Discover the top panel management software solutions in 2023, as we compare features, pricing, and user experiences to help you streamline your research process and optimize participant engagement.
ResearchOps teams are constantly looking for the best panel management software to streamline the time-consuming and complex challenges of participant recruitment, scheduling, and user testing.
In a world of constant market research, panels are the go-to solution for organizations to achieve fast results. There are panels for quant, panels for qual, panel providers, panel aggregators, agencies with panels, and panels of panels—it's a confusing mess of opaque participant databases.
For UX researchers and Research Ops professionals, this panel solution doesn't align with their research goals and objectives. UXR professionals want the best panel management software to:
Streamline the time-consuming and complex challenges of participant recruitment
Manage their own participants—people who use their products
Source external participants—via Intercepts, email campaigns, etc.
Automatically schedule participants, team members, and stakeholders
Invite participants to different types of interviews (self-moderated, moderated)
As a niche discipline within UX, finding a ResearchOps tool that serves the specialized needs of researchers is challenging. We've assessed the best panel management software available to researchers in 2023 and why you might choose one over the other.
Why do researchers use panel management software?
Agencies are expensive, and providers are full of bots and fakers. Many research teams find themselves wanting more control over their audience for research.
UX researchers want a platform that lets them:
Recruit the right participants through screening, demographics, and other filters.
Manage consent, privacy, and legal compliance
Centralize participant management and governance of access control for employees and stakeholders
Scheduling with Syncs team member's calendars for study bookings
Pay incentives globally with details that matter to research ops teams and researchers:
Full branding—white label service
Currencies and countries.
We love that Ethnio lets us maintain our brand identity by customizing every visual and copy element of the emails and redemption pages. As a design-focused company, this is critical to us.Lowell ReadeSenior UX Research Program Manager, Duolingo
Ethnio — Best Enterprise Grade ResearchOps Platform
Ethnio is the gold standard for UXR panel management for research teams at leading organizations including Intuit, Meta, Airbnb, Cisco, Dropbox and more. It's the first and only research CRM built specifically by UXRs.
Most panel management software is secretly trying to sell you their panel. It's as simple as that. Ethnio is the only platform that offers 100% organic ownership of your end-to-end participant management without bloat, upsells, and external panel offerings.
Instead of relying on questionable external lists or external panels buying lists, Ethnio enables organizations to:
Import lists from internal cohorts
Integrate with their product and two-way sync
Intercept via the web or in-app
Having one place where my team can setup complex targeting for intercepts and funnel prospective customers through our panel management rules is absolutely game changing.Sarah BowlinSenior UX Researcher
Intercepts enable researchers to embed recruitment popup forms anywhere in your product ecosystem, including Web, iOS, and Android. Typically, teams use dedicated intercept tools that are difficult to integrate with panel management's privacy, workflow, and legal requirements—these additional tools also increase costs. Ethnio Intercepts are integrated with the platform and are fully white-label.
Researchers can use filters and triggers to intercept only the participants that meet study requirements or use specific features.
Pool is Ethnio's CRM purpose-built for ResearchOps' unique needs. Researchers can upload user databases or sync with other CRMs via Ethnio's API. Any participants recruited via Intercepts will also appear in Pool, and Ethnio provides automatic data enrichment for user interactions and research.
Other key Pool features include:
Mask PII details
Rules and governance
Tagging and segmentation
Subject performance and engagement tracking
Advanced drag-and-drop email builder
Pool offers advanced automation you won't find in other UX research tools, most notably:
Dynamic Tagging: automatically enriches participant data based on Intercept and Screener interactions and testing.
Tag Exclusivity: create rules to automatically override persona tags based on how they respond to future Screeners.
Researchers can customize Ethnio's Screeners to screen, segment, and recruit participants using 16 question types and advanced qualifying logic. You can also conduct light surveys to get instant feedback from users regarding a specific screen, feature, or product.
Ethnio's native Scheduling feature allows organizations to connect every team member and stakeholder's calendar to automate study scheduling at a time that suits everyone—including Round Robin logic, multi-session scheduling, group session scheduling, and more.
Researchers can also set hard and soft quotas with customizable logic to find the most valuable participants for every study. Notable features include:
Create multiple hard and soft quotas
Customize condition logic for each quota
Use color coding and shortcuts to visualize quotas
Invite team members and stakeholders to review and approve or decline participants
Most panel management software providers use third-party vendors for participant incentives (payouts), often resulting in unexpected fees and expenses. These third parties also impact participant privacy and create additional risk for enterprise research teams.
Ethnio's built-in payout feature, Incentives, allows companies to pay participants in any currency worldwide. Researchers can also offer electronic gift cards, or participants can choose one of 40+ charities to donate their incentive.
Researchers can monitor payouts, set tax limits, and manage access, from a single centralized dashboard without switching to third-party tools. They can also automate weekly or monthly reporting emails to relevant stakeholders on research spending.
Ethnio works on a per-seat price model with four plans, including an Enterprise package. The Starter plan starts at $79 per seat per month. Book a call to learn about Ethnio’s Enterprise package giving you complete access to the entire product suite.
What clients say about Ethnio
“We use Ethnio when we need to talk to people that a recruitment agency just wouldn't be able to find. We often want people who are in the early stages of researching or using our product, and are in the right mindset. Other recruitment methods just don't cut it for these situations.” Lynsey T. UX Research Lead, Shopify
User Interviews — Biggest Public Panel
One of User Interviews' strongest selling points is the company's 1.5+ million public participants. Researchers can filter the User Interviews database to target users based on demographics, location, and other criteria.
While recruiting is fast with User Interviews, the quality of participants and relevance to your product/market is a contentious topic in the ResOps industry. It's common for public participants to fake their credentials or create multiple accounts. Additionally, User Interviews owns this data.
Another User Interviews benefit is the platform's Free Forever plan on Research Hub, giving early-stage startups and solopreneurs an entry-level research CRM with basic automation and up to 100 contacts—keep in mind you must still pay if you recruit participants from the public panel.
User Interviews Research Hub is supposed to be an answer to Ethnio's enterprise-level toolkit, but the platform lacks comparable features.
User Interviews offers two product types:
Recruit: source participants from User Interviews' public panel
Research Hub: a CRM to manage and recruit your own participants
Recruit offers a pay-as-you-go plan for $45 per session or $175 per month for unlimited seats and 60 sessions per year. If you go over your annual session quota, User Interviews bills $45 per session. For high-volume user testing, this model can get very expensive.
Research Hub plans start at $250 monthly for 1,000 CRM contacts and unlimited research seats.
What clients say about User Interviews
"Fast, cheap, effective. User Interviews is everything I need and nothing I don't. I love it and recommend it to everyone!" – Michelle Avelis - Sr. Design Researcher at REI
Qualtrics — Best Survey and CX Platform
Qualtrics is arguably one of the most advanced customer experience research platforms. Its powerful CRM provides organizations with a single source of truth for customer databases and powerful quantitative research tools.
While Qualtrics is undoubtedly a powerful platform with sophisticated features, they serve customer experience and marketing teams rather than UX researchers.
Other than email and public panels, Qualtrics has no means to recruit participants for studies or provide features like scheduling, incentives, screening, or panel management.
All ResOps teams have with Qualtrics is a CRM, mass email functionality, public recruitment, and surveys. To get features comparable with Ethnio, researchers must use external tools or traditional manual workflows.
It's also important to note that Qualtrics is one of the most expensive CRMs, and researchers must pay extra for studies using the platform's public panels.
Qualtrics doesn't display pricing, but users report it's in the "premium pricing range." Clients must book a demo to design a bespoke package.
What clients say about Qualtrics
"Many IT projects fail because they don't think about the user experience. We're using Qualtrics to gather feedback from stakeholders and take action to close experience gaps." Charlie Davies, Strategic Growth Manager at Costain (UK)
HubUX — Best Market Research Platform
HubUX is a market research recruiting tool with thousands of participants from the platform's public panel. The platform is free, but you pay 50% of the incentive for each completed response.
This low-fee structure is HubUX's strongest selling point, particularly for small businesses, startups, and solopreneurs looking to test a new idea or gather insights from a specific audience segment without committing to a monthly payment plan.
HubUX allows researchers to ask participants a question they must answer via video audition. Researchers can review the submissions and approve studies with the best prospects.
Researchers can select participants from HubUX's public panel or use paid ads and social media tools to recruit people from outside the platform, including B2B prospects through LinkedIn.
While this might seem like a value-add service, it comes with the expense of paid ads—a strategy you can achieve using any panel management software, including Ethnio, Qualtrics, and User Interviews' Research Hub, which have better CRMs.
HubUX only charges 50% of the incentive for completed responses. So, if you paid participants $100, HubUX would charge $150 and keep the $50 as a fee. HubUX's payment plan works for low-volume testing with small incentives but can get expensive as you scale.
Great Question — Low-Cost ResearchOps Tool
Great Question is a fantastic low-cost alternative to Ethnio. The platform offers similar features without the same degree of automation, scheduling, or Ethnio's Intercepts.
Great Question uses a third party tool called Nylas to power their scheduling integrations. This introduces a whole other third party that gets access to your data between Outlook, your organization, Nylas, and Great Question. Nylas has some pretty rough reviews and reliability problems that most likely translate to Great Question.
What Nylas customers say: “Immature solution with frustrating and disappointing experiences."
Great Question allows you to import your research database via CSV or integration like Salesforce, Snowflake, Google Workspace, and others using Zapier into the platform's Candidates feature (CRM). You can filter and segment participants in Candidates, set up screeners, and send email invites for studies.
Research teams can also set up landing pages to onboard participants with screening questions which they can share with their email list, social media, etc.
Great Question's Repository feature allows researchers to upload recordings and other artifacts. They can also import user interview recordings directly from Zoom. Researchers can tag artifacts and link them to participants in Candidates.
The Repository's Highlight Reel allows researchers to create a collection of clips from recent interviews with transcripts, making it easy for UX teams and stakeholders to review feedback on specific features and topics.
Great Question's library of 40+ research templates for interviews, surveys, and tests is a fantastic value-add for inexperienced researchers. Each template outlines the study's strengths and weaknesses and the insights you can gather.
Great Question's Starter plan is $10 per month for a single researcher and 20 panelists/participants. To get the platform's full features, you must sign up for an Enterprise Plan, which only offers 10,000 panelists. This pricing model makes sense for small teams and startups, but large-volume enterprise teams will get better value and more features using Ethnio.
What clients say about Great Question
"With Great Question, unmoderated usability studies, we get high-quality customer feedback, so we can make decisions a lot faster." — Emily Drumm, UX Researcher
Qualitative — Entry-Level Research Tool
Qualitative is an excellent budget entry-level UX research tool. If you only require the bare minimum for recruitment, testing, and incentive payouts, at a minimal monthly fee, then Qualitative is your best option. Researchers get access to Qualitative's complete feature list whether they're on an entry-level or Unlimited plan.
Qualitative is the only tool we analyzed other than Ethnio with an intercept feature. Unlike Ethnio's Intercepts which work on websites, desktop, and mobile apps, Qualitative's Interceptor only works on websites. You also won't get the same targeting, triggers, and logic with Qualitative's Interceptor.
Qualitative's Research Participant CRM allows you to segment audiences using filters, tags, and past studies/screener responses. You can also recruit participants via email from the CRM.
Qualitative has a straightforward, predictive pricing model starting at $50 per month for unlimited seats and 10,000 CRM participants.