Panel Survey: Definition with Examples

What is a panel survey?

Definition: A panel survey is a type of longitudinal study. It can be a qualitative or quantitative survey used to measure people’s behavior. Panel survey data can be collected in various ways, starting from conducting an interview to using online surveys or even scanning barcodes.

User-centered design (UCD) aims at increasing the usability of a product or service. It involves the users to design a process of have iterations of design solutions. In such cases where UCD is applied, qualitative data is most valuable, and this data can be collected using panels.

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History of panel surveys

The panel survey helps collect the same data for a more extended period, from a group of people to the target audience. The commercial use of the panel survey started as early as 1948. However, during that time, panel surveys were mostly restricted to paper and pencil. 

Since then, the panel survey has come a long way. Electrical instruments have been used for a long time to collect data using a panel survey. The Internet has made a revolution in the way data is collected in the last decade or so. 

Example of a panel survey

As mentioned above, researchers use panel surveys to measure specific parameters and human behaviors accurately. For example, they use this type of study to collect and analyze the pricing of a product, the effectiveness of an advertisement campaign, or the projected sales numbers. 

A panel survey is used for panel research to track continuous consumer purchasing habits, like purchasing groceries, food, and drinks, electronic gadgets, clothing items, toiletries, etc. 

User-centered design for panel surveys makes use of focus groups. In this, a moderator is assigned to a small group of people usually 6-10. The moderator facilitates discussions amongst the people in the group. Focus groups consist of participants who have a good knowledge of the subject matter being discussed for data collection.

How to design a panel survey

Design your survey carefully and with a goal in mind. Reliable and meaningful data can be collected when there is a maximum response to a survey. When you design and deploy a panel survey, the same principles are applicable. Let us now understand the critical attributes while creating a panel survey:

  1. First, set your goals: One of the essential characteristics of designing a panel survey is defining the purpose of the study. If the intent of the study is unclear at any point in time, we recommend reinstating the use of the survey and then start with defining other attributes. Asking “why” is the first vital step. For example, the goal of a study could be to analyze the impact of the royal wedding on the country’s micro-economy. 
  2. Know your target audience: Once “why” is answered, to collect data relevant to study purposes, it is essential to reach out to the right people. Identifying the right panel to deploy surveys is a critical aspect and is heavily dependent on the structure and mode of the survey. For example, if a researcher needs to understand the microeconomy of a country’s target audience for this particular survey, would respondents be between the ages of 25-60, who would have a fair understanding of the subject matter. 
  3. Ask the right questions: As mentioned earlier, a panel survey can be deployed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The researcher must be careful about the type of survey questions they need to ask. They must understand whether to use quantitative or qualitative questions to gather the correct information to make informed decisions. A right mix of open-ended questions and close-ended questions can help respondents answer the survey with maximum efficiency. 
  4. Structure the survey: Once the researcher defines the type of questions, it is equally important to structure them to avoid confusion among respondents. If respondents get confused while answering the survey, they might end up leaving it half-filled, or possibilities are they might not fill it at all. A well-structured survey will help respondents understand and respond well to the study.
  5. Take your survey for a spin: Once all the above attributes are covered, it is advisable to test the survey. Deploy the survey to a group, take feedback on the length of the survey, types of questions asked, the structure of the survey, and any other issues while filling it out. Work on changes if necessary and finally deploy it to the target audience. 

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Advantages of panel surveys

Here are the advantages of running panel surveys:

  1. Amplified responses: Panel members willingly sign-up to become panel members, which helps in a good response rate.
  2. Panel diversity: As the panel is diverse, researchers can collect various behavioral changes, spread across different demographics.
  3. Capture more details: Panelists have a fair knowledge of the subject matter, helping researchers probe them more and capture more details about the subject.
  4. Accessibility: Getting hold of respondents among panelists is very simple compared to finding responses from random individuals. 
  5. Efficiency: Panelists are pre-screened at the very beginning and the screening process is a continuous one. Panels are regularly monitored and cleaned to maintain their high-efficiency levels.