Sample is now widely considered to be a commodity in market research, where there is little perceived difference between suppliers with regard to quality. If the industry continues to view sample companies as homologous with nothing to distinguish them except pricing, then we have a long road ahead toward improving outcomes. Sampling is a fundamental pillar of what we do as market researchers, and yet many lack confidence in panel and sample companies to uphold their end of the bargain and provide the foundation for quality insights.

There are clear reasons that sample companies are perceived in a poor light. Mergers and acquisitions in the panel space, among some of the largest players no less, give buyers the sense that competition and choice have decreased. The umbrella over these trends is a downward pricing movement, which is causing buyers to wonder whether sample quality is declining along with the prices. All of these things have led to what remains one of the single biggest challenges in the market research industry: sample quality.

But this is beginning to change. With significant advances in technology, sample suppliers have the ability to distinguish themselves from the pack and become true partners in uncovering quality insights. Proper implementation of technology like automation can not only deliver on time and cost savings, but also address a wide number of common problems. Automation and technology can provide:

  • Precise sample targeting across hundreds of qualifiers
  • Better respondent engagement resulting in better data quality
  • Instant detection and correction of anomalies in field
  • Fraud mitigation that uses artificial intelligence to better detect and combat fraud
  • Faster, more dependable and more accurate feasibility estimates built upon a greater number of factors
  • Improved recruitment that positively impacts feasibility estimates, response times and economics
  • Smooth and speedy information exchange via APIs

These possibilities and more have been unlocked with new technology, yet many suppliers are not fully implementing them, so we continue to struggle with ongoing issues. Panel and sample companies have great potential to provide the foundation for quality insights by leveraging technology to create better processes from the ground up. These are hard changes though, which is why many suppliers have fallen back on incremental improvements that lead to the perception of commoditization. As an industry, we need to demand more. With buyers looking for solid partnerships, sample companies must show a concrete commitment to things like improving respondent experience, mitigating fraud, utilizing technology to achieve better field outcomes and displaying process transparency. Only by doing this will perceptions of sample companies change and meaningful improvements in data quality be possible.