Wait! The Survey Panel is (back) Alive…


Well that was a fast rebirth. Wasn’t it just dead last week?

LOS ANGELES, April 12, 2016 — So just when my last blog post said that online survey panels were on life support, barely a pulse, requesting last rights, I’ve now seen the light.


I see a long tunnel and I’m walking towards that light. I feel a warmth that I haven’t felt in a long time. On each side of the tunnel I see survey panelist complaints, but they’re starting to dissipate. The message at the end of the tunnel says “Yes, You Can Rebuild.”

Ok, let’s do this. 

I recently attended the 2016 CASRO Digital Conference in Austin, Texas.
For some reason, it didn’t feel like the ”same old, same old.” There was a light and it was coming from industry leaders, and I believe they were finally being heard. The theme I’d give to parts of this year’s conference could be summarized like this: 

Survey panelists are real people and they matter. Survey experience truly does affect our panelists. The industry has pulled out the stretcher, charged the panel defibrillator and is yelling “CLEAR!”


Rob Berger of Maru/VCR&C and Ken Berry of Jibunu both added to the dialogue about how sample sourcing and respondent experiences have evolved and that there are new paths forward. Jonathan Ephraim of IntelliSurvey presented a compelling, mind-bendingly brilliant, dialogue of how to use math to remove bad respondents from survey data collection. Oh, and I should mention that CASRO provided cupcakes to everyone…that alone made the trip to Austin worthwhile. cupcake.gif

Also, during the event, a consortium of representatives from sampling and research agencies presented how the CASRO Online Sampling Forum is working hard to redefine industry terminology and enhance the research experience for respondents. Led by Peter Milla, presenters John Bremer of The NPD Group, Nancy Brigham of Ipsos, Cint’s Oscar Carlsson, Research Now’s Melanie Courtright (co-led by our own Lisa Wilding-Brown of Innovate) and Carol Haney of Qualtrics, all documented how their individual committees are making strides in the areas of Sample Definitions and Demographic Protocols, Incentives and Survey Design, and Respondent Satisfaction. The sub-committees are filled with organizations interested in saving the panel, improving user experience and streamlining data collection. Those companies include Innovate, GfK, SSI, Lucid, Lightspeed, EMI, TrueSample, Critical Mix, Hall & Partners, Maritz, Soapbox and many more. The day after the conference, these same companies participated in an in-person meeting in Austin and via teleconference to review in detail the plans and achievements of each committee. While there’s still much work to be done, it feels like progress is happening.

For the Innovate team, creating technology to support panels, inventing sample management infrastructure and building global panels with fresh survey respondents is actually relatively simple. Of course, we have been doing it over and over for the past 15 years. What’s really hard for all sampling firms is to maintain panels and minimize atrophy, as it’s so easy to lose a panelist due to an unsatisfactory user-experience or a poorly-designed survey. It’s no different than having a poor experience in a real-world, brick and mortar business or restaurant. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Because the status quo isn’t a sustainable business model, the industry is beginning to see the light. They are yelling “CLEAR!” Welcome back my old friend, Mr. Panel. We missed you (for a moment).

About Matt Dusig:

Matt Dusig is a serial entrepreneur and has co-founded three pioneering digital sampling firms since 1999: goZing, uSamp/Instantly and most recently, Innovate. Matt’s technical know-how and business experience help drive his companies. Matt envisions the ideal market research world where every consumer has a positive experience with research surveys, thereby expanding the universe of people willing to participate in surveys. Connect with Matt on: LinkedIn or Twitter.