Spotify, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon are some of the world’s most successful tech companies. They all share a common denominator – a subscription-based business model that requires users to input personal information to opt-in. Once connected, users can stream their favorite music and movies, buy and sell in the online marketplace, and engage on social media. Each interaction creates data points that feed algorithms and appeal to advertisers.

Similarly, today’s online sampling platforms are constructed from the data provided by subscriptions. Due to the high quantity of customer impressions available online, the insights gathered far surpass older, manual sourcing methods like cold calls and government-sourced lists.

As technology continues to evolve, online sample providers will need to incorporate these platforms and other innovative web-based methods into their toolkits to stay competitive amid the uncertainty of a rapidly changing market.

However, in my experience, there are a few essentials needed when building an online sampling platform that will not change no matter how much technology advances (at least for the next few decades).

In Subscription-Based Models, Email is King.

Email has endured the test of time and is almost always required when subscribing to any platform. While some marketers blast the masses via email, savvy marketers leverage email’s personalization capabilities to facilitate more individualized experiences. We see this play out as more companies shift away from transactional customer relationships to value-based ones that come with a monthly commitment and customized content. This is excellent news for the sample industry, which has come to rely on data from the tech giants (Google and Facebook) for panel recruitment. When creating an online panel, always give the person the option to subscribe with an email address. People are more willing to provide their email address over their phone number to an online subscription platform. Email is not only expected, but their opt-in is required to comply with privacy regulations. At ThinkNow, to join both of our proprietary panels, potential respondents are required to complete a double opt-in process with their email. ThinkNow implements security features that include Relevant ID technology, Captcha, URL verification, fingerprinting, and validation by voice, where call center representatives validate and activate each panelist.

You may ask, “Well, what about exchange platforms such as Lucid, PureSpectrum, and Cint?” Exchange platforms create the market where buyers and sellers of sample make transactions. Most of the exchange platform does not have proprietary panels. However, the sample sellers/suppliers still have a subscription-based platform that requires an email address to subscribe. Without email, it would be much harder for exchange platforms to thrive. Email is king!

Include Multicultural Panels in Your Online Sample Platform.

When building online sample platforms, it is essential to include multicultural participants in the general population mix. Online panels should have representation equal to the census of the country. This means going beyond monolithic stereotypes and diving deep into the nuances that define subcultures within each ethnic group.

For example, if you want to target Black Americans, don’t just build an interface that speaks to broader cultural inferences.  Market to different age groups, genders, and income levels within the Black community. Target Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers, and segment these audiences using geographic markers like city and state. Build two or three different panels that will get a broader representation of the country or geography.

If you fail to do so, you’ve just spent a great deal of time and money on a panel that won’t be representative, making it practically useless to companies and brands seeking to engage the total market. This can lead to disastrous results for clients and lost business opportunities. To stay competitive, you must effectively segment multicultural audiences to deliver a more accurate representation of the U.S. consumer base so clients can construct products and services to meet the market’s needs.  

Keep Up With Rapidly Developing Technological Innovations

Sears and RadioShack were once the biggest sellers of home goods and electronics until challenger brands, like Best Buy and Amazon, came along and put them out of business.  Before TikTok, there was an app called Vine that gave users the ability to record 6-second videos. At its peak, it was one of the most popular social media apps for teenagers. It no longer exists. The same principle applies to the online sampling industry. 

As technology continues to evolve, the websites where people interact and connect will change. Sample providers must stay well-informed in the latest recruitment tools to keep pace with technological progress and respondent expectations. If you do not, you run the risk of being outbid by competitors and having to invest in massive system overhauls down the line. At ThinkNow, for example, we diversify our recruitment process by targeting all things internet. We recruit from consumer-centric internet verticals like video game apps and social media. Leaning heavily on consumer channels like these will mitigate the risk of siloing outreach efforts, which can jeopardize your panel database’s viability over time.

Key Takeaways

Building an online sample platform with subscriptions (emails), segmented multicultural panels, and technological innovation is essential. While security, algorithms, APIs, and sales insights are also important, the three building blocks outlined in this post will provide you with a solid foundation to build a reliable online sample platform.