Consumer Panels 101: Incisive Insight into the Shopper Mindset
Consumer behavior is always changing. To keep up with an evolving marketplace and better understand what consumers are buying as well as how and why, brands turn to consumer panels for answers.
What is a consumer panel?
A consumer panel is a method of gathering ongoing data from shoppers in order to gain insight into their attitudes, behavior, and purchasing habits. Consumer panels consist of a wide range of households across all demographic groups. The data uncovered through consumer panels helps brands better understand shopper behavior and how it drives product sales and purchasing trends.
How is consumer panel data collected?
Consumer panel data is collected through surveys and receipts of shoppers who have agreed to participate. Surveys are used to reveal attitudinal data: how consumers are thinking and feeling about their shopping needs and experiences. Receipts shed light on longitudinal data, which examines how consumer spending and purchasing behavior changes over a period of time.
What does a consumer panel reveal in market research?
A consumer panel’s distinct advantage over other types of market research is that it can answer a range of questions about key consumer habits in great detail.
- Who: Consumer panels are used to understand the behavior of a specific population of people, so the data is drawn from a representative sample of consumers being studied in order to present an accurate picture.
- Where: Panels collect shopping and purchasing data from all retail outlets, including ecommerce and online channels, specialty stores, as well as new forms of product distribution such as Click & Collect.
- What: To best measure sales and purchasing behavior within a category, panels capture spending on all products and available brands that make up the category.
The one disadvantage of consumer panels is that they aren’t always able answer the question of why consumers may choose certain products over others. However, Numerator consumer panels address and overcome this issue through our surveys, which allow consumers to share the reasoning behind their purchases.
Why are consumer panels important?
With the in-depth insights consumer panels provide, brands are able to identify how consumer behavior is changing in real time and the impact those shifts are having on product sales. For instance, panels can clarify whether a decrease in sales is due to fewer households buying the brand or to existing buyers purchasing less than they did previously. A few of the consumer behavior patterns panels analyze include:
- Basket attributes: Spend per trip, the time of day shopping occurs, payment methods, and usage of different delivery methods
- Demographic attributes: Age, income, ethnicity, household size, education, and employment
- Attitudinal and psychographic attributes: The interests, attitudes and lifestyles of buyers
- Volume and shifting buyer behavior: How the behavior of new, lost, or retained buyers impacts product volume and which stores they choose to shop in
- Brand interactions: The different brands buyers consider purchasing
Additionally, consumer panel data breaks down overall household purchasing behavior. A few common household metrics captured through panels include: Penetration: What percentage of households are buying a product? Repeat sales: Are households returning and purchasing the same products? This would indicate brand acceptance. Purchase frequency: How often are households making purchases? Buy rate: How much are households spending when they shop?
Managed consumer panels provide trustworthy results
Though there are different types of consumer panels, two of the most common are managed panels and convenience panels.
A convenience panel allows consumers to opt in and out of the data gathering process at will. This means demographics and other details are only available if a consumer voluntarily gives them, which creates gaps not only in tracking but in projection. In other words, it’s difficult to anticipate how accurate or trustworthy the results will be.
Managed panels consist of a static group of consumers who are willing to give regular insight and updates into their shopping behavior along with verified demographic information. For example, Numerator’s managed panels provide demographic profiles for 100% of their static panelists and psychographic attributes for 97% of them. This means brands can trust they’re receiving consistent and conclusive data on whether buyers have truly changed behavior.
Consumer panel data vs POS (Point of Sale) data
POS (Point of Sale) data is essentially about measuring sales. POS data is collected directly from retailers through store scanners. By recording the sale of every unit scanned from every shopping trip, POS data captures and tracks information including the number of sales at each retailer, average pricing preferences, and the best-selling products. It’s an ideal source of sales insights, but misses out on the human component.
Consumer panels collect point of sale data, but are also about understanding people. Panels are better able to break down who the different buyers are of a particular product over a specific time period as well as why they’re buying those items. This deeper analysis of consumer behavior helps brands track sales and figure out how to improve them.
Consumer panels vs focus groups
Focus groups are another popular research method used to primarily collect opinions and feedback from consumers. While this makes focus groups a great source of attitudinal data, they’re often limited in scope because the information is gathered only once and the participants may vary with each group.
Consumer panels document shopper attitudes by studying the same group of participants on an ongoing basis. By continuously monitoring shoppers, brands gain a greater awareness of where behavioral trends are headed and can better adapt their marketing and promotional approach as a result.
Brands win when they understand who their consumers are and what they want, not just what they’re buying. Consumer panels offer thorough and firsthand data on the evolving shopper mindset giving brands the ability to strategize and best meet consumer needs both now and in the future.