B2B market research panel history
B2B and B2C panels are very different in the same way that B2C and B2B businesses are very different. However, in practice, researchers apply B2C panel methodologies to B2B panels and B2B market research all the time. This is a function of B2C market research companies jumping into the B2B market research landscape. They don’t fully appreciate the fact that simply bolting on a B2C panel approach of sampling from a “closed pool” of panel participants won’t serve the needs of B2B companies.
The history of B2C market research dates back to the late 1800s. The trust busting that marked the end of the Gilded Age meant more business competition for consumers who saw their standard of living double during the same period of time.
With more disposable income, advertisements that simply informed consumers of the merits of a given product just didn’t cut it in a marketplace full of competing products of comparable quality; advertisements had to create need in the consumer. Serious market research became necessary if a company wanted to understand how best to manufacture that sense of need.
During the mid-twentieth century, researchers continued to refine their methods. They wanted to capture their share of the post-World War II pent up demand for consumer goods. To do so, they began integrating discoveries from the social sciences and taking advantage of technological advancements in media and telecommunication.
Market research companies created large panels of opted-in individuals that were willing to participate in surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Market research companies had an incentive to grow the group of people as large as possible so that they could handle a more diverse array of industries without sacrificing the turn-around time of results.
When a company needed insights for a new product or to understand consumer buying behavior, for example, the market research company selected members of the group that fit the company’s search criteria. These can include demographic information, household details, shopping habits, etc.. The respondents would give feedback as best they could to answer the survey questions. The company in turn would use that data to inform decision-making.