Understanding Online Research Panels

Using online research panels is a quick and cost-effective way to conduct market research. With more and more of our daily lives spent online, shifting from pen-and-paper questionnaires to online surveys has opened up a world of convenience for researchers and allowed them to reach a large number of people in a short period of time.

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What is an online research panel?

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Is online research the right method for your study, especially in Asia? What are its pros and cons? To answer these questions, we first have to understand what an online research panel is.

What is an online research panel, anyway? In its basic definition, an online research panel is a sample of persons who have agreed to complete surveys via the Internet. It is a group of people sharing similar traits, brought together to answer an online survey about a particular research topic for a commensurate incentive.


In its basic definition, an online research panel is a sample of persons who have agreed to complete surveys via the Internet.
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Let’s break that down:


A group of people sharing similar traits…

If you want to learn something about a specific topic, you don’t want to hear from just anyone. You want to hear from a specific person or group of people. For example, In Asia, you will need to consider the cultural and subcultural differences that run across different societies. Therefore, additional care must be done when determining and approaching your target panel. This is why research panels are verified, profiled, and screened for duplicates before they can qualify for a particular study.

Panelists provide their personal information to online panel firms, like ours. They are then profiled under certain categories like gender, income, and profession. From there, online panel firms send panelists surveys that are developed for that category.

For a B2C study, you will likely need people of a specific demographic or role, like Grocery Decision-makers for food studies or Frequent Travelers for travel studies.

For a B2B study, you will need to speak to people of a specific profession or industry, such as IT Decision-makers or Business Decision-makers.

For a Healthcare study, you will want to hear from doctors of a specific specialty or patients with a specific ailment, i.e. Oncologists and Asthma patients.

More about these categories will be discussed later.



... online survey about a particular research topic...

There are different kinds of research methodologies, each with their own set of pros and cons. Before conducting an online survey, it’s important to understand the limitations of the method and whether it’s the right fit for your study.

For instance, for a person to answer an online survey, that person needs to be present on the internet. Conducting an online survey can be different in a country like South Korea, where 97.6 percent of the population are internet users, as opposed to conducting the same survey in India where only 48.7 percent of the population is online.



... for a commensurate incentive...

To motivate panelists to answer a survey, online panel companies provide some form of compensation, mostly through points and credits that can be converted to cash, gift certificates, and the like. The amount of the incentive depends on many factors, such as the length of the survey (five minutes vs. 60 minutes) or the type of survey (B2C vs. B2B).

Prospective panelists are also presented with opportunities to affect new products or services, or even for the sheer fun of taking part in. This experience can also become an added incentive for the panelists.


Why are Online Research Panels Essential?

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Technology has changed the way surveys are conducted, and it quickened the pace for data collection and analysis. The internet, in particular, made reaching out to a large number of panelists much easier than ever. Here are the ways online research panels can improve your market research study.


Getting the right audience

Online research panels are pre-screened and profiled properly, so you are assured that you have the right audience to get the correct data.


Digging deeper

Through astute profiling, you can select panels through different filters, from demographics such as age, gender, and location, to more specific filters like preferred drinks and sleeping habits.


Learning valuable insights fast

When you use the right panels, you can get more accurate data and generate more valuable insights, since you are asking questions to people that fit your target respondent requirements.


Obtaining cleaner data

A pre-screened panel reduces instances of duplication and forged profiles, and you can get authentic responses from the people who take part in your business in both B2B and B2C categories.


Making the right decisions

You can gauge your brand, product, and company’s progress when you get the right insights from your online research panels. By knowing exactly where you are business-wise, you can determine which steps must be taken in order to move to your desired direction.

If an online research panel is well-managed and verified (which we’ll tackle later), you can capitalize on generating powerful insights and quality responses, based on the rich online profiles of panelists. Additionally, well-managed panels allow for faster response rates compared to other survey methods, since the participants have already demonstrated their interest in joining online surveys and are pre-screened for answering.


How are online research panels formed?

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There are many ways to build online research panels. Here are the three methods that more stringent online research panel providers employ.


Proprietary panels

Panelists can be gathered through dedicated and localized survey platform websites. These websites are then promoted through social media, search engines, and online ads to keep the panels growing. In these platforms, the panelists share their personal data for verification.


API integration

API platforms can be used to integrate verified partner panels to the system. These platforms can be used by various partner media companies, such as shopping websites, mobile apps, and other panel suppliers.


Third party sources

Panel providers can work with third party sources if needed. The data from these sources must still pass through the providers’ rigorous screening and verification process in order to maintain consistency and authentic results.


What are the kinds of online research panels?

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There are many ways to categorize different online research panels, but in the broadest sense, market researchers can classify online research panels into three categories: B2B, B2C, and healthcare/medical online research panels.




B2C stands for ‘business to consumers’, and B2C online research panels involve target consumers and end users, encompassing different groups of people, like car owners, music fans, and hotel visitors. The range can be set to very broad or very specific parameters, depending on the requirements of the study, and you can ask the target consumers’ behaviors and opinions about topics that may be relevant to the products and services you have. In this online research panel category, you can get feedback about your products or service in order to make better decisions and improve brand performance.



B2B stands for ‘business to business’, and it refers to research on businesses and their internal elements rather than individual consumers. B2B panels encompass different segments across industries, including but not limited to business owners, business decision makers, and business professionals who can provide highly informed and accurate responses. B2B online research panels can help you when you’re planning to expand into new territories and improve your foothold in existing markets, by providing authentic data and crucial insights into products or services, which will then help you in decision-making. By targeting key personnel like IT and HR decision makers, financial analysts, executives, and small business owners, B2B online research panels can help you keep up with global and local business dynamics.



This niche category can cover both medical practitioners and patients. Market researchers can ask about patients’ conditions and treatment, and they can ask doctors about their diagnosis and prescriptions, among many things. The panels in this category are understandably smaller than B2B and B2C panels due to the circumstances.


How are online research panels managed?

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While technology has made it easier for market researchers to conduct surveys, it has also made it easier for fraudulent respondents to create different profiles in order to get more incentives from online surveys. Here are some of the ways people can commit fraudulent survey responses:

  • They can misrepresent themselves by obtaining random directory details
  • They can obtain free email addresses
  • They can use different IP addresses to avoid detection
  • They can use bots to automate responses

It is especially important for online providers to manage, screen, and verify their panels in order to avoid getting fraudulent panelists and come up with authentic, verified data. Authentic online research panels, providing honest and considered input, help form the foundations of data quality, that’s why it’s essential to develop a proper survey panel verification process.


The general process for verifying panelists are as follows:

  • Initial verification is done by double checking the information a prospective panelist provides when joining
  • Checking cookies and IP addresses are standard practices when answering surveys

There are other methods used to further verify panelists, such as in-survey results checks. If panelists violate any of these verification processes, then they are at risk of being removed from the database.

It is especially important for online providers to manage, screen, and verify their panels in order to avoid getting fraudulent panelists and come up with authentic, verified data.
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Another aspect that panel providers must be able to manage and avoid are duplicate panelists, which are done voluntarily or accidentally. There are several safeguards that can be put in place at the registration, execution, and incentive phases of online surveys in order to avoid duplicate responses. For example, we at dataSpring use our in-house Digital Fingerprint Technology to prevent panelists from joining the same survey.

Finally, another aspect that research marketers must be aware of is panel attrition, or the drop of participation of panelists in a study. The possibility of this happening in a study depends on the topic of the study and the survey design, among other things, so a well thought-out and short survey, combined with the right amount of incentives, can encourage participation and reduce attrition.


Should I build my own research panels?

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Building and verifying your own panel is the way to go if you have a very specific niche that you want to target but this can take a lot of time, resource, and effort. On the other hand, getting an online research panel provider removes the issue of maintaining your own panels and can give you authentic results. Fortunately, there are panel providers that have ready databases of verified panelists to get your market research studies completed quickly.

Here are the benefits of curating your own research panel versus getting an online research panel provider:



Curating your own research panel

  • More research: It’s easier and more convenient to develop projects when you have your own panel.
  • Quicker and better insights: You can get feedback from your panel directly back to you in less time.
  • Better response rates: Since you have your own list of panelists who have agreed to your terms, it is easier for them to comply with your questions.
  • Better panelist profiles: You can adjust your panelist data results to fit your project requirements and future studies.


One concern with this option is that it may take a long time to collect, cultivate, and curate your own list of panelists. It takes time, resource, and expertise to develop and enjoy these benefits.



Getting an online research panel provider

  • Quick turnaround: Research panel providers can provide thousands, if not millions, of respondents, from their long-cultivated lists of panels. The recruiting period is reduced, if not eliminated.
  • Affordability: If you’re just holding a few projects, you don’t have to maintain your own list.
  • Better reach: Online research panel suppliers have developed their own systems, so you don’t have to work as hard. You’ll just need to wait for the responses instead of committing to the groundwork.
  • Diversity: With online research panel providers, you can choose other demographics that are in tangent with your current target. You can expand your panel size to include future prospects.


About Asian Online Research Panels

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Asia is steeped in culture and tradition, and there is a wide array of differences among nations due to geography, sociopolitical climate, and belief systems, just to name a few. However, thanks to advances in modern technology, the gap between countries are starting to close in.

The internet is one of the tools that is revolutionizing culture across Asia. According to Internet World Stats, more than 2.93 billion people in Asia are using the internet, which is 67.4 percent of the entire region. A Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company report in 2023 listed the value of Southeast Asia’s internet economy at $218 billion. Internet penetration across Asia will continue to increase in the coming years, with the development of better communication infrastructure and introduction of affordable smartphones and internet subscriptions.

So you ask, are online research panels in Asia the way to go? Indeed, it is. With millions of Asians accessing the internet each day, especially through mobile devices, Asian online research panels are becoming more reliable and reflective of the entire populations. Asian online research panels are growing quickly and are becoming more reliable and cost-effective means to reach out and understand any market researcher’s target population.

Asian online research panels are growing quickly and are becoming more reliable and cost-effective means to reach out and understand any market researcher’s target population.
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dataSpring has extensive coverage and targeted profiling for your Asian research needs, with more than 15 million panelists across 12 target Asian countries and territories, and 47+ target profiles for the B2C, B2B, and medical categories. You can with targeted consumers through dataSpring’s suite of Asian online and mobile samples and one-stop market research solutions.

Here are the profiles of some of the Asian online research panels that dataSpring extensively curated over the years:

Country/Territory Internet users Internet penetration1 dataSpring panel size (as of 2024)
Japan 102,500,000 82.9 % 3,926,979
China 1,050,000,000 73.7 % 3,882,187
South Korea 50,560,000 97.6 % 455,083
Taiwan 21,680,000 90.7 % 383,519
Singapore 5,810,000 96.9 % 142,956
Hong Kong 6,970,000 93.1 % 49,875
Indonesia 212,900,000 77.0 % 2,588,553
Vietnam 77,930,000 79.1 % 981,762
Philippines 85,160,000 73.1 % 1,032,165
Malaysia 33,030,000 96.8 % 247,127
Thailand 61,210,000 85.3 % 1,751,149
India 692,000,000 48.7 % 400,895

1Reference website: Reports — DataReportal – Global Digital Insights

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