Is online research panel is best way for surveying?

Pros and Cons for Survey Online Research Panel

In our previous post, Understanding survey back office’s research panels, we talked about what an online research panel is and how it works. Your next step is to figure out if conducting a survey online is the right methodology for your study.
It may seem simple enough to type a questionnaire and send it out. But the truth is, there are a lot of factors to consider. Doing away with the physical constraints of traditional survey market research methods, like door-to-door surveys or telephone calling, doesn’t mean that all your problems are gone.

Pros

1. Ease of Sampling and Incentivization

Members of online research panels answer profiling questions which makes it possible for them to be identified as qualified for a study. Because they are pre-profiled, you don’t have to actually step out of your office to find the respondents you need for your study. You’ll be able to reach hundreds of people instantly, and provide appropriate incentives immediately after they finish the survey.

2. Minimal Cost

Before, you had to print out questionnaires and provide pens to your respondents. Oftentimes, you also had to invite them for an interview at some facility or call up each one to remind them of the meeting. The questionnaire is programmed online and can be revised real-time, without having to waste any paper.

3. Automated Data Collection

After a respondent completes a survey, his answers are automatically stored in a database. No more manual data input, which means less data errors for researchers.

4. Customizable Design

Questionnaires can be programmed to fit any screen, whether the respondent is using his desktop, tablet, or mobile. It can be programmed to skip questions based on previous answers and set other complex logic.
You’ll also have the option to embed media— audio or video —within the survey. This makes for a richer survey experience for the respondents.

5. Convenient for Respondents

Online surveys are very easy to use for panelists. They can decide which surveys they want to take, skipping those that are irrelevant to them. They can decide when they take it.In some cases, surveys can be designed so that respondents can pause in the middle of the survey and then continue at a later time.

Cons

1. Limited to Internet Population

Naturally, those who will be able to participate in online surveys are those who have access to the internet. If you want to reach countries or rural areas with low internet accessibility, you are better off conducting traditional face-to-face interviews.

2. Respondent Fraud and Bias

Unlike traditional research methods where you can verify the identity of respondent face-to-face, members of online research panels may decide to embellish their income range or job role, thereby committing fraud. This can lead to respondents answering surveys that are not intended for them. And so, data quality suffers.
At other times, even if respondents are who they say they are, they may decide to answer surveys based on what they think will yield more incentives; the survey therefore eliciting biased responses.

3.  Multiple Panel Participation

This is a risk for those who have allocated samples to multiple panel companies. Data quality may be compromised when a respondent is a member of two or more panels. This is because that respondent is likely to receive the same survey. If he answers the same way, you will have duplicate data. And if he answers differently, he’s biased. Either way, you’re getting data from the same person twice, and this is not something that helps with the veracity of research findings.

 Finally….

Conducting an online survey research has a lot of benefits. But, as we’ve seen, it also has its risks. If you decide that the pros far outweigh the cons, you should make sure to consult with your online panel partner for their measures to mitigate these risks.
Learn as much as you can about how they manage their panels and ensure the quality of their data at http://surveybackoffice.com/
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