Market Research: Getting What You Pay For (and Knowing How to Pay It)


ADOTAS – A well-conceived marketing campaign always begins with research: Is there a need for what we’re offering? How do people want to hear about it? What would they pay for it? That’s where market research teams come in.

For years, market research was as simple as hosting a focus group: Buy a few sandwiches, ask a few questions, and then send everyone home with a check at the end of the session. But as more and more companies expand, market researchers are increasingly being asked to provide insight on emerging markets for businesses looking to tap into the global economy, and there has been a need to move these panels from a concrete to a virtual space. So it’s easy to see why the growth in online market research has accelerated since its adoption over a decade ago. Online market research tools enable the industry to gather insight from ever wider pools of respondents, with the added bonus of speed and relative ease of capture. The ability to tap into a worldwide universe of panelists has grown with the demand for international data and analysis.

In recent years, marketers have been under evermore pressure to spend their R&D budgets carefully, making the market research space increasingly competitive. At the same time, the rise of the internet and social media are fueling public demand for more targeted and relevant interactions with brands and services — and a solid investment in market research can be essential in meeting this need.

Cash flow causes headaches

Of course, when market researchers are commissioned to conduct a panel, they need to assemble panelists. And while online market research makes surveying easier, there remains one major challenge: rewarding panelists for their work, which can be a time-intensive and inefficient payment process. With more and more panels being made up of global representatives, there is the added complication of sending money overseas, negotiating national payment regulations and currencies.

Regular panelists are unlikely to remain motivated unless they are getting consistent payments for their time, so compensation is a critical business process that is damaging to overlook. When targeting panelists, infrequent commission payments can lead to high attrition rates that harm business efficiency and ultimately, growth. If researchers are to get marketing teams the robust research they require, they cannot afford to lose panelists because of difficulties in rewarding them for their time and feedback.

However, mainstream bank services lack the flexibility to support businesses with this sort of lower-value, higher-frequency international payments. Although the payment options available to marketing departments are varied, they are out of step with the desire for faster and more simplified payments.

Payment methods today

Many organizations use voucher-based rewards, for example, on ecommerce sites like Amazon. This obviously restricts the recipient to spending on a single website, but can be an easier method to overcome currency challenges.

However, probably the most common method of online panelist payments is through checks. Not only is this an incredibly intensive administration process for the marketing department or its outsourced firm, it is also highly inefficient for the panelists. As leading market research firms increasingly look to move to electronic payments, those that do so could conceivably tempt very active panel members to switch their allegiances.

With many banks showing considerable reluctance to innovate, there is a need for alternative payment services that can help to alleviate challenges in the market and have a direct impact on bottom lines.

Savvy marketing departments and research firms that are seeking more streamlined and cost-efficient payment solutions are starting to work with alternative payment companies that are stepping in to exploit the opportunity.

Virtual prepaid card payments

One option for market research companies addressing these payment challenges is to use prepaid cards. Both Visa and MasterCard support prepaid card services, and through innovative payment platform companies, it is also possible to opt for virtual prepaid cards.

A virtual card carries the same data as a traditional physical card — a 16-digit card number, expiration date and three-digit security number — but is delivered electronically onto a computer screen at point-of-sale. Payment is instant (and thus, can be spent right away) and funds can be transferred into a bank account, or, because the card is a Visa, it can also be used at millions of merchants worldwide.

This approach offers a single international solution that is cost-effective, simple and secure. In addition, virtual prepaid solutions can overcome the high administrative costs associated with global payments such as issuing checks, making international wire transfers, or sending payment via international mail.

Improving the effectiveness of payments

By adopting a standard global payment process, marketers and research firms can increase the speed of payments, issuing compensation in a variety of currencies to allow panelists to claim their funds in whatever currency suits best — which also serves to reduce foreign exchange fees for the market research company.

Using this type of system, it is possible to integrate payment processes with panel management software. This allows companies to manage their accounts, see who needs to be paid and send payments all in one place, thereby increasing the speed and ease with which payments are made. In addition, panelists can access an online portal to track their income. This is a great way to improve the level of activity that a panelist undertakes, ensuring that the research company grows its pool of active users.

With competition for active online panelists and demand for global research solutions only set to grow, a key step for marketers is to work with market research teams that focus on nurturing the relationships they hold with their panelists, implementing secure, fast and efficient ways to pay them.


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