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. Indeed, it has been suggested that there are at least eight different uses for the Internet in International research:
1) Online surveys and buyer panels: These can include incentives fro participation, and they have better branching capabilities (asking different questions based on previous answers) than more expensive mail and phone surveys.
2) Online focus groups: Bulletin boards can be sued for this purpose
3) Web visitor tracking: Servers automatically track an time visitors ‘travel through Web sites.
4) Advertising measurement: Servers track links to other sites, and their usefulness can therefore be assessed.
5) Customer identification systems: Many companies are installing registration procedures that allow tracking visits and purchases over time, creating a virtual panel.
6) E-mail marketing lists: Customers can be asked to sign up one e-mail list to receive future direct marketing efforts via the Internet.
7) Embedded research: The Internet continues to automate traditional economic roles of customers, such as searching for information about products and service, comparison shopping among alternatives, interaction with providers and maintaining the customer brand relationship. More and more of these Internet processes look and feel like research processes themselves. The methods are often embedded directly into the actual purchase and use situations and are therefore more closely tied to actual economic behavior than traditional research methods can be. Some firms even provide the option of custom designing products online — the ultimate in applying research for product development purposes.
8) Observational research Chat rooms, blogs and personal Web sites can all systematically monitored to assess consumers’ options about products and services.
The city of Toronto, Canada posts an online city guide. A pop up survey was posted on it to solicit visitors’ reactions and demographic information. The data were collected to help build visitor profiles, including browsing patterns that can be used in promotional materials given to potential advertisers. A variety of online research applications are reported by Survey site, a Toronto based company.
Clearly, as the Internet continues to grow, even more 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 arte your satisfaction level. Surveys in multiple languages can be produced quickly, given the translation libraries now available from some application service providers. Finally as is the case in so many international marketing contexts, privacy is and will continue to be a mater of personal and legal consideration. A vexing 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. However, the potential bias of a sample universe composed solely of Internet respondents presents some severe limitations. 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 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 that is much easier to access and many cases, are more current.
Thus volumes of good secondary data can be accessed from your computer, making international marketing research much easier and more efficient than it has ever been. Keep in mind, however, that this information must be validated, just as any secondary information should.