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SAMPLE 101: Online Sampling – It’s Not About Blasting Emails Anymore

Brookmark Research and our sample partner, OpinionRoute, have created an educational blog specifically focused on helping our clients understand several aspects of the sample/panel industry. The purpose of this post is to shed some light on how respondents are invited to participate in a survey.

The sampling landscape has changed significantly over the past few years but the mindset of clients and project managers has not kept pace.  Many clients still think sampling is sending out unique individual email invitations to potential survey respondents who reside on a proprietary panel.  The truth is most studies and sample houses do not have an adequate amount of people to support this approach.  Yes it may work with physician sample and other affinity groups but it cannot work with low incidence studies among the general population – there are simply not enough people in single proprietary panel to support the ravenous demand for online research.

The sampling industry could not survive sending out unique one to-one email invitations to panelists because it does not maximize a respondents chance to qualify for and complete a survey.  It’s also a one and done approach in that the respondent either qualifies and completes the survey or they are gone.  This old school approach is not efficient and burns through sample at a rate where only a fraction of studies could be completed.  It also alienates respondents in irreversible ways.

So then, how is it done today?  You need to think of the sample industry as a vast matrix where respondents are invited to surveys via multiple avenues.  This is all done via proprietary routers that connect people to surveys as they navigate the internet.  In simple terms, a router is technology that increases a respondent’s likelihood of qualifying for a survey.  This also leads to higher “conversion rates” for panel owners who measure their productivity that way.

Today, panelists arrive at surveys in many ways including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Direct email invite (old school as previously mentioned)
  • Social Media Inbox Invite
  • Direct Email Invite to Router/Selection algorithm to survey
  • Direct Email Invite to Router + Dedicated Pre-screener to survey
  • Direct Email Invite to Router + Consolidated Pre-screener to survey
  • Website intercept to Router to survey
  • Panel Portal Login- to Router Pre-screener
  • Panel Portal Login- to Router to survey
  • Panel Portal Login- Online OfferWall (“open area”)
  • Social Gaming OfferWall
  • Second Chance Routing- from a different survey routed to your survey
  • Tech to tech connections (APIs)
  • Embedded links on survey blogs
  • Mobile App Alerts

So then, if it’s not really about sending direct email invites anymore, how do you get more activity to your survey?

Each panel company’s sample technology (i.e. router) operates in unique ways in terms of how respondent volume is determined on a survey level.  The “how” is part of the secret sauce that makes each company’s tech and assignment algorithm unique.  But factors can include CPI, conversion rate on a study level, project management priority score, survey length, quotas, end date, pacing requirements, partners participating in the blend, incentive offer, etc.  It’s not necessarily just a function of sending more emails out to the right respondents.  Increasing traffic may require upping the CPI (even if IR is steady), bringing on more partners (often in an automated way), manual operations intervention in the priority or moving up the end date.  Sometimes behind the scenes it may just require the sample company setting up a separate study to “start fresh” with a “new study” on their end.  It requires understanding the sample technologies and what factors to focus on to ensure a survey gets the right volume.


About Brookmark Research:

Brookmark is a research operations company focused on managing the critical components of the research process including project management, survey design, programming, hosting, sample design & management, data management and reporting solutions.   Brookmark provides a full outsource solution for all your research needs.

About OpinionRoute:

OpinionRoute is a technology centric survey sampling company specializing in providing back-office support to small to mid-size market research and management consulting companies. OpinionRoute helps its clients answer (and action) practical, methodological and business questions while adding expert resources in the area of sample design.