In recent times I have seen mushrooming of the ‘GLOBAL PANEL COMPANIES’ which are nothing more than 2-3 person team with a shabbily accumulated vendor list and no credential to boast about. With changing times it becomes imperative to understand what really panel aggregation is and how some of these vendors are RUINING your research studies. I want to CATEGORICALLY state that panel aggregation business soon might become EXTINCT. The article illustrates why you should have a proprietary panel and NOT be just a panel aggregator.
REASON 1: WE ARE A ONE STOP SHOP SOLUTION!!!
It is the first argument any panel aggregator will give to you i.e. we REALLY help clients save their time by managing their multi country studies so that they can concentrate on their primary focus which is doing RESEARCH.
Well I don’t agree to the statement – suppose the CLIENT is charged USD 10,000 per project which includes 20% markup which the panel aggregator has put i.e. the client is shelving out USD 2000 as a CONVENIENCE FEES – now if the CLIENT conducts 20 such studies in a month it totals USD 40,000 as the ONE STOP SHOP SOLUTION fees they are shelving out – for this amount of money I can probably hire a C-LEVEL executive to do vendor management for my company.
When you are outsourcing online fieldwork to a pure panel aggregator your research project quality is at maximum risk – as you might probably be sure about the credential of the aggregator but what about the sub-vendors he is using to complete your studies. What kind of quality control a panel aggregator would have on someone else panels??? ASK YOURSELF!!!
One of the biggest problem researchers now a day face is that their clients complain of the lack of value proposition in their research findings – with a dubious data I believe research companies are going to face even more problems convincing their clients about increasing research budgets.
For a researcher DATA is everything as it determines whether the findings will be accurate or not. Data collection is such an integral part of a research project that it becomes imperative to ensure it is of utmost quality. The reason companies like SSI, Research Now, Toluna etc. have such a high client satisfaction level is that they have a very tight control over the panelist quality.
I still remember when I was working with Greenfield Online (now part of Toluna) – as a PM if I required outside sample for my projects (which can be taken only from pre-approved vendors)– I had to take written permission of the Senior Vice President of Operations with proper explanation that why I am not being able to complete the study with proprietary panels – also I would have to ensure that the vendor I am using is providing me utmost quality – I mean it was so strict that any project manager used to have sleepless nights if they have to outsource sample work to 3rd parties.
Companies which are in this business for a long haul are ALWAYS going to create proprietary panels. It is a costly affair to build and manage online panels – therefore a company which believes in giving you TRUE VALUE will always create an active panel community. Those which are in the business to get some QUICK MONEY will ONLY provide you one stop shop solution!!!!!
REASON 2: WE ARE ABLE TO GIVE GOOD DISCOUNTS TO OUR CLIENTS!!!
One of the BIGGEST arguments provided by pure panel aggregators is – as we outsource so many projects to these sub-vendors we are able to extract a good discount from them. First of all I am not standing in a SUPER MARKET buying vegetables – I AM DOING RESEARCH!!! I have never been comfortable with companies in this business telling me about discounts – what I really want to hear is how they are ensuring quality data.
What basically aggregators are doing is that they are cashing on the fact that the clients don’t know the local vendor who is actually supplying the samples. Few years back I remember I had few good Japanese sample providers – today all of them are directly supplying the samples to the clients and giving better discount then what I was giving. The simple fact is as the market is becoming more mature the REAL sample suppliers in the local markets are directly contacting the clients. So if I am a panel aggregator I might have made money on the client’s ignorance previously but what now – in all probabilities I would search for a CHEAPER sample supplier which undoubtedly would be of dubious quality.
There are lots of industries which do aggregation but the model is entirely different for e.g. travel agents do bulk purchase of airline tickets or hotel bookings and then extract a huge discount from the airliners or the hotels – for whom it is a good bargain as they are able to sell bulk bookings. Then the travel agents pass on some of the benefits to the customers. So it is cheaper to buy ticket from an agent than an airliner or hotel directly.
This is NOT what panel aggregators do – they don’t do any kind of bulk purchase of samples. They merely make money on client’s ignorance of the local suppliers.
Another example would be automobile industry – Tata Motors for e.g. uses engines from Cummins but they invest heavily in Cummins R&D department to help ensure that Cummins is able to come out with superior quality engines. Ask yourself are the pure panel aggregators INVESTING in their sub-vendors in terms of training and quality control – I believe the answer to it is a BIG NO!!!!!!
REASON 3: WE PROVIDE SAMPLE ALL ACROSS THE GLOBE!!
There are so many upcoming panel companies especially in India making this preposterous claim – “WE ARE GLOBAL PANEL PROVIDER”. The clients don’t even need to make a back check on their credibility – simply visit their website which in all cases would be shabbily formatted with no information what so ever about the owners of the company or their credentials. Have you ever been to SSI or Research Now website – these companies have such detailed information on their website that it would probably take few days to go through them all!!
The biggest problem about panel aggregation is that 90% of them would not even admit that they are doing it. This creates problems for even genuine proprietary panel providers as they have to work harder to establish credentials in this scam market!!
As this industry poses a low entry barrier many misguided people are considering it a safe haven to make a few quick bucks. It is such a wrong trend that would ultimately create problems for all players involved. Today I would like to take this opportunity to ask market researchers what they are doing on their end to ensure that the online fieldwork being conducted as per MR guidelines – I have personally seen this trend where in some cases being CHEAP gets you business but ultimately the research project will suffer and as the end client doesn’t get desired insights they would not increase the market research budget.
It is a vicious cycle – all researchers should think multiple times before going for cost efficiency which inadvertently leads to their clients looking for a cost efficient research company. Let your panel vendor create value for you which in turn would result in value for the end client – all parties involved i.e. panel supplier – market researcher – end client would benefit. If you infuse “cheap” concept in the system always remember you too are part of the system so you would also not get your dues!!
REASON 4: THE ECOSYSTEM WOULD ULTIMATELY COLLAPSE!!
How much does it takes now days to open a panel company – I would say not more than USD 1000 in India. What you need is a website and few vendor emails Id and VIOLA!!! You can now claim to provide panels globally!!!
The problem of so called panel aggregation has reached mammoth proportions with young inexperienced people jumping into the fray. There are people in this business now days that have got NO BACKGROUND in online panels. It is creating a fish market where clients are confused as to whom to believe or not.
Ultimately the system would collapse and those with good quality proprietary panels would survive these turbulent times. I humbly request if you want to survive in this business – CREATE YOUR OWN PANELS! On which you have a tight quality control.
PS: In case you are doing business with an Indian Online Panel company at least ensure that they are a registered company. You can check this by visiting the following Indian Government Website – CLICK HERE and check for yourself whether the panel supplier is registered or not.
Now you have a choice. You can comment, share, or implement. I prefer if you implement, but I’ll appreciate all three – Akshay Kanyal