online panel researchWhen your panel research sample requires a very specific profile of respondent and incidence is therefore likely to be low, it might be harder to fulfil your sample quota and the cost per response is almost certain to increase. It is also likely to drive up the cost per response. Smart use of screening questions may help to even up the balance between getting the insight you need and the cost per response.

To screen or not to screen?

Screening questions can play a vital role in online panel research. As well as accurately targeting the type of respondent you need for your survey, they can also yield insight about survey participants that don’t meet all your requirements.  Screener questions are usually used to allow only those who meet your ideal profile through to the rest of the questionnaire. You don’t always have to screen these people out, though, especially if you’re in any way unsure about what your respondent profile needs to be or if your panel provider already knows most of the respondent criteria you require through their panellist profiling. By matching your requirements as closely as you can to the information already known about the panel members, your panel provider can target the deployment to these panellists only. This brings the incidence closer to 100% again.

Take, for example, a project which requires a respondent profile of men, aged 18-55 who live in the Southeast and who have redecorated their own home in the past 12 months. It is highly likely that your panel provider already knows which panelists are male, what their age is and where they live. You therefore don’t need to screen on these criteria and the incidence remains at 100%.

Your panel provider may also know who in the panel are ‘interested in DIY’. Although this isn’t exactly what your original profile called for, you could accept all of those ‘interested in DIY’ and then ask them supplementary questions about when they last carried out DIY, what sort of DIY they did and when they might be contemplating doing DIY again. Instead of screening on these questions, you could still accept these responses and, knowing their interest in DIY, still ask what you need to about redecorating – even though they may have only carried out plumbing in the past 12 months.

By keeping these responses in the results, you can gather extra data for your research. You can filter the results to include or exclude responses from the panelists who may have specifically done redecorating in the past 12 months, but you may also find that there are a proportion of those you might have originally screened out who are contemplating doing redecorating in the next 12 months.

It’s important that you talk to your online panel provider about what it is you’re trying to achieve and ask them how much of the respondent profile information you require is known already. Their knowledge and experience can help you to use your screening questions wisely and thereby manage the cost per response as efficiently as possible. For more tips on conducting online panel research, download our free white paper ‘Top 10 Tips for Conducting Effective Online Research’.