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Panel vs. SMS: Why 2020 Is the Year of SMS Surveys

Businesses have realized the importance of data in the success and survival of their enterprises. Through different methods of data collection, organizations can now stay competitive with consumer insights that inform decision-making, identify and solve problems, determine future trends, and increase ROI opportunities.

By conducting market research, companies can uncover insights that help drive business success. 

For the most part, there have been two primary quantitative data collection methods that are considered “go-to’s”: CATI (telephone) surveys which reaches respondents by utilizing random-digit dialing and Online research using Panels to reach your target audience to conduct surveys with.

But now, there is a new methodology in town that is shaking things up – SMS / Text Message Surveys.

We all know that people are texting more than talking on the phone, but why would someone use SMS instead of Online Panels? 

Let’s dive in. 

Online Panels

An online panel is a group of pre-recruited individuals who sign up to participate in market research studies in exchange for rewards, prizes, and sometimes money. These “panelists” receive anywhere between 1 to 20 surveys a day, conservatively, and answer surveys as they qualify to participate in them.

It is without a doubt a quick and cost-saving way for businesses to carry out market research. With many people connected to the internet, it makes sense to use online survey methods to collect data. 

Currently, more and more businesses are turning to online panels for data collection. When used effectively, they can offer valuable insights and results for your enterprise. 

Before you invest in online panels, here are the advantages and disadvantages of online panels you need to know.


  • Effective targeting: You can get meaningful feedback about almost everything. Whether you want data from specific industries, job titles, and demographics, online research panels can offer it.
  • Ease of sampling: Pre-profile online panel respondents for qualified answers. Research panels profile and prescreen their respondents and categorize them based on demographics or psychographic traits. They assign surveys based on these traits.
  • Automated data collection: With an online panel, when a respondent completes a survey, his answers are stored electronically in a database – no need for manual data input, which is vulnerable to errors.
  • Convenient for respondents: Respondents know how the surveys work, from logging in to accessing surveys and how incentives are processed. They decide the polls that they want to take and those to skip.


  • Limited Reach: Only individuals with internet access and that have signed up for the panel you are using can participate. This may lock out your ideal customer to target as not everyone wants to be a part of a “get paid to take surveys” community. 
  • Getting Paid To Participate: By offering a monetary incentive or reward in exchange for survey participation, the possibility of individuals becoming “professional respondents” becomes a risk. Some members could take survey-after-survey in order to earn extra income.
  • Bias + Embellishment: Online panel respondents maybe include some bias with their answers, resulting in low-quality responses. Some members might also embellish their demographics –age, job title, income, or gender, and in order to participate in surveys not intended for them. Also, some respondents may answer surveys with more incentives and hence eliciting biased responses.
  • Fake Profiles: As we found when experimenting with our own panel at Precision Opinion, you are subject to “fake panelists.” Some individuals register for multiple accounts in order to maximize income and rewards from participating in surveys. This “gaming” of the system from bad-actors has lead to multiple software applications needed for survey and respondent validation, which is expensive and not 100% accurate. 
  • Duplicate respondents: If you want to use multiple online panels, you may get duplicate responses. Data quality is jeopardized when a respondent is a member of various panels. Even though there are numerous online panel companies, they use each other’s databases to make their panels more robust. 

SMS Surveys

Online Panels vs. SMS Surveys: Why 2020 is the Year of SMS Surveys

SMS surveys are leading the next wave of data collection in 2020 and beyond.  SMS surveys use text messages to reach and conduct research polling from consumers all across the United States by utilizing Peer-To-Peer software, which allows non-consented texts to be sent while remaining 100% TCPA complaint.    

The thesis behind using SMS over Panel is based on the notion that approximately 96% of Americans have a mobile device.  Because of this mass adoption, text messages become handy when communicating with consumers. 

Research shows that an SMS has a 7.5 times higher response rate than email and have a 90% open rate.

Before considering SMS surveys for your next data collection project, below are their merits and demerits you should know:


  • Low-cost: SMS is very cost-effective for your research budget. SMS uses technology and human capital efficiency to maximize the time and resources needed to get surveys completed. 

    To see how SMS is priced at Precision Opinion, here is our 2020 SMS Pricing Guide
  • Reach more people: Almost everyone has a cellphone. With SMS surveys, you reach more people, even without their emails.  By using targeted sample, SMS is able to reach individuals from the largest markets to the smallest counties, allowing for incredible feedback from anywhere in the U.S.
  • Fast feedback: Within three minutes, people open 90% of text messages. Therefore, you can expect a reply in no time. Research shows text messages have a 209% response rate compared to phone and email.

    Based on the work we have done at Precision Opinion, over 80% of surveys conducted via SMS are completed within the first 4 hours.
  • Additional Data: Using SMS allows researchers the flexibility to append back-end data, such as voting history, seamlessly, allowing for a more robust picture of who exactly is taking your survey.
  • Time-saving: Instantaneously deployment of SMS surveys and data is available in a few hours or days.
  • Greater data quality: SMS surveys have higher levels of transparency and accuracy. One research study revealed that respondents of SMS surveys give more trustworthy and accurate answers than phone and in-person surveys.


  • SMS surveys are limited to people with cellphones and literate populations.
  • Some recipients of survey participation requests are hesitant to open a link to a survey or respond to an unknown number.
  • Subject to inadvertent errors such as accidentally typing three instead of two.

Choosing Between Online Panels and SMS Surveys

Although both online panels and SMS are excellent methods for reaching target audiences for the purposes of data collection, SMS offers several advantages that make it the new go-to method of market research surveys and insights.

Online panels are limited when it comes to robust insights and micro-targeting. Also, they are vulnerable to bias and duplicate responses, and limited to people who sign up for them.

On the other hand, SMS surveys can reach anyone anywhere as long as you have their phone number and requires no membership to join. Also, they are low-cost, high reach, time-saving, and contribute to superior data quality.

At Precision Opinion, we have our new Text-Message Market Research offer, PrecisionSMS. PrecisionSMS is a next-gen SMS survey to meet your research needs.  It is a great data collection tool that allows businesses to capture quality data insights from anyone regardless of their location in the US.

Why choose PrecisionSMS?

  • Fast: in as little as 24 hours, you can launch a survey and have data in hand.
  • Targeted: you can reach anyone in the US, regardless of their location.
  • Quality responses: forget about the professional panelists. PrecisionSMS targets real people to get real responses.

Want to see how SMS market research can enhance your customer insights needs? Contact us for a no-obligation exploratory call.