Online research is the latest trend in Market Research which has some advantages over the conventional research. We are deliberating briefly on the subject in the ensuing paragraphs.
Online research is inexpensive:
The cost of gathering survey information electronically is much less expensive than by traditional means. A typical e-mail survey costs about half what a conventional survey costs, and return rates can be as high as 50 percent. For instance, Virgin.net used online research to launch its broadband service in the United Kingdom in 2002. Now the company does all its research online. The brand has seen an increase in response rates from 17 percent with paper-based research to almost 72 percent and costs have dropped 90 percent.
Online research is faster.
Online surveys are faster to complete since the survey can automatically direct respondents to applicable questions and be sent electronically to the research supplier once finished. One estimate is that 75 to 80 percent of a surveyâ€™s targeted response can be generated in 48 hours using online methods, as compared to a telephone survey that can take 70 days to obtain 150 interviews.
People tend to be more honest online than they are in personal or telephone interviews:
Britainâ€™s online polling company YouGov.com took 500 people and surveyed half via intercom in a booth and the other half online, asking them politically correct questions such as â€œShould there be more aid to Africa?â€? Online answers were deemed much more honest. People may be more open about their opinions when they can respond to a survey privately and not to another person whom they feel might be judging them, especially on sensitive topics.
Online research is more versatile:
The multimedia applications of online research are especially advantageous. For instance, virtual reality software lets visitors inspect 3-D models of products such as cameras, cars, and medical equipment, and product characteristics can be easily manipulated online. Even at the most basic level, online surveys make answering a questionnaire easier and more fun than paper-and-pencil versions.
Samples can be small and skewed:
Perhaps the largest criticism leveled against online research is that not everyone is online. Research subjects who respond to online surveys are more likely to be tech-savvy middle-class males. Some 40 percent of households are without internet access in the United States— and there is an even higher percentage without access when you reach out to international markets. These people are likely to differ in socioeconomic and education levels from those online. While marketers can be certain that more and more people will go online, it is important for online market researchers to find creative ways to reach certain population segments that are less likely to be online, such as older Americans or Hispanics. One option is to combine offline sources with online findings. Providing temporary Internet access at locations such as mails and recreation centers is another strategy. Some research firms use statistical models to fill in the gaps in market research left by offline segments.
Online market research is prone to technological problems and inconsistencies:
Because online research is a relatively new method, many market researchers have not gotten survey designs right. A common error occurs in transferring a written survey to the screen. Others overuse technology, concentrating on the bells and whistles and graphics, while ignoring basic survey design guidelines. Problem also arises because browser software varies. The Web designerâ€™s final product may be seen very differently depending upon the research subjectâ€™s screen and operating system.