26 Oct Talking ‘Bout My Generation: The Evolution of Online Marketing Research
Utilizing reliable market research on an ongoing basis is the most effective way to ensure a successful marketing campaign. Nevertheless, for many companies, the benefits of conducting marketing research and the costs of conducting marketing research always seem to be at odds:
Marketing research can be expensive. Not knowing your customer’s needs can be costly.
The traditional solution to this quagmire is to go on gut instinct or apply someone else’s findings to your customers. However, these approaches only work over time if: you can find consistent, reliable third-party research on an ongoing basis; and, the gut feelings you trust don’t turn out to be an ulcer.
This is why market-savvy companies of all sizes are going online for answers — answers provided by their customers. Inside Research, a newsletter for the market research industry estimates that 23.6 percent of all market research spending this year will involve Internet surveys, compared to 10 percent in 2000 and 33 percent projected by 2006.
The Internet has proven to be quicker, more accurate and less expensive then traditional market research methods.
Quantitative Research: The Need for Speed
Today the Internet can be used effectively for most quantitative research, such as market analysis, customer preference studies, ad testing, and customer satisfaction research. This is because the Internet easily transforms mailed forms and phone calls into online forms, where results are stored in a database and can be tabulated on-the-fly, in real time.
Online marketing research has offers many advantages:
Although preparation costs are be higher, the cost of online quantitative research is typically lower than its counterparts. For example, a traditional phone survey costing $50,000 might cost $10,000 to conduct online. Savings are even greater in instances where surveys are conducted periodically because online surveys can be repeated with less effort.
The timeline for online research is compressed. A traditional consumer survey taking three or four weeks might be completed online in as little as 10 days.
Online research that is not distributed via email provides customers with complete anonymity. This can be helpful when market research includes personal questions. Some people are willing to share personal experiences and criticism online that they may be reluctant to share with an interviewer.
Online marketing research doesn’t need to take the form of a survey. For example, online calculators and product selection tools can collect market data.
Qualitative Research: Proceed with Caution
It is more difficult for the Internet to replace qualitative research, where the focus is on “why” customers like or dislike, approve or disapprove, of something. Like focus groups, these situations often require a facilitator, or moderator, to pull meaningful personal responses from initial reactions.
Conducting research online is not always a straightforward matter:
Internet research is cost effective, but it isn’t cost free. Preparation is important. It’s important to identify the proper survey sample, questionnaire, and determine what data weighing and/or incentives might be requires to bolster participation. You also need to define how incoming data will be stored and evaluated.
Test. Test. Test. The speed of Internet research makes it unforgiving. By the time you identify problems, a large portion of your customers may have already completed a survey with errors, or attempted to complete a survey that failed.
One of the things that makes Internet market research so cost effective, is the ability to manage participation via email. The trade off of this advantage is privacy. For some survey participants, lack of anonymity can be a concern. As a result, its not a bad idea for companies to use a third-party research company to manage surveys. These companies can often guarantee that participant identities will not be disclosed.
Nevertheless, companies are finding ways to use the Internet as an effective tool for qualitative research. For example, Hershey uses Internet research it to test products. Procter & Gamble uses it to conduct consumer research.
The Market-Led Evolution
By providing a lower cost of entry,and quicker turnaround than traditional marketing research methods, the Internet invites more small and mid-sized companies to experience target market insights first-hand.
One of the most exciting aspects of Internet marketing research is witnessing its ability to evolve the mindset of companies that used to view market research as unnecessary, or as a luxury.
Companies are experiencing market research. They are becoming market-led. They are becoming better marketers than they were before – and in many cases, better marketers than the competition.
Troy Janisch is president and founder of the Icon Interactive Group (www.iconinteractive.com), an industry leader helping companies integrate Internet and other Interactive media into sales channels, marketing strategies, and overall branding. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.