Is Online Sample a Digital Commodity?
If you’re old enough, when you think about commodities, you may think back to the 1983 film Trading Places in which Randolph Duke and his brother Mortimer tried to explain commodities to Billy Ray Valentine. Coffee, wheat, bacon, and frozen orange juice were cited as examples. Fast forward nearly 40 years and commodities are still all those things, but commoditizing products now goes beyond plants and animals. Commoditization can also occur in the digital economy, and we see that play out in the sample industry.
When products have been commoditized, buyers assume the quality of the products is just about equal, so they look to pay a lower price for that good or service. In the case of online sample, all sample providers supply survey respondents, so the choice of which vendor to go which typically comes down to price. But what is often not considered is the respondents’ shelf life and future value, or the source of these respondents.
Online Sample has an expiration date.
Most commodities expire. Once opened, a bag of coffee beans may last you six months. Frozen orange juice has an indefinite shelf life, but once it’s thawed, it’s best consumed within two hours. Online sample is not much different. With sample, a person volunteers to respond to a question via an online survey. You may not know that panelists typically have a life span of one or two surveys, and then they are gone forever. The average respondent only responds to a couple of surveys in their lifetime. Going back to our commodities example, the only way to get more orange juice is to plant more orange groves. Similarly, producing more panelists is the only way to get more responses. To produce more panelists, the online panel must have well-developed panel technology from the point of recruitment to delivery. However, online sample platforms are not SaaS software but more like digital farms. Let me explain.
Online Panels are not SaaS, at least not today.
Online sample is a form of ResTech, a marriage of research and technology. Panels cannot, however, become software as a service or SaaS because they require the digital farming of sample. To put it another way, quality sample must be cultivated. You could certainly build a service that scrapes the internet for names and loads them up in a database for people with subscriptions to access. However, doing so almost always results in poor client results and violates consumer privacy. Clients pay a CPI (cost per impression) per completed survey. When data integrity is compromised, the response rate hovers near zero.
A survey programming platform, however, is an example of a SaaS technology because it licenses the software needed to build out the survey. Still, it does not provide or require a platform to cultivate or curate panelists.
When you consider panel recruitment, data quality, and data delivery, online sample might not be as commoditized as you think. Sample providers are not all created equal, and the one you choose could impact your survey response rate.