Understanding Market Research Panels and Insight Communities

For many years the terms panel and online insight community have long been confused. My-Take has offered online insight communities to organizations looking to be more customer-centric for over 10 years now, and in this post, we clear up any mix-ups by discussing what each is and core applications for both.

Panels or Insight Communities?

What are Market Research Panels?

A panel is a group of customers or members who have opted in to participate in research-related activities for an organization. A panel is usually larger in size, and engagement is not necessarily frequent.

Sometimes 'panel' is used to describe sample firms, some of these organizations can offer over up to 100M+ million consumer profiles that can be used to recruit from on an ad-hoc basis for a-la-carte research projects.

The incentive structure for panels is typically organized differently than communities, as the consumers participating in them don’t have a relationship with the brand or organization conducting the research.

What are Insight Communities?

Online insight communities are made up of a targeted group of stakeholders, who are recruited into a private online community environment, to interact with a brand and provide continuous feedback on an ongoing basis through different research activities. Running one can ensure that your customer experience (CX) is optimized and built to perfectly suit your audience’s needs.

Communities handle a variety of uses and provide a way for organizations to reach a deeper consumer understanding, conduct new product and service development, access the customer journey, and enhance marketing initiatives. In addition, in recent years, communities have been getting larger as more quantitative capabilities are added in. Online insight community tools also work well in the mobile environment and with video.

Insight communities allow for deep dive research as they have advanced capabilities and can cover both qualitative and quantitative research needs and foster a stronger relationship and commitment with consumers by creating an environment where members can turn to and regularly share their opinions. Communities are also efficient at answering the “why” when conducting research by generating key actionable insights that drive strategic decision making.


Panels and insight communities are both made up of individuals who are interested in participating in an organization’s research-related activities. These consumers are key stakeholders in your organization’s brand or product/service experience. They can ensure that your customer experience (CX) is optimized and built to perfectly suit your audience's needs.


The key differences between communities and panels lie in the purpose, the frequency, and depth of interaction. In a panel, participants are much less likely to interact with one another and form a connection that brings them back. The community element yields more conclusive results as they are run over an extended period of time, making them more iterative in nature. This can be invaluable when it comes to answering the “why” when conducting research, as the insight community environment allows for continuous flow of actionable insights. Communities help organizations maintain a constant customer relationship and focus which can allow them to observe how member behaviors changes over time.

In addition, an insight community typically has a dedicated community manager that actively works alongside brands to make a connection and engage with the members. The community manager is the glue that holds the community together and builds a space where the customer feels valued and heard.

All in all, when deciding which methodology to use, some questions to consider would be:

  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • How frequently will participants be engaged?
  • How long will the study be running for?

My-Take is a greater Boston based consumer insight technology and analytics company that offers an advanced community platform and a team of professional researchers to deliver actionable insights for clients. Contact our team today to learn more about how our platform can connect your brand with your consumers!

Posted by My Take