Selecting the right market research partner is a crucial decision. It is one that will help determine whether or not your research project will be a success and make a positive impact on the business. However, for those with little experience with online market research this can be a daunting task. Not knowing what you could be buying and not having the correct assurances in place can make it a stressful experience.
By asking the right questions and challenging your potential suppliers, it is possible to see not only the expertise of the organisation but also whether or not they will be a good match for your business. But what questions should you ask? That is, in a large part, dependent on what type of research you want to conduct. There are, however, some questions you should always make sure to ask. We have compiled a list of the top ten to make the process a little easier on you:
1. Does the platform support qual, quant or both?
Online market research is a broad term that encompasses many types of research. From surveys to communities, focus groups to diary studies, nearly any research that can be conducted face-to-face can be conducted online, in some capacity. Some market research providers will be able to provide both qual and quant services, while others specialise in just one. Be sure to understand what services are on offer and that they match your goals, before agreeing to any research.
2. What research tools are available?
Similar to the first question, but more specific — online research providers offer a vast array of tools. But you need to be sure that the ones you will be using are most suited to your needs. We categorise tools into their respective groups: focus groups, surveys, communities, customer panels, diary studies and creative qual.
However, within each of these groups, there are more specific individual tools that help achieve targeted business needs. For example, we offer two types of focus group: live chat and bulletin board. Live chat focus groups are used for collaborative, immediate feedback. Bulletin board focus groups are similar in nature but conducted over a longer period; they provide more reflective, longitudinal feedback. It is important to understand the subtle differences in tools and the exact nature of how they work as these can have a big impact on your final research.
3. Is the platform available online and on mobile?
Desktop and mobile market research may both be online, but each must be considered individually. The impact on your research can be huge. Desktop-based research is reflective, whereas mobile research is in-the-moment. Both have their advantages and are suited to different business needs. For more information on the difference between mobile and desktop research, take a look at this insightful blog post.
4. Can it be custom branded?
Custom branding is an important requirement, especially if you want your participants to be clear that this is your research. You may feel it is safe to assume that custom branding is standard for online market research portals, but this is not always the case. Most research providers will provide two options: non-branded and custom branded. While you may have to pay a little more for a custom branded portal, it can work wonders for participant brand recognition and responsiveness.
5. Can recruitment & moderation services be provided?
Online market research is extremely flexible. Recruitment and moderation services can be conducted in-house or by a specialist company. If you do not have the time or experience required, you may wish for your online research provider to take care of this service for you. Of course, although some will, others operate a ‘platform only’ model, where you have to either recruit and moderate yourself — or hire a third party to conduct these services. Each option has a unique cost implication and must be considered carefully when choosing an online provider.
6. What is unique about the software?
It is no secret that there are an overwhelming amount of online market research platforms. Choosing between them is no easy task. One of the easiest ways to do so is to ask your potential providers what is unique about their platform. Not only should they be able to give you a quick, concise response, but this question also gives you the opportunity to evaluate whether or not such a unique benefit is relevant to your needs.
7. How flexible is the platform?
Flexibility is one of the key advantages of online market research. The ability to conduct more research, follow up with individual participants and change research methodologies all lead to an agile experience, in which results can be integrated into the development process in a timely manner. Ask your potential provider how this would work in practice and if they have any examples of previous clients that have utilised the flexible nature of the platform.
8. Why is it more effective than face-to-face?
There are a number of reasons why online market research can be more effective than face-to-face. From increased participation and honesty that arises from anonymity, to the quicker analysis that comes from having pre-transcribed research, there are no shortage of benefits. But this question will help you separate those who truly understand the nature of online research, from those that do not. After all, it is vital that your market research is entrusted to those with expertise, experience and knowledge.
9. What experiences have previous clients had?
Any online market research provider worth their salt should have case studies, or testimonials at the very least ready to show potential clients. If you are new to online research, these can be an invaluable source of information — helping you understand the experience you might have. A lack of previous clients, or poor reviews should immediately set off alarm bells and should be a serious consideration when making your final decision.
10. What will it cost?
Of course, the final question will always come back to a simple: how much will it cost? Depending on the type of research, this may be easy or difficult for your potential provider to answer. For a survey, distributed to a pre-defined panel, you should be able to receive an instant quote. For more bespoke qualitative research, the quoting process may take a few days. However, online research providers will always be upfront about how much the project will cost. Using this information, combined with the answers to the other questions here should leave you in a strong position to identify the best provider for you.
This article should equip you with the knowledge to help determine the best research provider for your specific business needs. However, this should be used only as a starting point. Ask other questions too and put your potential providers to the test. Being sure that your provider is right for you can have a huge (positive) impact on the quality of your research project.