Online research panels have been around for a number of years now. During that time, they have become a widely used resource for survey projects, despite a number of limitations. (The Research Bunker Blog has recently discussed some of those limitations here and here.) At this point, panels have proven that they aren’t another technology fad, but it is fair to ask if panels will continue to be part  for the market research landscape for the foreseeable future. At RMS we are always monitoring methodologies and trends, and based on our analysis a number of significant trends would seem to ensure that panels aren’t going away anytime soon. Consider the following:

  •  Landline telephone proliferation continues to decline, making it more challenging and less cost efficient for traditional B2C telephone surveys to reach a representative sampling of the general population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks telephone trends as part of its annual National Health Interview Survey, 52% of U.S. households don’t regularly use a landline. Over one-third (36%) don’t even have a landline and that trend only promises to accelerate.
  • Relying on cell phone sample to fill in the void left by dropped landlines is problematic and often unproductive. Cell phone sample is harder to match to a specific geography as it’s common for people to keep their numbers as they move to areas with different exchanges or even area codes. Cell phone sample is not available for purchase at the same geography levels as traditional landlines, making it difficult to target survey areas smaller than a county. Also, our experience with telephone survey projects at RMS is that the incidence rates from cell phone sample are consistently much lower than with landlines. That may be due to the demographics of cell phone users, or just the way people tend to view unsolicited calls on a cell phone as opposed to a landline, or both, but regardless of the reason, it’s a real impediment.
  • Survey participation rates among those who can be reached continue to decline. The Pew Research Center reported last year that in 1997, the cooperation rate (percent of households contacted for a survey that yielded an interview) was 43%. In 2012, that had plunged to 14%. Again, panels fill an important need of supplying willing research participants in an environment where willingness is a dwindling commodity. Read a blog post about declining survey response rates here.
  • 2012-05-15-Blumenthal-pewresponseratesThere is an increasing value being placed on fast turnaround times by market research clients. There is an emphasis on fast and cheap that is at odds with some traditional market research practices. Panels can dramatically increase the speed of data collection and are perfectly suited to the new normal of quick turnaround.
  • There is growing trend among large marketers to develop their own proprietary consumer panels. Here at RMS, we have noticed a recent interest in panel development and utilization among our clients and potential clients. This is a sign that the end market research client has embraced the concept  and that we, as market researchers, will need to do so as well.

If you are interested in using an online panel to conduct online survey research in Syracuse NY, contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at or by calling 315-635-9802.