Quantitative research is on the cusp of innovation. In recent decades, there has been the acceptance of slow, inefficient and poorly engaged respondent groups that are ultimately disconnected from the research they are partaking in. The percentage of completions for any given survey across the industry is estimated to be between 2-4%, with email completion rates dropping as low as 0.5%.
How has this become the norm? For an industry that is trusted with essential research, the most important aspect of this research is completely neglected i.e. the actual people doing the survey. The integrity of the panel has diminished, as they have resided to a mere data point, rather than a voice that should be respected and trusted to influence research.
In order to transform the engagement, quality and speed at which research can and should be carried out, we believe a few areas need to be reconsidered to sculpt the future of panels across the world.
There needs to be a shift in emphasis from top-to-bottom in terms of the research focus. You can spend all the time in the world designing the perfect survey, but if you do not understand the end user or prioritise their experience, you will never get the research quality required. Researchers must combine effective methodologies with a deep understanding of the present-day consumer if they are to overturn these dismal completion rates. This starts with a prioritisation of the end user – they are people after all.
For a population that spends hours each day focusing on their smartphone, it is striking the lack of adaptation that has happened across the quantitative research market in terms of being mobile native and responsive to changes in how people live. Using email as the medium to reach people nowadays is the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight in fighting for the attention of the occupied consumer. The future of panels shall be built on mobile, leveraging gamification, enhanced user experience and push notifications to redefine the quality of quantitative research.
It is no secret that panel providers are approached with caution, with a lack of trust and quality plaguing many areas of the industry for decades. Yet, as technology has advanced, quality standards have not kept pace. The global benchmark for verification remains at ‘double email opt in’ for panel participants, which is a feeble attempt to stop duplicate accounts, low quality responses and forged personalities. The future of panels must pave the path for panel verification, dynamic targeting based on prior responses, and quality assurance tools within each survey to immediately flag and eliminate any response that would compromise quality. Clients should demand that trust is rebuilt via data-driven solutions, with new technologies at the forefront.
Panel expectations need to evolve, from making up the numbers to understanding and prioritising each person that engages in the research. The future of panels needs to be consumer-centric, smartphone-enabled and data-driven if they are to rid of this ‘necessary evil’ reputation that they have built in recent decades.