The benefits of a Community Panel can be broadly divided into two groups: conventional benefits (such as speed and cost) and new benefits (such as discussions with customers); both of these types of benefits are explored further below. Separately, both of these categories are a great reason to have a Community Panel. In combination they present a very strong case for most brands and organisations to have one or more community panels.
Community Panels offer faster, more flexible, and cheaper research, when compared with alternative routes. The community is already profiled, already recruited, and willing to help. This results in projects being faster to create, allows stored information to be leveraged, and reduces the cost per project.
With a Community Panel, a question can be posed in a meeting and immediately converted into a quick poll, survey, or question and asked of the community. Replies will start flowing as soon as the task is posted, meaning the results are available quickly, sometimes the same day, usually the next day.
The speed benefits of a Community Panel arise because the community is always on and ready to go. The cost benefit occurs at the per project level. A Community Panel has significant fixed costs but relatively low per project costs. Within reason, the more heavily a Community Panel is used the better value it delivers.
Community Panels change the focus of research from the market place to the voice of the customer, a change away from respondents and towards co-creating the future of the brand. This benefit relates closely to the growing desire of brands and organisations to get closer to their customers to access the genuine and authentic voice of the customer, taking that voice as directly as possible to the heart of decision making.
Because Community Panels are managed by a single team they can develop a consistency that is hard to achieve with any other research modality. Comparisons between studies are rendered more reliable, because the sampling, the questions, and the respondent experience can all be held constant.
One of the great new benefits unlocked by Community Panels is longitudinal analysis. Longitudinal analysis includes major initiatives, such as looking at the relationship between satisfaction and consumption over time, and also specific targeted issues, such as inviting a group of respondents to join an online discussion on the basis of their earlier responses.