Best approaches for maximizing the recruitment rate in online panels

Online surveys are a method of data collection that involves the use of the Internet to gather feedback, opinions, or information from respondents. This approach to surveying has become increasingly popular due to its convenience, speed, and representativeness. Unlike traditional surveys that might involve paper questionnaires or face-to-face interviews, online surveys can reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time.

Moreover, online surveys can be easily customized to target specific demographics. However, it is important for these surveys to be designed carefully to avoid biases and ensure the validity and reliability of the results. Ensuring the validity and reliability of online survey results requires careful attention to survey design, question formulation, and the selection of the target population.

Recruitment rate– How many numbers were contacted during the recruitment stage and how many of them agreed to participate.

The recruitment rate in research is crucial in ensuring the quality and validity of the panel. A good recruitment strategy not only ensures that the sample size is met but also that it is representative of the population under study. Conversely, low or biased recruitment can lead to skewed data, limiting the reliability and applicability of the research outcomes.

Recruitment strategies

Pretesting with in-depth interviews and focus groups

To inform the design, tone and content of the approach to recruitment and communications materials, in-depth interviews and focus groups could be conducted with members of the general population aged 18 years and over. The goal is to test different positioning statements and communications materials to find the most effective approach. The materials that could be used for testing are variations of pre-notification text messages, the advance letter and the introductory script to be used by the telephone interviewers who would recruit panel members.

When it comes to the telephone interview approaches – Life in Australia – the online probability panel found that the “ask-first – delayed enrolment” strategy was the most effective in terms of recruitment rate and cost for implementation. Costs may as well be saved by piggy-backing recruitment activity with another survey. Respondents may be more likely to agree to ongoing surveys if their confidence has been gained by a good experience with an initial survey.

To determine the optimal number of follow-ups needed to maximize recruitment rates, several factors must be considered. These include the target population’s characteristics, the methods of communication employed, the content and appeal of the message, and the resources available for the recruitment effort. Research suggests that multiple points of contact can significantly enhance recruitment rates, but there is a point of diminishing returns where additional follow-ups may not yield a proportional increase in recruitment. To strike a balance, it is critical to analyze past recruitment campaigns’ data, understand participant engagement patterns, and adjust strategies accordingly. For instance, a few studies have found that three follow-up contacts—combining emails, phone calls, and social media reminders—are sufficient to achieve an optimal recruitment rate.

Lifepanel does not source its panel respondents from other panels, marketing lists or river samples in comparison to the majority of online access panels. Since Lifepanel is a probability-based online panel, the source for all our respondents is a dual-frame RDD sample with all possible telephone number combinations for a specific country. From that frame we draw either a stratified random sample or a simple random sample. The sample is then filtered for working numbers and compared to establishment listings, and dialed within a CATI centre in order to recruit panel members.

Lifepanel streamlines the recruitment process with an initial invitation via text, followed by a call and a second message to engage potential respondents.

Comparing effectiveness in panel recruitment via piggyback on existing surveys versus direct recruitment in building an online European Probability panel

Between late December 2022 and February 2023, Lifepanel setup both strategies, direct recruitment and recruitment via piggyback on existing surveys, for recruitment of panel members in Germany. The recruitment strategy encompassed various campaigns employing RDD sampling and CATI contact methods. We measured both recruitment strategies, their productivity and panel representativeness. The analysis unveiled the following insights: the direct recruitment method demonstrated a commendable alignment with demographic distributions. Read more about the different modes of recruitment in Lifepanel.

Challenges of attracting respondents

One significant hurdle is the demographic reach of the survey. Certain groups may find it harder to access due to various factors such as limited internet access, language barriers, or mistrust in research intentions. Privacy concerns also play a role; in an era where data breaches are not uncommon, potential participants may be hesitant to share personal information. Furthermore, the length and complexity of a survey can deter respondents who may not have the time or inclination to complete long or complex questionnaires.


To overcome the challenges of attracting respondents, researchers must employ strategic and creative recruitment methods. Tailoring communications to highlight the importance and benefits of the study can help in making it more appealing. Ensuring anonymity and confidentiality can alleviate privacy worries.

Simplifying survey processes and offering incentives are effective tactics for boosting participation rates.

Incentives are one way to recruit people to the panel, offering a tangible reward for their participation and time. Whether it is financial compensation, gift cards, discounts on services or products, or even the allure of exclusive access to information or events, these incentives can significantly increase the likelihood of individuals agreeing to take part. However, it is essential that the incentives provided align with the demographics being targeted to ensure they are appealing and appropriate. Moreover, transparency about how these incentives are distributed and any associated expectations are crucial in maintaining trust and integrity within the panel.

At Lifepanel, the importance of motivation and ensuring that the respondent’s efforts are not only rewarded but also appreciated, is well understood. By providing a range of incentives customised to suit various preferences, panellists can play a significant role in shaping research studies. Lifepanel ensures that the process of redeeming incentives is straightforward and convenient for its panel members. The portal offers an overview of earned credits, surveys completed, and past payouts, enabling members to stay informed and organized.

Marketing Coordinator at Sample Solutions B.V. in Skopje. Highly creative person with a positive outlook on life, passionate about the latest digital marketing techniques and strategies.