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. 

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 i...