Typology of Respondents and Model of Empathic Communication

Have you ever wondered who your respondents are and what motivates them to devote their time to you? In the digital era of the research industry and the growing popularity of online research, it is worth asking yourself the above question. Knowledge about respondents allows you to understand their perspective as a key participant in the research process and build a valuable relationship with them.

Data from the latest report “Respondent, Consumer, Citizen” prepared by SoftArchitect and Herstories indicate that respondents regularly participating in market research are people who are engaged, socially responsible, aware of their own role in the research process and the impact they have on the decisions of marketing managers. By completing surveys regularly, they feel like partners with a research agency.

Respondent communication in a “Research 4.0” world

Improving the quality of collected data, improving the efficiency of business operations, and appropriate design and management of online research are the milestones of Research 4.0 – digital transformation of the research market.

In order to provide the respondent with a valuable journey through the world of the research, a paradigm shift in the relations between agencies and respondents is needed. For research companies, this means the need to find and to adjust new methods and tools for conducting research. It should start from new channels of contact with respondents, through dynamic engagement analysis, management of valuable relationships, implementation of new technologies, ending with the training of specialists. This is an important and necessary step for the research industry towards digital transformation.

The development of the research market should focus on searching for new standards for conducting research, thanks to which the satisfaction and commitment of respondents will increase. The direction for improving the quality of research should be the development of the area of benefits related to emotional currency (respontaiment).

The Standard Research approach: research panel, interview, transaction, questionnaire, stationarity

The Research 4.0 approach: community, conversation, relationship, surveytainment, mobility, humanization & empathy

The typology of respondents was created on the basis of the most important motivations, costs and profits of people participating in online panels. Finally five groups of respondents were characterized, stretched on the axis of motivations from financial to sense of mission ones. A recommendation for a communication model has been developed for each group.

Type 1: Panel Gamers – in Search of Endorphins

This is the largest group of people completing online surveys. They take part in research for pleasure, and each new study is an adventure for them. They are “drawn in” to filling out surveys and cannot imagine a day without participating in some kind of study. Of those people, 41% admit that participation in research gives them a boost of energy, 34% every day checks whether they have received an invitation to a new study.

They are waiting for new research and surveys. They are open to a variety of research, they like challenges. The more commitment the study requires, the better. They are looking for a community of panelists through which they could participate in more interesting research projects.

Tip: Reward for loyalty, contact them often

In order to communicate effectively with Panel Gamers, it should be done regularly and often – preferably every day. Send regular invitations to participate in surveys, not limited to surveys. Invite to newer and newer projects. Appreciate personal commitment and willingness to participate in the study.

Reward for loyalty and responsiveness. Build a community of panelists, serving the exploration of relationships and exchanging experiences – but also allowing for networking in terms of learning about new panels and new types of research. Through communication in the media, emphasize the importance of those who are strongly involved in the panels and their role in shaping the research community.

Type 2: Energetic missionaries – Smoking the Sense of Power

This group sees its participation in online research as extremely socially necessary to the greatest extent. By participating in the panels, they derive a sense of power and influence. On average, 52% of panelists like to see products in stores that they rated in the h survey, 51% like to see rated ads in the media.

For them, participating in online panels is an expression of citizenship. They believe that their participation in panel research is changing the world for the better. They want to boast about their participation in projects that are important or simply interesting.

They want  the panelist to be  associated with a certain prestige resulting from his role in society. A community of panelists where they could connect with other panelists would be extremely attractive to them.

Tip: Appreciate engagement, emphasize the importance of research 

In communication with energy missionaries, emphasize the features of the project that testify to its importance for society, consumers, service recipients, etc. Appreciate their personal commitment to changing the world for the better. Allow them to show off the participation in panels and specific research projects. Build a community of panelists to establish relationships and exchange experiences. Through communication in the media, develop the image of online panels as socially responsible and increase the social prestige of people taking part in research.

Type 3: Socially obliged – Mission requires sacrifices

Like energy missionaries, they see participation in online panels as socially necessary, with them filling out surveys more out of a sense of commitment. 6% of panelists admit that participating in research is sometimes tiring for them. They feel causative, but they lack positive reinforcement.

They want their voice to be heard, because it gives them satisfaction to share their opinion. They want the panelist to be  associated with a certain prestige resulting from his role in society. In their opinion, this is a subservient role to society. Also for this group, the group of panelists would be extremely attractive, they would like to establish contact with other panelists.

Tip: Appreciate the time spent, positively strengthen

Socially obliged people need communication in which they receive positive reinforcement and appreciation of personal commitment and time spent. Highlight the low energy load associated with the research project and give them the opportunity to choose fewer surveys to participate.

Type 4: System Hackers – A lot of hype, a lot of emotions

This group derives a sense of being smart and agile from participating in web panels. System hackers perceive participation in panels as their special skill. 32% admit that they participate in many panels and know how to make money on it. For them, it’s a kind of competition with the system, but also a way to show cunning.

They would like to know all the panels and all the ways to make money. They want to be associated with experts who have learned the secrets of the panel ‘matrix’. For them, the panelist community would be a group of students to share knowledge and show their competences.

Tip: Appreciate knowledge, praise cleverness, set new challenges

In communication with System Hackers, their expertise and level of commitment should be appreciated. It is worth presenting the online panel as caring about “old veterans” and clever panelists. Invite them to increasingly difficult projects and pose new challenges.

Give the opportunity to show off their participation in online panels and specific research projects. Build a community of panelists to share expertise and establish relationships. Through communication in the media, develop the image of online panels as interesting challenges.

Type 5: Reliable earners – penny to penny

In this group, participation in online panels is perceived very rationally, as an additional work. Completing surveys is a way to earn extra money, and a panelist is a profession that should be treated with respect. The money earned “on the panels” is too small to give them internal satisfaction, but so large that they do not want to resign from participation.

Reliable earners would like to receive a lot of simple, low-tiring and regular panel tests, providing them with a predictable source of additional income. A community of panelists would be attractive to them, as long as it helped them to know which panels are most profitable to participate in at a given moment and which to avoid. For 26%, participation in research is only additional earnings.

Tip: Reward in time, communicate transparently

In order to communicate effectively with Reliable Earners, their loyalty and meticulousness should be rewarded. Present the online panel transparently, as a timely settlement of panelists. Allow you to choose more tests and make quick withdrawals.

Build a community of panelists to learn about panels worth your time. Through communication in the media, take care of increasing the social prestige of panelists.

  • 52% of panelists like to see products in stores that they rated in surveys,
  • 51% of panelists like to see rated ads in the media,
  • 45% of panelists believe that participation in research changes the world for the better,
  • 26% of panelists take part in research only for additional earnings,
  • 46% of panelists admit that participation in research gives them a sense of influence on reality.

When communicating with respondents, you need to remember their key needs: respect, being treated fairly, relationships and community, emotions and entertainment. Participants in online research expect researchers to connect and interact at every stage of the research process.


  • Consider running a responsive blog and building a research community. A blog written under the supervision of substantive people, as a compendium of knowledge about research.
  • Introduce emotional communication based on emotional benefits (providing fun, gamification, a sense of importance, subjectivity and respect),
  • Use feedback communication, i.e. answering questions in the real-time formula (hotline, chatbots).

As a society, we are becoming more and more aware of marketing processes. It is time to finally recognize that on the other side of the panel there is no impersonal respondent waiting, but a conscious “responsumer” (respondent- consumer). The new responsive approach to research, assumes conducting personalized activities and using communication tools.

The aim is to be able to build communities of satisfied respondents and maintain good relations with hem. All this is going to translate into a new quality of data and efficiency of business operations, as well as open the door to the humanization of the digital world of research 4.0.