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Why Using Panellists Doesn’t Always Make for Great Online Qual Research

For the most part, online qualitative methods fall into two camps: Q&A and Activities. With an understanding of the two most typical styles of interaction, you can start to see which recruitment method is best for your online qual study.


When planning your online qual study, bulletin board focus group or research community, one of the first questions you're likely to ask yourself is 'How am I going to recruit my participants?'

Dub has a lot of experience helping researchers answer this question and providing great participants that post fantastic responses to the questions and activities deployed. From time to time we get asked about whether or not it's a good idea to recruit from a panel, so we thought we'd flesh out our approach to this in order to help you arrive at your own decision.

In the most part, online qual (asynchronous) methods falls into one of two camps; Q&A and Activities.

Q&A. This is perhaps the most typical approach taken to bulletin board focus groups where participants are asked a sequence of inter-related questions to which they respond with simple open text-based answers. I'm also including simple 'discussions' in this scenario. Responses are likely to be quick and short, though you sometimes find that the most engaged participants will write more than expected. Responses are also instant, meaning participants aren't being asked to go away and carry out an exercise or prepare anything offline.

Activities. If you're looking to immerse yourself in the world of the consumer or if you want to understand their behaviours, attitudes and emotions then you'll be best advised taking a more activity or exercise based approach. These might include online diaries, research blogs, shopper safaris or collages, for example. This style of engagement requires participants to either leave their PC and carry out the task, or use their mobile phone to capture the moment. It requires more effort and more time, and may require considerably more thought time, unlock Q&A.

Now that you've got an understanding of the two most typical styles of interaction deployed within online qual, you can start to see which recruitment method is best. Panelists - people opting into taking part in quick-turnaround surveys - are happy receiving small rewards for their time. These might include reward points, vouchers or cash incentives which equate to a few pence/cents or sometimes a few pounds/dollars. Ask panelists to get involved in activities that may take as long as an hour a day rather than 10 minutes, for the same rewards, and you're setting yourself up for a fall. Ask yourself, would you do it?

If you want to take a successful activity-based approach and are planning to ask participants to do more than just answer a simple question, be prepared to reward them with more. Get it right and you'll witness some startling results, including engaged participants that want to do more and more. Get it wrong and you'll experience a virtual ghost-town and a very unhappy client.

So ask yourself, what would you be prepared to do for a few pence/cents, versus how far would you go if you were being rewarded with the equivalent of £50. It's a no-brainer in our eyes, so don't take the decision lightly and choose the relevant path based on what level of response and output you really want.


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About Further:
Online Qualitative Research, Market Research, Online Communities, Self-ethnography, Customer Insights, Decision Making

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