Leveraging Online Panels to Maximize Sample Availability

Respondents are increasingly hard to reach. What can be done to counter this?

by Zack Hancock

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, recruitment and retention for online panels has become increasingly difficult. During the early months of 2020, sample providers reduced recruitment, as demand for panel research slowed, which was primarily driven by businesses’ uncertainty and their cautious approach to research spending. Since then, we have seen dramatic adjustments in the way business is conducted and changes in consumers’ behavior and lifestyle. As these new changes and behaviors emerged, the need for insights into their nature and origin sharply increased.

In addition, the demand for online panel sample insights has, understandably, grown rapidly and many panel companies have placed a significant focus on replenishing and expanding their supply to counter this wave of unprecedented need. Looking to the future, it will take time for supply to reach a sustainable level to support the rising demand. Fortunately, sample providers are committed to investing in their panel, and measures are being taken to boost their recruitment.

Challenges presented by current supply and heightened demand are being felt across the industry:

  • All companies performing online research are competing with each other for a finite pool of respondents
  • Low incidence (under 10%) and longer LOI (greater than 20 minutes) are likely to limit the ability to reach quotas and will carry increased costs compared to similar pre-pandemic projects
  • Traditional hard-to-reach audiences (males, 18-24 age groups, and certain ethnicities) are becoming increasingly challenging to reach

While this may seem daunting, the following steps can help alleviate these challenges as you design your sampling plan:

  • Use a diverse blend of high-quality panel partners to increase the amount of available sample
  • Allow surveys to be device-agnostic; mobile participation reaches more diverse audiences and maintains representative sampling
  • Utilize concise surveys; sensitivity towards length can allow for higher quotas with more representative sample
  • Extend field time to allow more opportunities for hard-to-reach audiences to access your survey

In this fast-changing environment, it’s been important for our team to continue to collaborate with our partner network to better understand these challenges and their impact on data quality and feasibility. For our clients, we have recommended that they adopt a respondent-first mentality during the survey-design phase. This proactive approach will not only help enhance the respondent experience, but it will also ensure final data sets are representative and high quality.

If you are looking to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to data collection, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Zack is a Senior Project Manager on Burke’s Data Collection team. His expertise in online panel sampling and relationships with top sample providers ensures clients have access to sustainable high-quality data sources.

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Sources: Feature Image – ©Urupong –


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