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Updated July 2007 re: payment options
~~~ First, the good news ~~~
Pinecone Research claim to be at the forefront of online research: “today’s sophisticated and leading-edge approach to gathering consumer opinion.” The company’s aim has been to recruit a wide cross-section of panellists, who are representative of consumers nationwide. The opinions of these panellists are vitally important to manufacturers in the research and development of new and existing products, and will influence “everything from product performance to style, varieties, features, pricing...you name it.”
I refuse to take part in market research for an entry into a prize draw, expecting a better reward for my time, and Pinecone score highly in this respect. In return for their opinions, panellists are paid a flat rate, £4 in Luncheon Vouchers for, most usually, filling in simple, multi-choice surveys. In addition, panellists may be asked to assist in product testing, for which they are paid another £4 after completing a product evaluation
~~~ Update 2007 ~~~
You now have the option to have your payment credited to a PayPal account instead of having luncheon vouchers sent through the post. Withdrawals are free, subject to PayPal's minimum threshold of £50, otherwise you will be charged a fee of 25p per withdrawal to any UK bank account.
~~~ Then, the bad news ~~~
Whereas you might find yourself bombarded with emails, pop-ups or referrals urging you to join this or that consumer research panel, you’ll need to do a bit of research yourself if you want to join Pinecone. This is because you can’t join up by going to their website directly. Pinecone recruit new panellists as they need them, by placing banners on other websites and the trick is to spot one of these and click through in order to register. Depending
on the type of consumers needed, you could find the banner almost anywhere, but be warned – they usually come and go from any given website quite quickly.
I have been told that it’s possible to find the banner with a bit of judicious searching on your preferred search engine, as the location of the banners can be found posted on message boards at various websites. If you can find a banner, you might still find that you won’t be eligible to join, unless you belong to the category Pinecone are searching for, which could be age related, for instance, or depending whether you have a baby under 12 months old, or be a pet owner. Should you fit the desired profile, you only need to complete a fairly standard registration form, giving brief personal and household details. If your application is successful, you’ll receive an email and details of your User ID and password, enabling you to activate your account. You may also be invited to answer some household questions; about pets, for instance, or what appliances you use. These details are used to match panellists to upcoming surveys.
~~~ The surveys ~~~
Once your account has been activated, you’ll start to receive invitations to take part in surveys, and – more good news - you will definitely be able to take part in them! No more clicking on a link only to find that the survey has been closed, or to spend five minutes answering ‘pre-screening’ questions and then be informed that you don’t match the required criteria. With Pinecone, you’re typically given five to seven days notice of a deadline date, during which you can complete the survey at your leisure. The invitation emails contain a link to the site, a reminder of your username/password, and the identification number of the survey you’ve been chosen for. Having clicked through to the correct survey, you have to type in ‘I agree’ to a confidentiality agreement before you can take part in a survey. Pinecone regularly send emails to panellists reminding them of the absolute necessity for confidentiality, stating that they will instantly remove from the register any panellists found to be breaking it.
The surveys themselves are well designed, and easy to understand. They tend to be in the form of multi-choice answers to questions about a particular product or concept, with the occasional need to type in more specific details about likes and dislikes. I’ve never considered any survey onerous, and have found it takes 10-20 minutes at most to complete them.
If there is a down side, it’s that I’ve not exactly been bombarded with surveys. At the moment (July 2007) I get an average of 2 to 4 surveys a month, so I'm not planning ot ordering that yacht just yet...
~~~ The rewards ~~~
These are what make Pinecone my favourite market research company. For every survey you complete, you’ll receive £4 worth of luncheon vouchers, in denominations of 50p and £1, and payments are always very prompt. They usually arrive within a couple of days after completion of the survey, unlike some schemes where you have to accumulate a minimum amount before you can ‘cash in’. Luncheon Vouchers are accepted at many major retailers, listed on the covers of the voucher book: supermarkets like Asda, Morrissons, Safeway, Sainsburys, Somerfield and Tesco, as well as many fast food outlets like KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King. You can exchange them for a meal or against your grocery shopping. Just remember to check the expiry date, although this is usually well in advance.
I also enjoy the thought that my opinions can actually influence what appears on supermarket shelves!
~~~ Product testing ~~~
On occasion, you may be invited to partake in product testing. You will be told exactly what this will involve, and if you agree to take part, you will receive another £4 worth of vouchers for taking part in the trial, as well as the product itself. I recently took part in such a trial, and enjoyed using the product I tested. Sorry – I can’t tell you what it was – confidentiality, you know!
~~~ The website ~~~
~~~ Overall opinion ~~~
As I said earlier, Pinecone Research is my favourite market research company (sorry, Ciao!). I enjoy completing their surveys and the product testing I‘ve taken part in, and the rewards are relatively very good. As I’ve said before, I refuse to take part in surveys unless there is a definite cash incentive. Prize draws are just a con, in my opinion. With Pinecone, you know that you will get to complete a survey if you receive an invitation, you have a chance to take part in actual product testing, and your payments arrive very promptly. The website is nothing to rave about, but it serves its purpose and the team behind it get nothing but praise from me. The only drawback is that you have to find that elusive banner in order to join, but in my opinion it’s worth the effort. Happy hunting!
Here’s the website address, in case you want to take a peek: