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Consumer Panels seem to be hot these days. In fact, there are consumer panels of all types and sizes—and for every purpose on earth. Here are some pros and cons of consumer panels, along with a few ways they are most often used:

PANEL TYPE PROS CONS

Generic Consumer Panel:
Run by a company similar to a market research company, these panels use random consumers, recruited to participate in a variety of projects. Consumers are screened based on their usage behavior—and you can ask them anything with quick turnaround.

You can use them quickly and efficiently.

They don’t give you much quality higher than a focus group.

Trend-Setter Consumer Panel:
These panels are comprised of early-adopters, or trend-setters, in specific categories who can help companies understand what is next—or help evaluate up-and-coming technologies.

They are much more forward-thinking than regular consumers.

Their opinions may not be representative, and may send you down the wrong track.

Brand-Lover Consumer Panel:
These panels are made up of brand-loving consumers who have “opted-in” from a company’s website. These consumers will respond to questions for free—as well as share their opinions and try products.

You can easily get consumers involved, AND keep up their love of the brand.

Their opinions are not representative of all consumers.

Creativity-Trained Consumer Panel:
This is a panel of consumers who are designed for the innovation process. They are regular consumers, but have been screened and trained in how to use their creative problem solving skills. They partner with companies to help with their concept development process.

You get consumer-oriented solutions as part of the innovation process.

These panels require a commitment from the company to use them.

 

Outside of Consumer Panels, there are also the old standard focus groups. They’ve been around for decades, and (if used in the right context) can provide some useful consumer reactions and opinions on a wide variety of topics. But, some marketers have grown wary of using them—and many feel like they’re not working as well as they could be anymore.

At Ideas To Go, we’ve turned to Creativity-Trained Consumers. We call it the Innovative Consumer Network—or iCoN® panel. We believe that they are more effective than many of the other Consumer Panel alternatives—and much more effective than focus groups in actually assisting in the innovation process. These consumers are trained to:

  • Look at what doesn’t exist currently, and react in a realistic way—rather than just comparing it to what exists now.
  • Focus on building new ideas—so they take something they don’t like and turn it into an idea that actually works for them.
  • Come up with names, packaging, promotions and product extensions, on the fly.
  • Not just react to ideas, but rather optimize them.

Seeing the success our clients have had with our iCoN® panel, the paradigm of a focus group giving reactions in the front room—and good guesses from the back room as client teams interpret the input—has become obsolete. In our new scenario, consumers can provide multiple ways to fix or improve on challenges, and the back room simply has to choose the ideas that are a strategic fit. It saves time. It saves sanity. And it just makes sense.


Christine Haskins is the iCoN® Panel Director & Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

©2017 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Christine Haskins

Christine Haskins is the Vice President of Customer Experience at Ideas To Go. She facilitates customer-centered innovation for Fortune 500 companies across all market categories and industries.