A few weeks ago a very large sample company (you know, the big one!) published a report on its website covering its methodology. This is a fantastic step in the right direction. We’ve long been supporters of transparency in the industry, with the belief that suppliers need to unveil the mystery surrounding recruitment, process, technology and more. After all, sample is fundamental to market research and provides the foundation for quality insights, so determining a supplier’s practices is vital to success.

The main thing that stood out in their new report was this: they write that they are “now uniquely positioned to deliver online sample from a robust data lake consisting of a number of panels, to achieve maximum feasibility, sustainability, representativeness and consistency. Coverage biases associated with convenience sampling are mitigated by an expanded sample frame composed from a wide range of sourcing channels and recruitment techniques.”

The company effectively acknowledged its use of what the industry has called “river sample.” While the early days of “river” were riddled with problems, things have changed significantly. Today, there is no strict methodological reason to prefer double opt-in panels to river sample, provided that you understand how a supplier treats its sources. River, or real-time sample, can deliver a breadth of sources, appealing to those seeking diverse audiences and avoiding the “professional respondent” issue. Real-time sample is still used, either directly or indirectly (from subcontracting), by all sizes of panel companies to meet the need for speed and cost savings. This method has improved significantly since its inception, and although there are still some challenges, it is an important part of a sample company’s toolkit. We should stop pretending we no longer use it as a recruitment method.

Ideally, open, honest communication like this is coupled with advanced technology for the best client results. Sample companies should be using automation to optimize everything from respondent recruitment through bidding and feasibility to project execution. AI-enabled tools can improve operational efficiency while maintaining an unparalleled respondent experience and mitigating fraud.  

In short, it’s heartening to see that a well-recognized brand in the sampling space has broken the barrier of silence and been able to publicize that real-time sample has its place in our industry.