The digital technology age inspired many new forms of market research and businesses are wise to embrace this new change. Online market research has enabled researchers to communicate with respondents more easily, thanks to a huge increase of Internet users especially in social networking sites. Capturing and collecting information is done at a less expensive rate with a faster turnaround time.
While online market research doesn’t really differ from traditional market research methods, it is still a fairly new industry. This is why most businesses prefer outsourced research services especially now that there are so many ways to conduct market research online.
Here’s a guide to better understand what online market research can do for your business and hopefully, take advantage of it whether you do it with your own marketing research team or choose outsourced research services. If you are a market researcher, consider this as a starting point to jumpstart your research with a comprehensive list of tips and resources.
Chapter 1: Benefits of Online Market Research for Business
As market research evolved to adapt to the growing digital trend, businesses have started to use online channels and methods to conduct research. There are a number of benefits to conducting online market research, including:
1. Noticeably faster to conduct and generate results.
Online market research has a rapid turnaround. Undertaking a project from the initial concept to drawing out the final report can be finished within a few a days compared to several weeks involved with traditional research such as face to-face interviews and surveys.
2. Significantly less expensive.
It is a more practical and affordable alternative, especially when conducting large research projects. It is possible to get thousands of responses for less money compared to generating the same results using the traditional method.
3. More comprehensive.
Since it is done online, boundaries when it comes to target reach, selection, and scope are generally limitless. You can choose a wide targeted area and select people according to their behavior and interests, not just demographics. This results to better and more precise results.
For example, asking a 70-question survey is easier and faster to complete when done online and drop out rates (incomplete finishers) are markedly lower than when done using traditional methods. Online methods can use a variety of ways such as graphics, a rest timer or a short video to keep respondents engaged, alert and easy to understand questions and answer them quickly.
4. Better respondent selection leading to better customer insights.
Respondents are more likely to give honest answers online than face to face. The “interviewer effect” is eliminated because respondents do not experience the impact of interacting with an interviewer, so the concern whether they will be judged according to their answers isn’t a factor.
People usually feel they have their own space online and when they feel comfortable, they are usually more revealing in online surveys compared to traditional research methods such as face to face or phone interviews.
Since respondents also answer when it is comfortable for them and not the other way around, the quality of responses also increases.
5. Use of multimedia to help respondents answer in context.
Questions are put in a better context when mixed with images, links to more information and other multi-media resources to help respondents quickly clarify any question they are unsure of.
6. Precision and reliability.
With technology aiding online market research methods to have fully automated questionnaires in terms of collecting responses and screening questions, the risk of human error decreases. It also makes tracking easier because data monitoring is real-time and automated.
Chapter 2: Steps to Effective Online Market Research
Just like any process, online market research needs to have a step-by-step procedure to ensure goals are met.
We have outlined five essential steps to effective online market research.
1. Define your research goals.
This is the most important step and should be done first. You need to clearly define or identify your objectives so the scope and method of research you choose can purposely answer or meet your objectives.
Ask yourself, “What do I want to know?” Define what you want to find out and from whom. This way, the entire research can proceed with more direction – setting the appropriate questions and method and identifying a target audience.
2. Identify your target audience (respondents).
For you to find out answers for your objectives, it is important to set qualifications for your target respondents. This way, you can be sure of the accuracy and precision of your research.
Designing a sampling plan, or simply put, qualifications of your respondents, needs to come before you even decide what kind of research method you will be undertaking.
Sampling criteria might include respondent profession, geographic location, primary facility type, product use, and/or areas of interest. Broader respondent qualifications tend to produce larger sample sizes, while more specific qualifications narrow the population of possible respondents and lead to smaller sample sizes.
3. Design an effective research method with built-in validation abilities.
Your chosen research method must be designed to deliver the information you need.
Here are some tips when designing online survey questions:
- Write clear, precise and short questions.
- Each question should just ask for one piece of information.
- Word your questions without bias – this means be wary of wording your questions that might point to a preference for a certain answer. Examples of these are avoiding Yes/No questions and randomizing answer lists.
- Frequently vary your types of questions because a string of similar questions will almost always lead to a string of similar answers.
- Beware of open-ended questions. If used, limit to two or three maximum.
- Give respondents opt-out options, example: “I don’t know” should be one of the answer choices.
- Use multimedia to stimulate and engage your respondents.
- KISS. Keep it short and simple. As a rule, surveys should be feasibly completed within ten minutes. If you are giving them choices, don’t give them a list of too many possible answers.
4. Control and monitor participation.
Once you have identified your target respondents and designed your survey, the next step is to ensure implementation of your chosen research method is strictly done. The thing about doing research online is you can actively monitor in real-time participation and control who opts-in. Survey security and respondent verification are critical elements on this step. Partial online survey results should be continuously monitored throughout the data collection process.
5. Translate collected data into actionable information.
The last part of making sure your research is effective is ensuring thoughtful and experienced interpretation of data is carried out in the end. No matter how sophisticated your method is or specific your goal is, if your data isn’t converted into information that answers your questions (step 1), your research can be considered a failure.
Make sure that your reports have results that are easy to understand in a format that best displays the key research findings.
Chapter 3: Online Market Research Tools and Techniques
There are a great number of useful online market research tools that can help you glean more insights from your audience. Any of the tools mentioned below would be a great starting point for market research and discovery.
We have gathered them by category below:
Keyword and Content Research Tools
Ubersuggest is a simple tool for doing keyword and content research. You can input a phrase, and it’ll come up with a long, alphabetized list of additional keywords.
How to learn from your audience
- Typeform (Free)
Typeform specializes in beautiful, intuitive survey experiences, with respondents being able to navigate through with just their keyboard. There are also options for creators to set up visuals and interactive elements throughout the survey.
- Survey Monkey (Free and Paid)
Survey Monkey is the most preferred survey tool, having a huge list of features for all sizes of surveys. A free plan gives you 10 questions and 100 responses. For $25 a month, you can have unlimited questions, surveys and responses.
- ClickInsights (14 Days Free)
With ClickInsights, it’s pretty simple. Send a one-click, one-question e-mail survey to your audience.
- Surveypal (Free)
Surveypal has a clean drag-and-drop interface and is designed to be a great experience for survey takers whether on desktop or mobile.
- Survata ($100 per survey)
With Survata, you create the survey and it finds people to take it, based on your chosen demographics.
How to involve your audience
- Heat-map (14-day free trial)
Still in beta, Heat-map can be used for sketches, designs, mockups, and web prototypes—anything visual you’d love some feedback on. You can see where on the page your readers are looking so you can tell if your copy, design, and calls-to-action are getting seen.
- User Testing ($225 a month)
User Testing provides video of real people sharing their thoughts as they go through your website, app, or prototype.
- UsabilityTools (14-day free trial)
This suite of tools offers all kinds of options for involving your audience in the research process. Surveys, web testing, and click testing are some of the many features you’ll find here.
- Qualaroo (14-day free trial)
Qualaroo allows you to add a simple survey to any page on your site or at any point in your product.
- Temper ($12 a month)
A super simple way to collect feedback, Temper asks a reader or customer to simply click a smiley face to relate their feelings on a topic. Questions can pop up anywhere it might be helpful to get some quick feedback from your audience.
- Proved.co (Free)
Share your great new idea for an app, tool, product, or service, and the community at Proved will give quick feedback on whether it’s worth pursuing.
Loop11 is a usability testing service that allows you to test any web page, basically. You can create a form and recruit people to take the test through your own website or by using a partner service, such as Cint.
Userlytics provides a platform for doing user testing of mobile apps, videos, display ads, and more. It performs both a webcam and a screen recording, and you can compare the user answers with their reactions on video to understand how people are really interacting with your creative.
How to identify your audience
- Personapp (Free)
With Personapp, you can create quick and informal profiles for the different personas you’ve developed among your audience. After setting a name, title, and image for the persona, you can add in personal details like behaviors, demographics, and needs/goals.
- Up Close & Persona (Free)
The Up Close & Persona tool asks a host of great questions for getting at the heart of what motivates your audience and which factors influence their behavior.
American Fact Finder is a resource for searching U.S. census data. You can filter by age, income, year, race, and location.
County Business and Demographics provides information on the areas of the country with large numbers of certain types of businesses.
How to analyze your audience
Using the data from your Facebook profile, Wolfram Alpha puts together an extensive report on all sorts of different data points from your updates and from your friends.
- Facebook Audience Insights (Free)
This tool lets you create any sort of target demographic—by region, by age and gender, by interest, by page likes, and more—and shows you the breakdown of the audience slice you’ve chosen.
- Followerwonk (Free)
Similar to what Audience Insights is to Facebook, Followerwonk provides audience data for Twitter. Enter a Twitter username into Followerwonk to see how that person’s audience is composed, by region, activity, keywords, authority, follower size, and more.
Google’s Insights Databoard offers interesting insights on how people browse and buy.
Business Dynamics Statistics takes census data and allows you see economic data on job creation, startups and shutdowns, business openings, expansions, and closures.
FedStats provides an up-to-date forum for finding data released by federal agencies, including agriculture, education, transportation, and energy.
Nielsen’s MyBestSegments provides researchers with tools to understand an area’s demographic information and lifestyle habits. You can find out which areas would be most receptive to a campaign or launch, which competitors are located nearby, and trends in the area that have shifted.
Use these tools to help you perform your online market research more effectively.
Chapter 4: Myths and Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting Online Market Research
There are so many myths surrounding online market research, mostly stemming from some people’s mistrust on the Internet. Here are some common online market research myths and the accompanying facts that dispel them.
Myth #1: My client is not on the Internet so doing it online will do me no good.
Fact #1: You think your client isn’t online but there is a great chance he is. However, even if we run along the lines that he isn’t, an online panel still allows you to get a representative sampling from the target population you need.
Myth #2: The Internet cannot represent what I am targeting as an audience.
Fact #2: While it is true that random sampling of a population cannot be done online, we can still design a market research study by using shares (controlling the sample segment).
Myth #3: Internet and non-Internet users have different consumption habits.
Fact #3: Studies show that there are no statistically significant differences regarding massive consumption or shopping trends.
Myth#4: People lie on the Internet
Fact #4: You might be surprised: When respondents have their data privacy guaranteed, it is found that we can obtain more truthful information. Interviewer’s bias is also avoided so a more honest answer can be brought out from respondents.
Myth #5: The more questions you ask, the better data you will get.
Fact #5: Research indicates that shorter questionnaires result in superior data, this has been demonstrated in Empathy for the Devil that is Writing Survey Questionnaires. Byzantine and long questionnaires instill what is known as “respondent fatigue.” As the New York Times reported, respondent fatigue that has caused “declining response rates over the last decade.”
Myth #6: Survey results can come back quickly.
Fact #6: While this is relatively true compared to doing traditional methods. However, respondents still are human beings and online panels aren’t just waiting around to take surveys. They need to be recruited and engaged, incentivized and called to action. Moreover, results still need to be analyzed carefully.
We’ve also gathered a few of the most common mistakes committed by many marketing research initiatives, made even by those with deep pockets and widespread popularity. Take note of these and avoid them at all cost.
Chapter 5: Online Market Research Tips
Several factors will influence the success of your online market research. However, following these tips can help you maximize your return of investment (ROI) from your market research.
- Ensure your survey design can be taken on any device. Respondents should have the ability to answer surveys on the device of their choice, especially these days when people spend more time on their tablets or smartphones that on their computers. By designing your survey to be flexible on any devices, you are maximizing response rates.
- Optimize mobile. That being said, with the huge growth of people going mobile, or accessing the Internet via mobile devices, the need to optimize research designs and surveys in mobile technology should be a priority. When you optimize mobile responsiveness, you stand a chance to capture information in real-time.
- Apply design principles based on category of your chosen research design. Even if there are many categories of research design, market researchers should do the following to allow for engaged and quality responses:
- Keep surveys short. According to Mary Malaszek, owner of Market Directions, a Boston market-research firm that works with businesses of all sizes, one should design surveys that should take people only five to seven minutes to finish. If surveys take much longer, chances are people are more likely to be dishonest with their answers or even abandon them altogether.
Another way to keep surveys short: make the first page simple, present answer options in multiple columns or a drop-down box, and put a status bar at the top of each question page so respondents know how close they are to being finished.
- Avoid open-ended questions. Close-ended questions, or those that only require a click of a button to answer – Yes, No, Maybe, etc – work much better.
- Prioritize respondent quality. To ensure you are drawing the valid conclusions from accurate data, make sure that you draw a diverse and honest group of respondents from your target market.
- Use primary research methods. You can easily tap into primary sources online. In fact, you can get instant feedback from your community by tapping into your mailing list if you have one (if you don’t have one, create one!) or looking into chat forums related to your product or service (if you don’t have one, again, create a forum!).
- Make good use of social media. You can use Twitter and Google+ to achieve quality research results since they can create targeted lists for your market research.
- Public records can now be accessed online. It can supply you with quantitative data that might be useful for your market research, especially when it comes to demographics. Demographic data can be obtained from government sites, which offer free information.
- You can use keyword research to tap into more information about what people are looking for in a product or service! This can help you determine how to develop future products or improve existing ones.
- Tap into your competition by using a traditional search engine. Try typing ‘link:www.[competitor’s name].com’ into Google to find out how many other sites link to your competitor’s website. According to Shari Thurow, Web expert and author of the upcoming book Search Engine Visibility, “It is a great way to see a competitor’s link development and PR campaigns.”
- Read blogs. It is a good way to identify your target market. According to Jennifer Laycock, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Guide, an online guide to search engines, portals and directories, “Blogs tend to move at a faster pace and be more informal in tone, so you’re more likely to pick up conversation about a new product type or need on a blog than on a standard website.” You can search for blogs using Technorati or Nielsen BuzzMetrics’ Blogpulse.
Once you follow these tips, you will notice that you will be able to collect data that are valid and accurate for each market research that you employ. You might need to explore a number of research techniques before you can find one that is right for your market research, fortunately online market research allows you to spend less while still being able to get better high-quality information on a faster timeframe.
Chapter 6: Important Reads to Help Better Your Online Market Research
If you want to learn more about online market research, here are a couple of comprehensive guides you might want to explore:
- Kissmetrics’ The Complete Guide to Online Customer Research
A great read to start your journey to better understanding what online market research can do, and what it covers. Be sure to click on the related posts by the end of the article as they provide in-depth discussion on specific online market research techniques, methods and categories.
- Market Research Checklist: How to Better Understand Your Market
An article we have posted in our blog, this resource helps you understand the most important aspect of your research: your targeted audience or market.
This two-part series gives you tips on how to do better customer research. This allows you to better understand why, when, how and what your ideal customers do online.
This research guide is filled with tools, including databases, trade publications, and more to assist entrepreneurs as they study a potential market–customers, demographics, competitors, trends, and more.
This is a short guide to the benefits of online quantitative research, when to use it and tips for getting the most out of online surveys. Check out the related sources for more information about doing specific research techniques.
Market research is essential to any business involved in providing a product or service to people – and that is every business. For you to understand what goes into your customers’ heads and identify their needs and wants before they even know it, market research is essential.
There is a wealth of data that can be discovered online and doing online market research is the best way to know more about your customers and their needs if you want to keep costs low, have a faster turnaround time and even a more accurate response from your target market.
Since there are so many ways to do market research online particularly with how people are using social media these days, it is ideal to hire outsourced research services. When choosing to outsource your market research, you are bringing not only an objective third party view, you are also bringing in a group of experts that have up-to-date knowledge of tools for research and analysis to your business. You effectively minimize costs while maximizing value since you are opening up to a higher volume of customer for a more accurate data.
The need to have accurate research is important to your business. It is the basis of any marketing and advertising strategies your business comes up. Here at Infinit, we provide a comprehensive list of online market research services that will help your business reach your goals. Contact us for more information.