Benefits of a Qualitative Panel

Qualitative research is changing dramatically with new ideas being floated virtually every day.  Recently Quirks carried an article by Sharon Seidler from C&R Research about the value of longer term qualitative panels.  Sharon was kind enough to summarize her article for posting here. 

Taking a cue from custom online panels used for quantitative research, Qualitative Research Panels offer the same efficiencies and worthwhile payoffs.
The basic structure: Establish one or more groups of qualified, targeted respondents. Bring them in once a month or so for a 2-hour discussion. In my experience, 2-3 groups per month, all conducted in one day works well. Four to six months is a reasonable length of time for the life of the panel.
The approach is simple and efficient: invest in a single recruitment and leverage the same respondents for a number of projects. (It helps to “weight” the financial incentive toward the back-end to ensure cooperation throughout, until the last interview.)
Benefits over traditional focus groups include:

  • Cost savings of 20-30%
  • A written topline report, turned around within 72 hours, works best, to keep the process moving, thus contributing to the savings to the client
  • Companies appreciate the discipline the Panel imposes on them, knowing that they need to identify new topics each month and produce stimuli
  • The menu of topics can be varied and broad; it just needs to be relevant to the respondents as they were originally screened. Thus, for a CPG company, for example, panels can address new concepts, refine existing products, consider advertising, packaging, etc.
  • Respondents actually are more, not less, invested in the process as they bond with the topics and with each other. And, cutting it off at 6 months or less has shown that they remain motivated (possibly because they feel “special” for having been chosen) and do not lose their ability to react to ideas in a fresh way.

Sharon Seidler is Senior Vice President of C&R Research (, one of the nation’s largest, independent full-service research firms. Since 1959, it has provided custom-designed qualitative and quantitative research for a wide variety of business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients. Their specialty research expertise includes youth, boomers, parents and shoppers. In addition, C&R offers a syndicated youth report, YouthBeat (

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