Last year’s CASRO Panel Conference in New Orleans (February 24-25, 2010) included three presentations on survey “routing.” It was a first for the Panel conference to discuss this topic. It was also surprising to learn what a common practice use of routing in survey research really is, and it makes sense that it would be. The demand for online research continues to grow while finding willing survey participants continues to be more and more difficult. Instead of trying to bring the survey to the respondent, routing does the opposite—it brings the respondent to the survey or surveys.
Routing, as defined at this particular CASRO conference, is “allocating a single stream of respondents among multiple surveys.” Another source, Federated Sample, describes it as” any mechanism that gives survey respondents another chance to take any survey beyond the original email invitation.”
Many panel providers are currently using routing, but may promote their panel and not mention routing at all. Others are offering it in a somewhat disguised manner by calling it “alternative survey chances”, “panel brokering”, or “multi-sourcing.”
The trick for making routing successful is to maintain a continuous supply of live surveys matched up with a constant supply of willing survey participants. The result? Expansion of the available population for surveys compared to what can be accomplished by one-to-one email invitations. With up to 250,000 respondents in the queue daily, it is an efficient way to keep respondents engaged and field a study quickly.
Having so many surveys in a queue means that surveys end up competing for respondents and require algorithms to determine how routing will treat the surveys. Based on the timeline, objectives of the study, or client preferences a survey may have “priority” within the router or receive respondents “randomly.” Typically, surveys in routers are completed using a mix of both.
Some Benefits of Routing:
1. Easier to manage sample blending
2. Easier to reach low-incidence populations and specialty groups
3. Willing respondents are able to reach active surveys – keeps them engaged
4. Opens up additional panel from other sources and can manage traffic – river sampling and social media
5. Reduces “bad” respondents in panel through multiple screening processes
Some Concerns over Routing:
1. Routing Bias/Survey Section Bias
2. Control over the process is automated and differs from vendor-to-vendor
3. Respondent fatigue – May screen for multiple surveys before qualifying
4. Quality has yet to be documented
5. Industry slow to adapt and understand
On this last point, Patrick Comer, CEO of Federated Sample, noted “Routing started five years ago, but it is just now being publicly examined by research methodologists. Traditional panel sample could be explained easier. The technology associated with routing makes it much more complex and harder to understand the process. By the time this practice is accepted, the sample industry will have already introduced the next advancement.”
Chanttel Allen, Managing Director
Federated – http://www.federatedsample.com/our-technology/