometimes they change the speed of the Internet service. Apple can randomly select 50 people that currently have an iPhone. Then, ever six months, they can see the people’s satisfaction with the iPhone, willingness to buy a new iPhone, etc., and make judgments based on releases. For example, they’ll know if that same sample decides to upgrade when a new phone comes out, or if they cancel their membership when a new operating system is released, or if their satisfaction dips over the course of using their phone. All of these give the company a large pool of data to check and cross reference against other data in order to better understand how the changes affected buying habits, satisfaction, and more.

There’s no true limit to the types of information that can be conducted via panel research, but generally the idea is to ask questions that will allow you to see and understand trends, and hopefully use those trends to understand the effects of your business decisions more. Analysis tends to be similar with mean comparisons, among other things, in order to see what affects some aspects of your business are having.

In the next article, we’ll take a look at some of the benefits and weaknesses of conducting panel research.

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