The Internet Makes Online Panels Possible
Putting together a group that takes part in a survey, and the implementation of the interviews has become much easier in the digital age. Online panels offer several advantages
- Low costs: Surveys and data collection using the Internet are relatively inexpensive.
- Flexibility: Thanks to the networking of the participants, surveys can be carried out irrespective of time or location.
- Prompt results: Participating persons are quickly available. They only need to be selected according to certain criteria.
Online panels also make it easy to change the composition of the group at all times. This makes the results more reliable without damaging the representativeness of the group.
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What Makes a Random Sample Representative?
Whether marketing research or sociological studies, the quality of survey results hinges on its representativeness. A study is representative (and as such informative) when it provides a statement about the group that is actually being explored, without any systematic errors.
Representativeness comes from the simple principle that the participating group, as a whole, corresponds with the cross section of the actual group being explored. For example: When it is known that 90 percent women and 10 percent men are interested in a certain product, then the online panel ought to be made up of 90 percent women and 10 percent men. The more characteristics are known about the actual group, the more accurate a test group can be modeled.
However, there are obstacles that can hinder the representativeness of a group:
- Specific characteristics of a sub-group, which are significant for the survey, can make these more difficult to achieve (for instance, persons without an Internet connection, travelers.)
- Certain groups frequently refuse to take part in surveys (for instance, voters for extreme political parties in polling surveys.)
Other problems that come from repeated interviews can also arise:
- Many participants deliberately change their behavior simply because of the continuous interviews. But, changes in behavior that are not deliberate or are based on other circumstances, are in most cases the topic of the studies.
- The online panel must always remain representative. This often demands a great amount of effort to keep the data updated.
How Does One Recruit Participants for Online Panels?
Companies can independently recruit participants by contacting them and, finally, select them based on certain criteria (active recruitment.) On the other hand, companies can also advertise the recruitment of participants on Internet platforms. In this case, participants can register themselves. This is known as passive recruitment. However, this type of recruitment frequently leads to false results. This is because self-selection can have a negative effect on the representativeness of a survey. The allover picture is distorted because, for instance, the number of people who are already interested in the topic are over-represented.
The incentives (for instance, the compensation) for participating in an online panel should not influence the results.
- Low bonuses will prevent many people suitable for the panel from taking part.
- Bonuses that are too high can produce distorted results because the high incentive diverts the attention away from the actual topic of the survey.
Using the Crowd for Online Panels
Crowdworker platforms are ideal for long-term surveys. For instance, clickworker – with a workforce of over one million people. This ensures an exact selection of the survey group, with any number of criteria. Additionally, clickworker provides its technical infrastructure for various types of surveys.
Using the crowd also reduces the self-selection problem. Because the selection of persons ensues from a very large group or is solely based on criteria that are defined by the decision-makers of the survey. The crowdworkers registered on an online portal are generally interested in taking part in online panels. This makes the results representative. Furthermore, the number of people earning an extra income with crowdworking is increasing.
Summary “Online Panel”
Today, any and all marketing research methods are possible online. This makes them inexpensive, flexible and fast. Large and small companies, established companies and startups profit from current market data to examine the chances for success of their strategies. An online panel supplies any number of accurate data – for instance regarding the development of trends that distinguish a target group. The crowd provides many ways of acquiring representative data quickly and efficiently