What Mail Diary Panel does

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Mail Diary Operations

Frequently Asked Questions




Mail Diary Panel Operations

Mail Diary Panel History
The Mail Diary Consumer Purchase and Consumption/Usage Panel has been in continuous operation since 1969. Mail Diary Panelists maintain a diary record of their purchases (all month) and consumption/usages, and then mail in the diary at the end of each calendar month.

How is the Panel Structured?
The basic national panel is a sample of approximately 5000 households originally developed in 1969 by taking a random nth name selection from a national file of resident telephone and auto registration listings. Recruiting is now accomplished by mail and internet (on a full "opt in" basis) and includes a commitment on the part of all members of each household to cooperate in reporting.

The panel is representative and projectable. It is proportioned to the nine U.S. census regions, balanced on the demographic factors of age of homemaker, family income, size of family, race and density of population, and projected to the national household census.

How Does Mail Diary Panel Work?
Each month a printed purchase/usage diary is sent to the participating panel family. During the month the homemaker is requested to enter into the diary, each time the family shops, a record of products purchased and used by all members of the family (including the spouse and children). Data typically includes date, brand name, type or flavor as appropriate, motivation, quantity, size, price paid, response to promotions, type of outlet, and who, when, how often, where, how much and for what purpose the product is consumed/used.

At the end of the month the diary is mailed back to our offices. The diary sent out for the next month's purchases serves as a reminder to mail back the current diary.

Mail Diary Panel uses sophisticated datebase techniques.Data Collection
Data collection is on a monthly calendar basis for both the Purchase and the Consumption/Usage Diaries. Project Directors review the coding and the listings. We have developed proprietary computer programs to ensure the validity of responses.

Diary Format
The form and content of the diary is an important factor in the degree of cooperation elicited and the completeness and accuracy of the information obtained. Mail Diary Panel's diary is an optimum working tool because we carefully limit the number of categories surveyed each month. The most pertinent questions are asked first, and ample space and detailed instructions and examples are provided. Most important, each diary is custom-designed with your input so that you can add special questions (e.g. attitude and usage) to meet your marketing needs.

Sample Design
Quota sampling procedures were followed to make the panel representative of the national household population of the country in terms of Region, Density, Age of Homemaker, Income, Household Size and Race.

Sample Maintenance
A continuing panel is a dynamic entity. To be representative of the universe, which is constantly changing, it is necessary to conduct a continuous recruiting program. Also we are constantly replacing panel households that dissolve, become unresponsive, or drop out. Accordingly, a continuous recruiting program is in operation. Normal panel turnover is 15% annually.

Sample Balancing and Projection System
Because of shifts and changes in the universe, as well as the non-response factor in the initial or continuing panel membership, imbalances can exist between the sample proportions and the proportions in the total population. To adjust for these disproportionalities, the households in the sample are assigned weights through a computer program.

The program is based on a mathematical model originally devised by Dr. W. Edwards Deming and used by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The program weights and projects the sample to a number of outside characteristics. It computes the proper weights for each cell to bring the sample into line with total population distribution (Census data updated annually). For example, if in the return sample the percentage of Homemakers in the age bracket 18 to 34 were 25%, and the current Census data shows the proportion in the total population to be 30%, the sample figure is weighted up by 1.2. The program calculates the weighting of a sample to make it agree with independent control data on six characteristics simultaneously - Age of Homemaker, Household Income, Household Size, Region, Density and Race. All aspects of the weighting program are in accord with generally accepted research procedures in use throughout the industry.

Response Rates and Incentives
Approximately 70% of the panel return the diary. A household is dropped from the panel when it has failed to return the diary on three consecutive occasions. To motivate and reward panelists an incentive program is provided, based on an award point system to qualify the panelists for gifts from a catalog.

Analysis, Presentation and Reporting
MAIL DIARY PANEL'S concept is to deliver tabular data at the lowest cost possible. Additional analyses are made available to all clients at additional nominal charges, depending upon the size of the presentation and the frequency of preparation. Every computer program is custom built and confidential to each client. Charting on key measures is available on request.

The operations staff is maintained under a Director who has had twenty years' experience in handling panel data. The Operations Department includes an experienced editing & coding staff with individuals trained in each category, an in-house data entry and programming staff and a complete report generator program. These elements make possible accurate data collection and flexible reporting.

Our clients include both large and medium sized companies. Our services are valuable to both. Please call us for references.