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How does a brand know their current offering isn’t working? Or that consumers will be interested in their newest product, before they sink the cost of going to market? This information comes from market research, and more specifically, panelists. Brands look to get feedback on current offerings and new products and services from pertinent panelists before they introduce them in the marketplace. A panel is a group of highly engaged, trusted respondents who respond in a quick and honest manner to an inquiry that falls under their area of expertise. This feedback can completely alter a company’s product or approach. Knowing this, why don’t we treat these panelists like experts?

When a data provider is creating a panel, they gather and store information about the contributing panelists, which allows them to be specific when speaking to their panelists. By collecting user attributes like demographics and psychographics, the provider can target the correct people for different research projects. For example, if Whole Foods is looking to gauge how mothers, ages 20-25, feel about a new product for toddlers, the provider can target panelists using those attributes. After gaining insight from their current or prospective consumers, the brand is able to tweak their approach.

Purchases and equipment rentals by building professionals account for more than one-third of Home Depot’s revenue. Obviously the big-box hardware retailer wants to ensure that revenue increases, so they conducted market research to learn more about this group of consumers. Their findings revealed that these customers are mainly small contractors with no more than five employees and less than $500,000 in annual revenues, and product availability and price are their top concerns. By consulting a panel made up of professional builders and general contractors, who make purchasing decisions regarding a variety of tools and building materials on a daily basis, Home Depot was able to gain insight from these professionals.

It is important, however, that the experts are diverse in their backgrounds and demographics. If your expert panel of doctors, for example, is primarily made up of men, ages 50-60, their responses will be different than female physicians ages 30-40. And this diversity of opinions and experiences tends to lead to a much more accurate result.

Expert panelists have the opportunity to express their opinion about current product offerings as well as those in development. By providing feedback, they are able to impact the trajectory of the product, and create a better service or product. Without these experts, brands would have to go off of assumptions, and you know what they say about those!