Panel data friend or foe?

Date of publication: June 15, 1994

Author: Nick Francis


Royal Mail, the letter delivery business of the Post Office, subscribed to a bespoke consumer panel comprising 1000 households in April 1985. This paper briefly examines the day to day operation of the panel, including agency input and traces the development and changes required to the diary questionnaire to date. The paper then covers in far greater detail the main types of analysis derived from the panel and the uses to which they are put. This will include data that shows the uptake of retail stamps, the rise in direct mail and the effect on mail volumes during the 1988 postal strike. During this 5 week strike, mail was put on ice by the mailer, until the strike ended, or simply not posted according to content type. The usefulness of the panel as a platform for additional Ad-Hoc questionnaires will be demonstrated. The panel achieves cost savings and more importantly the analysis proves more useful to product managers. Data from these Ad-Hoc surveys is easily linked to the main data with the result that a full picture of "just how the average consumer interacts with Royal Mail" is built up. One such example demonstrates how the perception of consumers about how long they take to pay bills is different to the actual time taken. The effect of piggy backing additional Ad-Hoc surveys on to the main panel will be investigated. This takes the form of an analysis of the different response levels both prior to questionnaire despatch and subsequent periods following return. The response data analysed is from 1992 to the present date.

Nick Francis


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