Panel survey or list survey: Which is right for your research?

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Posted Mar 22, 2023
Eliza Jacobs

As a marketer, conducting survey research is an essential part of understanding your target audience and gathering actionable  insights to inform your strategy. Whether it’s to understand consumer preferences, measure brand awareness, or assess customer satisfaction, surveys can provide valuable data to support your goals and influence decision-making. But, with so many survey methods available, how do you choose the right one for your research project? This is where the debate between panel surveys and list surveys comes into play. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of each method to help you determine which is right for your research goals. By weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each option, you’ll be well on your way to conducting a successful survey.

Whatever your specific goals may be, any survey’s general goal is to understand a target group better. Consequently, correctly selecting your sample is a vital early step. A survey’s audience is referred to as the “sample” of the project. For most research endeavors, the target is defined through a combination of demographics, psychographics, and behaviors.

There are two ways to distribute your survey to your audience, through a list or by utilizing a sample provider’s panel of respondents. Which approach you choose depends on your access to directly communicate with that target and the ultimate goals of your study.

What are list surveys in market research?

List surveys are a popular and effective tool used for various types of market research. You can share your survey with individuals in your own subscriber or consumer list. These are people who may have signed up to receive your emails, or already use your product or service, or have otherwise shared some contact information with you.

When to use a list survey

Do you have a distribution method or a contact list of specific people you want to answer your questionnaire? Then you can use a list survey!

List surveys are a viable option when you already have access to your intended audience through a member or customer list, social media, your website, or some other means of communication. In this case, all you need to do is send them the link or embed the survey to a webpage and watch the responses roll in. Convenient, right?

Limitations of list surveys

But there are also some drawbacks to using a list survey, including:

  • They typically have a lower response rate (about 2-5%) so there’s no guarantee you’ll get enough responses to make your findings statistically significant.
  • The results are entirely dependent on the size and quality of your distribution list.
  • You still may need to collect demographic information, which will add extra questions to your survey and impact turnaround time and response rates.
  • While respondents may reflect the demographics of your list, they  likely won’t reflect the demographics of the larger population.
  • You may experience slow turnaround times because respondents aren’t confirmed survey-takers.

What is a consumer panel in market research?

A consumer panel is a group of individuals who have agreed to participate in research studies and share their demographic data that is used in each study. Survey panelists represent a wide range of social backgrounds, interests, age, employment, income levels, and other demographics that are of interest to researchers.

When you create a panel survey with aytm (just as a crazy, random example), it means you have access to over 100 million trusted respondents from around the world who can answer your survey. From the sample engine, you can narrow down that audience with variables like geographic location and demographics, but because we have data on our panelists' consumer behaviors, we can also filter for certain buying habits, product usage, and more.

When to use a consumer panel for surveys

Do you want to field your questionnaire to a group of people with specific demographics, but who are unknown to you? Then you need a panel survey!

What are the advantages of consumer research panels?

The first advantage of panel surveys is that they can provide a large sample size. Businesses can better understand the target audience’s needs and preferences by getting responses from  participants of different demographic backgrounds. This allows them to make more accurate predictions about customer behavior and develop strategies that will be successful in the long run. Additionally, panel surveys can track changes in consumer behavior over time, allowing businesses to stay ahead of trends and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Other advantages of panel surveys include:

  • Higher response rate compared to list surveys
  • A more diverse and representative sample
  • Faster turnaround times because panelists are pre-screened and confirmed survey-takers
  • Access to a wealth of demographic, psychographic, and personality traits, so you can target your survey to the exact audience you’re looking for
  • Opportunity to reach individuals that may be difficult to locate and connect with through other means

Panel surveys and list surveys—which should you choose?

Both list and panel surveys can effectively gather information for market research purposes. However, which is better depends on the specific needs and goals of the research project. If you have direct access to your target audience, a list survey might be a viable option. But if you’re looking for a diverse and representative sample, a panel survey will likely be a better fit.

It’s important to carefully consider all factors, including response rate, sample and screening requirements, and turnaround time, before deciding which survey method is right for you. By weighing the pros and cons of each option and carefully considering your research goals, you’ll be well on your way to conducting a successful survey.

Review the fundamentals of quantitative market research with the jumpstart survey guide

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