Panelists are valuable assets who require attention, engagement and regular nurturing. But to sample buyers, panelists are becoming more attribute-laden commodity than real-person respondent. Can suppliers still stay relevant with this POV, and is this commoditization even a bad thing?
Maybe it’s an indication that insights are now valued by a wider market, which could mean more research revenue. It could breed a ‘survival of the fittest’ industry environment – which isn’t always a bad thing, as the strongest offerings remain.
Commoditization of respondents is definitely a worry for MR. Nobody wants to feel like just another seat at a crowded table. Technologies and methodologies are quickly evolving, which keeps things exciting; but commoditization is an inevitable side effect of the increasing supply.
Sample procurement efficiency has long needed an overhaul (think of the fragmented processes that lead to diminished quality, transparency and control). There are only a few stubborn researchers left who would claim that the past decade’s worth of technologies have done anything but improve the industry landscape and allowed for evolution.
Now that sample supply, panel management tools and interactive results reporting dashboards are more accessible, the industry expects quicker insights that keep pace with the evolving world around us. And this desire for quick, representative survey projects is what allows for and encourages respondent commoditization.
So respondent commoditization is a double edged sword that contributes both positively and negatively to industry innovation. Like any new trend, the hype around sample commoditization is quickly running away from us, leaving some researchers underserved and frustrated.
Target groups should have different values; outside the general consumer profile, there are many target profiles being bought and sold that are quite scarce, almost to the point of becoming non-representative. There’s a very real need for B2B samples, niche audiences and specific markets, and as everything else nowadays, we require access to these groups within tight timelines.
It’s a truth that fewer and less varied types of people are joining panels, granting express contact consent, and completing surveys. So as the supply of willing participants shrinks, demand grows – especially of niche, harder to reach audiences. Economics 101 tells us this may quickly price niche markets at a point higher than we’re willing to pay. Respondents are, however, the livelihood of our industry and so this could be a source of great worry.
Ultimately, there should always be a real focus on sample quality, and so market researchers need to invest wisely in samples and sample maintenance. Without respondents, what are we?