Consumer Panels – High Maintenance AND High Reward

May 12th, 2016 by Kathy Costello

consumer panel

So you’re thinking about establishing a consumer panel…now what? There are many benefits to forming a consumer panel but there are concerns as well. As part of deciding whether to commit to a panel, be sure to ask yourself or your client these important questions:


1. What is the purpose of the panel and why is it a better solution than any other research method?

Are you looking to reduce recruit times with a pool of pre-screened respondents? Or maybe you’re interested in interacting with brand advocates over multiple sessions or collaborating with enthusiastic respondents? Whatever your goals, take the time to clearly define the objectives of the panel.

2. Do you have the budget and resources to not only establish a panel, but to properly maintain it?

By their very nature panels are high maintenance endeavors. Regular and consistent communication is key to keeping respondents engaged and involved. Otherwise they can lose interest or start to question the importance of their participation. Take time to pre-plan a full schedule of panel activities so you won’t be scrambling to come up with something at the eleventh hour.

3. Do you have a resource to dedicate as panel manager?

In our experience, panels run more smoothly if all communications (emails, telephone calls, texts, etc.) run through a single point of contact. It will eliminate any potential confusion about who respondents should contact with panel related questions or issues; and clients are prevented from overwhelming the panel with indiscriminate or unplanned communications. It’s also a good idea to identify a backup manager and keep them in the loop – for those times when the primary manager is out of the office or otherwise committed.

4. What are your expectations for the panel and of the panelists?

Think about how long the panel will need to exist to meet its goals and how much of a time commitment you’re asking panelists for. Establish participation parameters upfront and communicate them to potential participants so they can better judge whether or not they’re willing to make the commitment. The last thing you want is a panelist who doesn’t have the time or inclination to fully participate.


At Level 7, we have worked with panel providers and have done the care and feeding of a few of our own. And as said in When Harry Met Sally, when it comes to high maintenance, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into.