Making the case for online consumer research

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At the beginning of my work at BRG this past summer, I learned that online research is a method widely used in the industry to obtain respondents for quantitative research studies. Here I was, new to market research, and incredibly familiar with the wild world online, I thought, how can we conduct a high-quality study online? There are too much room for errors, fraud, automated responses and the like, and it took me a while to figure out why almost every modern market research company uses this method.

1. Reach – capturing respondents online allow market researchers to conduct and complete studies within specific time frames. How else can you conduct a study about grocery shopping behaviors of corporate moms living in Atlanta if your market research company is from Los Angeles? Sure you can conduct telephone interviews, but most of the time, you will only have access to their home phones which they won’t be able to answer when they’re away from home in the middle of a work day. In addition, through online means, they will also be able to target specific audiences who are versed in digital environments (ie. 18-35, business professionals)

2. Cost – It is a lot cheaper to bid out a project to a panel company who will have a set number of respondents that match your study requirements ready in a few days’ notice. It takes a lot of manpower and resources to recruit and pay telephone interviewers, especially for short-term research projects.

3. Responses – More people are likely to respond to online methods, than other forms of communication such as direct mailing, phone calls, etc. For this reason, it is easier for a market research company to research their quota or obtain a representative sample.

4. Digital platforms – Digital advancement and savvy online tools allow researchers to craft a questionnaire specific to a study, one which enables them to position a question for the respondent in new ways in order to gain more insights into their behavior and thoughts. For example, a study about what new combination of product should be included in a variety pack and sold at a retail store may require a study where the shopping experience is simulated for the respondent to see their attitudes and behaviors about specific products being on shelf. A market research company can then create a virtual shopping portal where respondents can pick and buy certain products as they would in a grocery store.


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