Editor’s note: JD Deitch is CRO of Alpharetta, Ga.-based market research firm P2Sample. 

Invite-driven research panels are effectively dead. Why? The fight for consumer attention has become fierce, with countless captivating diversions available at all times via portable devices. How are we to tear potential respondents away from their social networks, games, vines, memes and other attention hijacks and ask them to participate in a panel? It’s an increasingly difficult proposition and one that is driving a new reality when it comes to online sample recruitment. 

In fact, recruitment has changed considerably to adapt to the broader ecosystem: it is digital, real-time and massive in scale. Real-time sample recruitment is now the norm, in use even by its (previously) most strident opponents. This change means many things, affecting the competitive landscape and the way we conduct the research itself. 

One area that continues to require heightened focus is respondent engagement. As people are demanding more and their experience is more important than ever, we must start to make significant, forward-thinking investments on this front. 

Modern respondent experience

The vast amount of data we now have available to us, surrounding things like dropout rates, can help us measure respondent experience and make decisions that are in the best interests of respondents. Indicators like survey specifications to time of day to direct, real-time feedback and ratings from respondents about their experiences can also help show us whether an experience is good or bad.

Using this data to protect respondents and carefully manage their experience has become part of our job as market researchers. Using automation, we can promote a project and accelerate sample flow when we see that the experience is good – conversion is high, dropout is low, respondents give good ratings. Conversely, when the experience is bad – conversion is low, dropout is high, the respondents say a study is terrible – the project can be quarantined, its sample limited and we can take action to rectify the issues.

While some may be troubled by the reality that bad studies can be quarantined in this way, it is a key part of contributing to a good respondent experience. We must all be vigilant – no matter our role in the research process – in our efforts to minimize disengagement, using every tool at our disposal to ensure accuracy and pay attention to detail. With ongoing problems that create negative user experiences, everyone must take definitive action to stop bad experiences. 

Turning to a wide range of sources

Real-time recruitment in the broader digital ecosystem is our new reality. Recruiting participants from a wide range of sources – affiliate networks, publisher networks, shopping sites, social media platforms, ad agencies, blog networks, loyalty and other sites – yields a more representative cross-section of the population. Reach across numerous diverse sources is the only way to increase feasibility and reduce coverage bias. Within this recruitment ecosystem there are big challenges for respondent engagement – challenges we can face head-on.