Market Research through the Internet

It is impossible to keep up with the worldwide growth in Internet use. I know that as I am writing this, there are more than one billion users in more than 200 countries. About one sixth of the users are in the United States, but more than half of the hosts are there. The fastest growing market for the Internet is now China and India, with millions of users. International Internet use is growing almost twice as fast as American use. Growth in countries such as Costa Rica dramatically spurred by the local government’s decision to reclassify computers as educational tools, thus eliminating  all import tariffs on the hardware. The demographics of users worldwide are as follows: 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female, average age about 30; about 60 per cent college educated. Main activities are e-mail and finding information. The percentage of home pages by language is English 80 per cent, German 3 per cent, Japanese 4 per cent, French 2 per cent, Spanish 1 per cent and all others less than 1 per cent each.

For many companies the Internet provides a new and increasingly important medium for conducting a variety of international marketing research. Indeed a survey of marketing research professionals suggests that the most important influences on the industry are the Internet and globalization. New product concepts and advertising copy can be tested over the Internet for immediate feedback. Worldwide consumer panels have been created to help test marketing programs across international samples.

Online surveys can include incentives for participation and they have better branching capabilities (asking different questions based on previous answers) than the more expensive mediums such as mail and phone surveys.

Web visitor tracking: Servers automatically track and time visitors travel through Web sites. Servers track links to other sites, and their usefulness can therefore be assessed. Many companies are installing registration procedures that allow them to track visits  and purchases over time.

E-mail marketing lists: Customers can be asked to sign up on e-mail lists to receive future direct marketing efforts via Internet.
The internet continues to automate traditional economic roles of customers, such as searching for information about products and services, comparison shopping among alternatives, interacting with service providers and maintaining the customer brand relationship. More and more of these Internet processes look and feel like research processes themselves.

Some firms even provide the option of custom designing products online- the ultimate in applying research for product development purposes.

Chat rooms, blogs and personal Web sites can all be systematically  monitored to assess consumers’ opinions about products and services.

A survey was posted to solicit visitors’ reactions and demographic information. The data was collected to help build visitor profiles which could be used in promotional materials given to potential advertisers. A variety of online research applications are reported by Survey Site.

Clearly, as the  Internet continues to grow, other kinds of research will become feasible, and the extent to which new translation software has an impact on marketing communications and research  over the Internet will be quite interesting to watch. Some companies now provide translation services for questionnaires including commonly used phrases such as ‘rate your satisfaction level.’ Surveys in multiple languages can be produced quickly, given the translation libraries now available from some application service providers. A challenge facing international marketers will be the cross cultural concerns about privacy and the enlistment of cooperative consumer and customer groups.

The ability to conduct primary research is one of the exciting aspects about the Internet. Nevertheless as more of the general population in countries gain access to the Internet, this tool will be all the more powerful and accurate for conducting primary research. Also, the Internet can be used as one of the several methods of collecting data offering more flexibility across countries.

Today, the real power of the Internet for international marketing research is the ability to easily access volumes of secondary data. These data have been available in print form for years, but now they are much easier to access and , in many cases are more current. You can find up to date data on the Internet. Some Internet sites have almost all data that is published by the US government. If you want to know the quantity of a specific product being shipped to a country, the import duties on a product and whether an export license is required, it’s all there via your computer. Internet research data is thus very useful for marketers.