Sample is a hot commodity in the world of online market research. It’s defined as a finite part of a statistical population whose properties are studied to gain information about the whole (Webster, 1985). When dealing with people, it can be described as a set of respondents selected from a larger population for the purpose of a survey. Often samples are created to represent a specific market, audience, political base or customer base, depending on the goals of the market research project. A sample size refers to the number of panelists participating in a research study, while sample distribution is a measurement of the responses from a single sample, organized by frequency. A sampling error is an inaccuracy that is associated with using the sample results as an indication of the whole.
The purpose of sampling is to draw conclusions about populations from samples and in order to do this the researcher must use inferential statistics which enables them to determine a population`s characteristics by directly observing only a portion (or sample) of the population. The researcher obtains a sample rather than a complete enumeration (a census) of the population for many reasons. For one, it is cheaper to observe a part rather than the whole, but the researcher should prepare themselves to cope with the dangers that some times come with using samples.
Sampling can be a concern in both qualitative and quantitative research; however, sampling issues are somewhat different for each. In any study, the research question determines the study method, but it is the research question and method together that define the sampling plan, the type of sample used and the number of people who will make up the study sample. Other factors that affect decisions about sample sizes and sampling plans include time, money, access to subjects and the number of study variables. Despite all of this, the overalladvantages to sampling are numerous… the process involves a smaller number of subjects and is more time efficient, less costly and potentially more accurate (since it is more feasible to maintain control over a smaller number of subjects).
When using a market research broker like EMI, the client can rest assure that all areas of concentration are being covered when it comes to giving them the best representative sample available. The market research broker works with panel partners to accomplish this task. A panel provider (partner) is the company that provides a specified demographic portion or sample from a population to participate in a market research study. This population is then surveyed, and data and information is subsequently collected with the intent of drawing research conclusions. In online market research the population is initially sent questionnaires through the internet and agrees to participate in market research studies on a forward-going basis. An online sample or panel provider recruits, verifies, and maintains a comprehensive, highly profiled listing of panelists for use in online research studies.
Key demographic, product usage/ownership, and other attributes are generally maintained to offer timelier, efficient, and targeted market research opportunities. The use of online panels also facilitates longitudinal research opportunities, enabling the same individual to participate in similar or related research initiatives over time, highlighting change.
Highly effective sampling software is used by market researchers to obtain the sample information. If the sampling process has been conducted correctly, the research conclusions can be considered representative of the group or population as a whole. Panel management refers to the comprehensive process of recruiting, incentivizing, engaging, segmenting, profiling, and caring for online market research panel members. The online sample provider is usually responsible for all panel management activities.
In the online market research industry, proper panel management helps to increase the overall survey completion rate, panelist retention rate, and the quality of market research data.
About the Author: Michael Holmes is the founder of EMI - Online Research Solutions (a 2010 Inc. Magazine recipient of "The Fastest Growing companies in the US" awards.)
For more information about EMI – Online Research Solutions please visit the company’s Web site at: www.emi-ors.com.