The Eternal City was the location for our first meeting of 2010, at the fine Imperiale Hotel, just off Piazza Bernini. While it was tempting to spend time just touring and contemplating life during days long ago, we did get down to business with a full room of attendees.

After the opening welcome from John Mackay, Richard Thornton of Cint began the day speaking about the open panel marketplace. With its history emanating from Scandinavia, Richard discussed the idea behind the open panel market and associated benefits, most notably and simply, providing market researchers with easier access to consumers for their opinions. It’s a platform where all researchers of the world can manage their online panels, manage their online projects, and share access to panels with each other, as well as directly access panels that belong to media companies and web companies. He also shared some of the results from research Cint has completed amongst panel members, indicating that incentives, offering opinions and influencing product development are the three top motivators for joining panels.

Steven Gittelman of Sample Source Auditors presented the session’s next paper offering an overview of the online sample universe, specifically, a brief case history of a researcher’s panel experience and a report on the Grand Mean project. The case history involved a researcher who noticed research findings inconsistent with market realities. Short story: It was discovered that panel members with longer panel tenure gave lower demand! This ultimately lead to the Grand Mean project, a large tracking effort, studying characteristics of panel members, reporting the average value of panel data by country or region. It’s a very interesting effort, reporting panel characteristics across a variety of demographic, behavioral and opinion data points. The Grand Mean project is now collecting data from over 200 panels in 35 different countries.

After the break, a lively conversation ensued with Sean Case of Peanut Labs on social media and how it will change market research. Sean had several interesting videos illustrating the explosive growth of social media and how these channels can provide targeted, fast research. These days, fast is one of the operative words along with “cheaper” and “good enough.” Gone are the days when there was an overarching concern (perhaps much to our dismay) with overall quality. Today, it’s all about reaching the presumed right group of respondents, reaching them quickly and at a price point the customer feels is appropriate….which, of course, means low. As the world converges and there is 24/7 access to people, social media is a prospective resource for the market researcher.

Michael Stanat of SIS International discussed a different aspect of social media, how to harness its power for market research. Not that social media is the best or only choice for conducting survey research going forward, but recognizing that these channels can compliment traditional methods. His blueprint for understanding the potential uses for market research purposes includes: Uncovering unmet needs, monitoring opinions/ gathering feedback, testing for niche markets and gathering competitive intelligence.

For those of you reading this before lunch or dinner, I’ll tempt you with the exquisite lunch that was served: Puff pastry with spinach and cheese; ravioli in a butter/carrot sauce; veal topped with broiled tomatoes topped with a light layer of cheese and a dessert choice of nut cake or cheesecake. Very lovely.

The chilled cans of Red Bull were a big help in getting the diners primed for afternoon papers…..just kidding. Vicky Kateley from Bounty kicked things off, illustrating how a custom panel, in this case their Word of Mum panel composed of pregnant women through young mothers with pre-school age children, exposes a powerful niche market. She noted how custom panels offer control, flexibility, ROI and an in-depth look at a specific market.

Finally, Luca Ghezi from Interactive Market Research in Naples provided a perspective on the state of online research and panels in Italy. Online usage has grown considerably in Italy over the last several years. Luca shared with us that in 2000 Italy had 13.6% of its population as internet users once a month. In 2008, 43% of the population used the internet once per week. Even more interesting is the length of use. He reported that 60% of internet users are online more than 10 hours per day! Of course, along with this growth, online research has moved from a very small percentage of total project starts in 2000 to over 10% in 2009.

As always, the group enjoyed a wonderful time at dinner, with excellent discussions and exchanges of ideas, and for most another day or two of sightseeing. 

Jack Semler

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