E. The Use of Consumer Panels

E. The Use of Consumer Panels

E. The Use of Consumer Panels

One of the major drawbacks to all the above methods of personal interview surveys is that they do not provide a means of supplying continuous information on the buying habits of the respondents.

The ONLINE MARKETING Manager needs, in addition to research reports on specific consumer reaction, some form of permanent consumer audit by means of which he can monitor the buying habits of the respondents, their degree of loyalty to any particular brand and when that loyalty comes to an end and they change to another brand. He also needs some means of gauging consumer reaction to advertising and promotion, not only of his own product, but of those of his competitors as reflected in possible changes to buying patterns.

To provide this continuous information, panels are set up of respondents, selected either randomly or by the quota method, and who are prepared to supply information on their shopping activities over a considerable period of time.

A housewife panel for consumer products would normally consist of about 2,000 respondents, representing as closely as possible a cross-section of the universe under scrutiny. They would usually be recruited by personal interview and thereafter communicate with the market research organization by post. They are supplied with a diary in which they are asked to keep a record of all their purchases of certain branded goods. The information required is usually fairly simple, consisting of the name of the brand, the packet size (where this is applicable), the price paid and name of the shop where the product was purchased. At the end of each week (or month) the housewife returns her diary to the market researcher and receives a new one for the subsequent period.

Consumer panels are seldom maintained by single business organizations. The cost of setting them up and maintaining them is very high. They are usually run by market research organizations to provide research data for a group of product manufacturers.

Cost is not the only problem. Researchers have constant difficulty in maintaining a panel once it is set up. The number of housewives prepared to undertake this work is limited and many find it tedious. Too high a turnover of respondents, however, will reduce seriously the very continuity which is the whole purpose of the panel. Furthermore, some housewives find that the task of writing the simple details of their purchases in a diary is difficult. However, those with a low degree of literacy cannot be eliminated from the sample because the semi-literate members of the universe have to be represented.

Perhaps the greatest problem with regard to consumer panels is the danger of bias creeping in simply because the respondents, by undertaking panel membership, cease to be fully representative. They can no longer think and act in quite the same way as other housewives when they go shopping. The significance of their choice of purchases will introduce a degree of self-consciousness not experienced by the hundreds of thousands of other housewives whom they are intended to represent.

Further reading - Deciding The Distribution Method

Please Note

The Trade is, of course, a major source of product ideas. All manufacturers examine, with avid interest, the new products of their competitors.