Online Panels vs. Programmatic Samples

Estimated Read Time
6 Minutes clock icon

It’s no secret that technology is constantly changing the way we do things, including how marketers, insights professionals, and product development teams gather data for market research and strategies for their businesses or brands. Today, there are countless methods that make research easier and more productive, but we’re going to be talking about two important ones, in particular.

We’ll be talking about surveys, online samples, and introducing innovative programmatic samples into the mix. Programmatic sampling comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Before we dive into them, we’ll quickly cover what programmatic samples are and how they are collected.

What Is Programmatic Sampling?

Programmatic sampling involves using a platform that tracks user behavior across different internet mediums, including websites, social media, affiliate sites, online panels, and more. Data is captured by an API (Applied Programmatic Integration), which you can keep collected for when you need it.

The purpose of this technique is to automate the process of collecting samples and creating panels for more in-depth market research. In most situations, using both traditional and newer research methods is the best way to go, but before you get started on your own planning, it’s important to understand the benefits and speed bumps you’ll encounter when using programmatic samples.

The top advantages of programmatic sampling include:

  • Faster Data Collection
  • Reach Wider Variety of People
  • More Cost Effective

The most common drawbacks of programmatic sampling include:

  • Subpar Experience for Respondents
  • Higher Difficulty to Ensure Panel Quality
  • Harder to Create Niche Communities

Pro: Faster Data Collection

In this age of high-tech marketing and innovation, streamlining procedures is often top of mind for marketers and insights professionals. This is why programmatic sampling is such a promising market research method especially when compared to older research methods.

This type of platform can collect data all day every day for as long as you need, and the best part is you can keep these projects running with little to no intervention from managers. Ultimately, this means you don’t have to waste time or personnel while performing simple functions, which frees up more resources for you to improve business practices in other areas as well.

This can also reduce the chance for error when retrieving and transmitting data, which can be extremely helpful when you are looking for quick answers to questions about your target audience.

Pro: Larger Target Audience

Programmatic sampling is fully automated, which means you’ll be able to track a huge sample of people without reaching out to everyone individually. You’ll be able to sift through data from millions of respondents. This eliminates the need for traditional online samples which focus on smaller niche groups, collecting data over a longer period of time.

Pro: More Cost Effective

All in all, online surveys and sampling can get rather expensive. On top of tailoring specific surveys to people, you or your sample partner also need to have customer support personnel ready to answer any questions and to ensure the process runs smoothly from start to finish.

With programmatic access, sample teams will be able to connect to your target audience in just minutes without wasting those valuable resources. Instead of needing managers on hand at all points of the process, your team or partner can simply let the program run and go back to collect results when you need them. Overall, this translates into a much more affordable alternative to traditional panels.

Con: Subpar Experience for Respondents

One of the downsides of using programmatic sampling is it doesn’t provide as great of an experience for the respondents themselves. The interactions between respondents are greatly diminished because there isn’t the same sense of community. Moreover, your respondents will be given a very basic label instead of being able to be broken down into more specific subsections. So, even though it is easier on you as a professional, you may not get the best responses from your participants.

Con: Harder to Ensure Panel Quality

Bots and fraudulent results create difficulty to ensure panels are 100% reliable. With a traditional online panel, respondents are put through a series of quality control checks, so you will have a better idea on if they will be a good fit for the panel.

These panelists will then usually take five to 10 surveys per year, which improves quality overall. With programmatic samples, respondents aren’t likely to take more than one or two surveys. That said, the routers will keep generating new online traffic, so you continuously have more chances to gain more traction from respondents.

Helpful tools and features like the Schlesinger QualityScore™ are designed to help combat bots and fraud to increase the reliability of the panel.

Con: More Difficult to Create Niche Communities

With traditional online samples, you have much more control over who is in the community, so you can create more custom-tailored market research panels that can answer specific questions and help you collect more detailed data about your consumer base or intended target audience.

Since programmatic samples involve embedding a platform that tracks user behavior across a variety of internet mediums, you’ll find it is much more difficult to categorize your respondents into meaningful groups. So, while you’ll be collecting data faster than with a traditional method, you’ll have to do a bit more work to draw conclusions from specific audiences.

Use a Multi-Tier Approach to Qualify Data Collection

At Schlesinger Group, we want you to get the most well-rounded sampling when conducting qualitative and quantitative research. That’s why we employ both online samples and programmatic sampling when discussing market research strategies with our clients.

You get the best of both worlds as well as a backup plan if something goes wrong with one sampling method. For example, while programmatic sampling is advantageous in many circumstances, it’s also important to consider the privacy challenges that come with collecting data and tracking online user behaviors.

Ready to learn more? Download our guide to read all about our multi-tier approach to quality data collection from online surveys and everything in between.