Panel-Based Versus People-Based Marketing: Finding The Right Strategy For A Successful Customer Experience

Blog Post

Panel-Based Versus People-Based Marketing

The economic impact of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come. Once companies have proved they are resilient and in a position to act, they will adjust to the new normal and the changed landscape that comes with this. They will take advantage of the opportunities caused  by the faster pace the digital transformation has generated.

Recalibrating two complementary marketing strategies remains a challenge. For decades, marketing activities have been conducted on the basis of market research (panel-based) and personal insights (people-based). A frequent question that has gone largely unanswered at many companies concerns the expectations for results delivered by these two marketing strategies and how much focus to place on each of them once the pandemic has ended.

Panel-based marketing

Market research involves the systematic exploration of a specific submarket along with identifying the needs of all market participants. The results are then used to analyse and forecast future market and product trends as well as plan strategic marketing activities. 

Panel research makes it possible to track consumer behaviour over time and conduct market research even in cases where there is no direct contact with the customer or access to first-party customer data. The basic premise is that a panel constitutes a representative sample of a target group, which is why the results can be extrapolated to the target group as a whole.

The following questions can generally be answered in relation to market competitors:

  • What is the level of brand awareness?
  • Who are the users, customers or buyers?
  • How often is the brand used?
  • Who are the (main) competitors?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses?
  • How is the brand rated overall?
  • Which target groups can be defined based on panel data?

People-based marketing

People-based marketing allows a company to communicate with customers seamlessly across all channels. The company’s first-party customer data and third-party target groups can be leveraged to reach existing customers and acquire new ones.

Target groups defined via panels can be further refined using look-alike modelling based on existing customers. Modelling is done based on a combination of various demographic data such as age distribution, social status and household structure. Characteristics carried from one group to another are used to link modelled target groups and existing first-party customer data, making it possible to identify strong affinities for brands, products and purchasing patterns among existing customers.

If first-party customer data is missing or not of sufficient quality, this issue is remedied or its effects mitigated using reference pools of matching data. This markedly improves the quality of incomplete and imprecise customer data and prepares it for use in marketing.

Matching data includes:

  • Official, micro-geographic and socio-demographic data 
  • Real estate, vehicle, transaction and panel data that reveals an affinity for products even before the first click

Collaboration between marketing and sales is also raised to a new level, as a company’s customer base is now used as a common point of reference.

Customer expectations

By placing the focus squarely on the customer, their expectations soon become apparent. Respect and relevance are two key factors for ensuring successful experiences, regardless of whether you are talking about customers or prospects. 

As a consequence, both strategies are needed. More is needed than developing products on the basis of individual customers or targeting an individual customer using generic market analyses alone.


  • The right time in the customer life cycle, 
  • The right way to start a customer journey and 
  • The right moment for customer interaction

is crucial to ensuring an exceptional customer experience for everyone.


Who at a company is responsible for ensuring the best possible customer experience? In the past that question was easy to answer. There was one person in charge of this task. These days, C-level executives from sales, marketing, data and analytics, compliance and IT are involved. Working as a team, they have to find answers to marketing-related questions such as:

  • What is an effective strategy to target customers in a respectful and relevant manner using panel-based and people-based marketing tools?
  • How much time and effort is spent on market research to develop products and services?
  • To what extent should market research be used to target individual customers?
  • Where does the process of acquiring customer data, deriving preferences and monitoring customer behaviour begin?
  • How closely are customers and prospects analysed?
  • Can the negative effects of a more granular analysis be avoided?
  • How can a connection be established between markets and people?

Holistic marketing approach

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mix of these two marketing strategies was shifting more toward a personalised customer approach. In recent months, customers have increasingly come to expect that they can orchestrate their experience across all digital channels. This has become deeply rooted in the public’s mind. They can no longer imagine going back to the way things used to be.

The way market research delivers added value is changing. The goal is no longer to define target groups through panel research, but rather to size and prioritise investments in personalisation. Consistent personalisation has the potential to significantly increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of marketing.

Data-driven, people-based marketing can be expected to boost marketing efficiency by between 20 and 30 percent as more information about customers is acquired. Having a coherent, far-reaching strategy of personalisation in marketing has the potential to produce even higher gains.