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So you've probably heard the term "panel" and "community" used separately. Some even suggest it isn't possible to have the best of both of these concepts in one. But in fact it's absolutely possible and being used for market research purposes right now!

At Vision Critical, we take all the great things about an online panel and all of the great things about an online community, and put them together. So we're on the same page, here's a definition of each concept so that we can understand the difference between the two.

  • A Panel is typically large, private, invitation-only environment for sending out surveys. Panels give clients easy, longitudinal access to customers. Interaction is only one-on-one and members don't get to interact with each another.
  • A Community is typically small and intimate. Members can talk to one another and start their own conversations about topics they want to discuss. Client's lead more focused discussions and members also generate their own content.

There are many benefits to an online community panel - here's a list of the most prevalent:

Benefit 1: Larger Quantitative Base Plus Intimate Discussions: With Online Community Panels you get the bonus of a larger sample base for quantitative data, interactive visual surveys, as well as intimate conversations between smaller groups of members through both client focused and member generated discussion forums.

Benefit 2: Target Who You Want To Hear From: Larger groups are invited to participate in surveys and smaller groups participate in discussion forums. You invite different groups and segments to participate in different activities and projects depending on what your information needs are.

Benefit 3: Use The Right Tool From The Toolbox: Surveys, forums, photos, highlighter, collage, quantifiable projective techniques, and more. Pick the right tool to meet your business needs and research objectives.

Benefit 4: Save Money And Do More: Having a 2-in-1 eliminates the duplicated cost of running the two separately and also reduces the need for more expensive, traditional research. Having longitudinal, real time access to your best customers, means you can reach out to them whenever you need to and get insights back right away.

There are also many practical implications to consider before starting a community panel, including: size, incentives, target, brand affinity, blind/branded, engagement, reporting, response rates, health, resourcing, and more. I'll discuss these topics in future blog posts.

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Ellie Hutton

Ellie is passionate about our customers' experience, shining a spotlight on the success of our customers, and bringing the voice of the customer to our business. She’s been with Vision Critical since 2006, in research, marketing, sales enablement, customer success and CX teams. Ellie has over 20 years of experience in research and marketing, partnering with companies across many verticals to build brands, develop products, retain customers, evaluate communications, develop strategy, and facilitate change.
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