Panels & Samples

What Is A Research Panel & Should We Have One?


There is often confusion between having a research panel and buying a sample from a third party panel provider. To help clear this confusion, we need to understand the difference between managing your own research panel vs buying a sample. Whichever route you take, Qualtrics can help you get the right responses to your survey research.

When you have access to people that can take your surveys (customers, employees, students, members, etc.), then you have the ability to recruit and manage your own research panel. If you build a survey but lack respondents to take it, then you can purchase a sample from a third-party panel.

The key difference is access. You can build your own panel if you have access to those people, but if you don’t, then you can buy a sample to get responses for your surveys. Today, we will be focusing on the benefits of having your own research panel (meaning you have access to people in some way). If you want a more in-depth guide to panel management you can download it here.

Having an in-house research panel has gained in popularity over the past decade because they provide an organization with a pre-qualified and willing group of respondents to participate in surveys on an as-needed basis. A well-managed research panel allows the organization to quickly and easily get answers to key questions at a fraction of the cost of other research methods. Additionally, researchers are able to build rich, deep profiles about each panel member over time, which enables more targeted and personalized research. To put it simply, the major difference between the two are going to be the short-term vs the long-term cost of performing your research. Building your own research panel will be a longer process and more upfront work, however, if you plan on doing multiple studies and research projects over the next few years making that initial investment can pay dividends down the road. Just like renting a house vs buying it, it all depends on how invested you are in that area.

What are the main benefits of managing your own panel?

  • Do More Research: It’s easy and convenient to field surveys to your panel, allowing you to do more research.
  • Faster Insights: You’ll have responses back in less time than virtually any other method of research.
  • Higher Response Rates: Get higher response rates on your studies because these people have agreed to take your surveys.
  • Richer Profiles: Build rich, deep profiles about each panel member over time and use the data to enhance future studies.
  • Save Money: Owning and managing your own panel costs substantially less than purchasing sample from another source.

There are some frequent concerns that come up when people talk about building and managing their own panel. Some think it might take too much time, or they don’t feel qualified to run one. But in our experience working with different organizations and researchers of various amounts of experience, we’ve found that all of them have been able to become panel management experts with Qualtrics technology.

What are the main benefits of buying a sample?

  • Speed: Research can be a slow process at first. Recruiting a panel takes time, which may not align with your timeline. For example, this might be the case if you have a product launching in 2 months and need to get the target demographic determined.
  • Short-Term Cost: If you are only planning on running a few studies over the coming months or years then buying a sample could be the cheaper option.
  • Bandwidth: There are only so many hours in the day, right? Managing a panel may not be the best use of your research team’s time if you are limited on bandwidth.
  • Diversity: When you buy from an external survey panel, you get to choose your demographics, which can be valuable for expanding your audience. For example, imagine you are a company that makes shaving razors for men and you are thinking about expanding your business with a female razor lineup. In this case, your current customer panel wouldn’t be the right audience to survey about a new women’s product. In this case, buying a sample would likely be better.

Get the Ultimate Panel Management Guide

Download Guide