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When will Online Panel Providers Pitch Directly to Clients?



By Edward Appleton

An article in the July 2011 issue of Research Live got me thinking about how much industry structures in MR could change in the coming years.

It was an interview with the UK MD of Toluna, Mark Simon. He talked about a new Toluna DIY tool, and additional services his company were introducing to make DIY even easier…..and more professional. You can find it online here –

I immediately started thinking – firstly: what’s holding clients back from buying directly from panel providers?

Expertise? – maybe, clients don’t tend to employ MR advanced analytical specialists. But on the flip side, who would engage in a complex survey design including elements such as Max Diff or Conjoint with a DIY provider?

Time? – not all clients have enough time to micro-manage parts of the survey process they outsource – analysis, data checking, data reporting, developing first draft of the findings.

Maybe there’s more factors holding clients back.

Second thought – what kind of money could clients save by buying directly from panel providers?

And third thought – would that allow clients to a) beef up their internal resource team and b) access stand-alone freelance advanced analytics professionals?

Finally – how long is it before panel providers start offering packages allowing clients to engage in more sophisticated surveys?

I’m certainly not a crystal ball gazer, but I could certainly imagine more and more client side researchers sitting down with their line manager and going through a few scenarios looking at the above, especially as the supply side market evolves.

For sure, client side companies will need to be pretty confident that they get more value by changing a discretionary cost (traditional survey costs) into a fixed cost (increased size of MR department).

But surely the rise of MROCs is the start of this kind of process – taking ownership inside a client company, and reaping the benefits?

Curious, as ever, as to other’s views.

Please share...

One response to “When will Online Panel Providers Pitch Directly to Clients?

  1. For me, it’s always a tradeoff between time and money. If a vendor can offer me more value for the time that I will need to invest in a project vs. running it myself, then the vendor has an edge. I’ve used Zoomerang and SurveyGizmo for some projects, Toluna for others, and full-service shops for others still.

    I think you’re correct that the complexity of the analysis is an important factor — I’m not the best person to design a conjoint, for example, so if that’s the methodology of choice then I’m by definition going with someone who can do it better than I. But if it’s a “simple” satisfaction survey, and all of the sample is coming from my own customer database, why wouldn’t I do it myself?

    Panel providers are a nice middle ground. If I’m just testing awareness but need to buy sample from somewhere, I don’t see the point of letting an intermediary firm mark up the respondent costs by 100%-200%.

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