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SAMPLE 101: Profiling


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 briefly discuss profiling and how it is used today.

What is profiling?

In the world of online research, the practice of profiling is not only legal, it is necessary and widely accepted.  It is an integral component of online sample procurement and critical to the success of the internet survey research industry.  While there are necessary study design exclusions (i.e., market sizing), profiling has long been one of the core benefits of using online research panels.

Historically, the term “profiling” referred to both descriptive and/or behavioral information collected and stored by online panel/sample owners for purposes of targeting panelists for participation in research studies.  In a nutshell, when someone joined a panel, they were asked a laundry list of questions regarding age, ethnicity, gender, purchase behavior, favorite brands, income, health/medical conditions, use of various products and services and the list goes on and on and on.  These questions were often organized into broader categories like Auto, Travel & Leisure, Gaming, Ailments, etc.  Historically with online panels, the depth of known profiling was a major differentiator between providers on a category level and often was a subtle way to assess the engagement factor among a particular panel.

This profiling method served to greatly increase efficiency in terms of sample usage.  When profiling was permitted in the sample design, the panel companies could greatly reduce the number of respondent approaches required to complete a study (i.e., make the study more efficient).  From a respondent perspective, these “profiling” questions were often viewed as important to answer because it helped them get selected for more surveys and increased their likelihood of qualifying beyond the survey screener. If a survey needed female Toyota drivers, only female Toyota drivers would get invited, so the logic went.

In today’s market, the volume of survey opportunities is so immense, panel companies struggle to maintain/update this profiling approach as respondents find the process burdensome, time consuming and unnecessary.  The only real way to drive these respondents to enter and/or update their information is to use incentives, something that can get cost-prohibitive quickly.  As a result, the profiling approach has had to diversify and broaden in tactics.  This reality combined with robust technological investment has created methods such as passive data collection, third-party data overlays and pre-screening – all topics for future discussion.

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.