As your organization conducts more and more online surveys, eventually it runs into issues coordinating survey requests across the range of potential respondents.

One solution is panel management software, to centrally manage your respondents and those who have access to them via surveys. But before you can begin to evaluate the dozens of great suppliers out there, you need to make sure you understand your own requirements.

Most panel management systems support powerful questionnaires, rich panel profiles, and detailed reports. But they differ in many ways. The following questions will help you get at key points of differentiation between systems.

The Basics

Some panel management software charges by user, some by panel size, and some by the number of survey responses. So these become key questions when comparing systems.

How many panelists (potential survey respondents) do you plan on storing in the system?

How many survey responses will you want to collect over a year?

How many different people within your organization and your partner research organizations will be able to log in to the system? How many will be creating surveys? How many will just be reviewing reports? Different classes of users sometimes are priced differently.

Do you want a hosted solution or software that you will install on your own servers?


If you will have dozens or hundreds of users, do you want Single Sign On support, so that they don’t need separate user names and passwords to log in to the panel management system?

Will you automatically empanel respondents by adding details from other systems, such as your CRM system, a customer service portal, or your web site?

If you are recruiting panelists from across the Internet, do you want new panelists to be able to sign up using their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, thereby giving you much more information about them?

Panel Membership

Different classes of software with panel management functionality often have quite different views on where members come from: enterprise feedback management systems are typically about empaneling customers, community panel providers are focused on MROCs (Market Research Online Communities), and branded panels offer subsets of their panel supplier’s respondents.

Do you want panelists to be able to talk with one another in community forums?

Do you want integration with a panel company to assist you in recruiting panelists?

What type of incentives will panelists require to complete surveys? No incentives (typical for customers), point-based incentives with rewards catalogs (typical for general panels), or financial incentives (needed for specialty panels with in-demand audiences like IT directors or medical professionals)?

Questionnaire Functionality

Every system now offers rich questionnaire design capabilities. But they do differ on some of the latest advances in automation.

Will you be performing choice exercises, such as conjoint or MaxDiff?

Do you want to support gamification exercises in addition to standard questions?

Do you want surveys that can easily be taken on mobile devices?


Once you’ve given more thought to your own requirements, you will be better able to evaluate the competing panel management software platforms on the market today.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.