What Is A Consumer Panel?

Philip Cleave
April 12, 2022
Research team monitors real time responses from a consumer panel

Whether you’re trying to launch a new product or reposition your brand, or better assess consumer opinion and buying behaviour. No matter what sort of business you run, it’s likely that at some point you will need to conduct market research to support one of these types of activities.

In such a scenario feedback from a market research survey is invaluable in helping you decide on your future direction. While you may be able to get the feedback you need from your existing customer contacts, they’re not always sufficient for the job. This is where the value of having a consumer panel comes into play.

Definition of consumer panel

A consumer panel refers to a representative sample of people selected by an organisation or business, to provide them with the opinions they require for consumer or business research. These specialist panel groups can participate in many different research projects sponsored by the researching organisation.

They can provide feedback on any number of topics across the market research spectrum. And because these professional panellists are paid to respond, it means the company investing in them is likely to receive responses quicker than they would using any other survey method.

How do consumer panels work?

Following their emergence, consumer panels or paid for survey responses as they’re also known, started to be offered by online survey companies. For the intents and purposes of this blog piece, we’ll explain how consumer panels would work if you approached a survey provider such as ourselves for help.

There are a number of steps involved…

Build your survey

The first stage is where the client creates and builds out the survey they want us to send for them within the SmartSurvey platform.

Select your target audience

The next stage requires understanding the specific audience criteria they need us to send it to and volume of responses they require. We have a huge amount of profiling options they can choose from. These range from different age groups, occupations, educational groups and income levels to respondents in particular locations. We pool these from 20 million respondents across 70 countries.

Launch your survey and collect responses

Next, we’ll quote the client with a cost based on their desired sample size, targeting criteria and survey length. We’ll then launch their survey and allow them to start viewing responses in real-time, as and when they come in.

Advantages of a consumer panel

There are lots of benefits to gain from using quality consumer panels as part of your online research.

Fast and efficient

Depending on your type of consumer panel and your approach, you could get an immediate response. And for most other types it should take no more than up to two business working days for a response. This is particularly advantageous for organisations under pressure to respond quickly to research findings.

Increased response rates

Given that the participants of a consumer panel will have opted to take part in the research, your response rates should be a lot higher than if you conducted the study yourself. This helps to maintain the validity of your research.

You can customise a consumer panel

With a huge pool of respondents and profiling options available to you, there are many more options to customise an audience with consumer panels, than you would get using a different approach. With consumer panels you can literally go as broad or niche as you want to.


Compared to the high costs of more traditional research methods and because you only use what you actually need, consumer panels are pretty affordable.

Great for researching sensitive issues

If you’re conducting research in a sensitive area, which could include anything from questions around smoking, alcohol consumption or sexual orientation, getting truthful responses to a study of your own contacts could be a challenge. But again, because consumer panels respondents have opted in, you will get answers that accurately reflect their real views.

Disadvantages of consumer panels

Like any approach, there are always some potential drawbacks you need to be aware of before using them. However, with the right preparation you can overcome many of these.

Problems with sample quality

When it comes to consumer panels, there has been criticism from some quarters concerning the difficulties in getting a random sample, or group of individuals who accurately reflect the type of consumer you need to study.

To help overcome this we would suggest being clear from the outset about your ideal audience profile. You need to identify your exact criteria including demographics. You also need to decide on any people you will need to disqualify from your research.

Losing participants

If you’re planning to use consumer panels for several months or longer, it’s plausible that some participants might drop out. And if you tried to add new members in the middle of your research you could risk skewing your results.

Therefore, rather than trying to minimise your costs by inviting just enough participants to give you the feedback you need, you might want to invite slightly more than you need. This way even if 10% of your participants drop out, you shouldn’t see a major decrease in the accuracy and value of your results.

How to use consumer panels in marketing research

In the area of marketing research, ongoing feedback from surveys is invaluable to decision making and strategy. So, consumer panels can be an extremely valuable tool in the arsenal of a marketer, particularly in those areas where they need impartial feedback.

Some great areas where you can use consumer panels in marketing research include.

Using feedback to test new products and services

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working in an industry for, there’s always a risk when launching new products. However, you can significantly reduce that risk if you test new products and services, to get feedback from the people you plan to launch them to.

Giving panellists the chance to test out your products, then asking for their feedback, helps you to find out what they like or dislike. It can even provide ideas where you can improve that you might never have thought of otherwise. This can significantly increase your chances of success when your new product goes live.

Testing ads and other campaigns

We all know how important these two areas are to the marketer. Well, consumer research panels offer a great opportunity for you to test out different designs and concepts with panellists first. Based on their feedback, you can then select those that you believe will have greatest impact for your real advertising and campaign launches.

Identifying and analysing your competitors

Do you know who your competitors are, or do you just need to find out more about them? Whatever stage your business is at, you can use the panel feedback from your marketing research survey to improve your understanding of your competitors and how you can better compete.

Measuring your brand awareness

When it comes to your success your brand has a major role to play. Everything from your name, logo and brand colour scheme to your personality, reputation and values can influence how you’re perceived by your target market.

Carrying out a brand survey using consumer panels helps you to identify what is making you stand out or fall behind your competitors. Armed with this information you’re better able to identify what you need to improve, to maximise your brand in the best possible light.

Improve your target marketing

Last but not least, knowing what drives and motivates different audience segments to use your products and services is also crucial. Through consumer panels you can reach out to different segments and use the insights to shape future marketing strategies, campaigns, advertising messaging, pricing and sales plans.

The smarter consumer panel service

Get survey responses from more than 20 million respondents in over 70 countries. It’s simple to get started. Just set your sample size, select from our wide-ranging target criteria and add a disqualification question to optimise your budget.


Get started and create your first survey

If you would like more information then please get in touch.