Nearly ten years ago we set out on a quest to build the most advanced online market research platform imaginable. We knew back then the benefits of conducting market research in a digital environment. From real-time capabilities that allow brands to get closer to their customers’ point of purchase, to a more open and natural environment for participants to express their true feelings, there are a huge wealth of benefits from conducting both qualitative and quantitative research online.
But not everyone agreed, and to this day there is still a lot of misinformation online about the value of this research. In this article we lay to rest, once and for all, some of the most prevalent myths surrounding the online market research industry. Similar to most myths, it is likely that there may have once been a grain of truth to these thoughts — but as technology and our understanding of internet-driven interaction has advanced, this has faded into fiction.
1. Only Quant Can Be Conducted Online
Perhaps the most popular misconception that surrounds online market research is the idea that it is only capable of producing quantitative results. Perpetuated by discussions about Big Data, free survey tools and even data driven social media listening, it is easy to see how qualitative research methods have been overlooked.
But the truth is that not only are online qualitative methods alive, but they are thriving. Taking advantage of mobile trends, online market research panels, communities and diary studies are providing unrivalled access to consumer opinion in an in-depth, detailed manner. This is just to name just a few of the huge range of qualitative tools available. In reality, the amount of tools, studies and creative applications are practically limitless.
2. Online Research is Always Cheaper
Often, when marketing departments approach us for the first time, their impression of online qualitative research is that it is a cheaper alternative to physical methods. Without the need to pay for transport, potential accommodation and facility rental it may appear at first that this is the case. But you should be wary of any organisation that sells online research on the cost advantage alone.
While the cost of an individual study may be less, the real advantage of online market research is that you can get more value for your money. Rather than drive down the cost of research, use your budget to increase the quality of your research. If you could afford to gather 1,000 in-person survey responses — use that budget to gather 5,000 virtual survey responses. If you planned to run a physical focus group, use the budget online to achieve the same and follow up with individualised diary tasks to monitor post-discussion brand interaction.
3. Skilled Researchers are not Required
We can often be quick to assume that because something can be done online, then it must be easy. This leads many organisations into the pitfall of thinking that skilled researchers and moderators are not required to conduct effective online research. Marketing departments develop a DIY mentality and do not utilise online research to its full potential, ignoring key research skills such as research design, incentive planning and moderation.
Of course, there are many skilled researchers who are proficient in both online and offline methods. That is why our online research tools come with a range of support options, from DIY (for the seasoned market researcher) to fully managed. Simply choose the option that best matches your level of experience, and we will take care of the rest.
4. Online Research is a Quick Fix
Another common misconception is that online research can be rushed. It is only turned to when there is not enough time for a physical study to take place. Unfortunately, that is not quite the case. Online market research still requires the same level of planning and organisation as any other method. Recruitment time must still be built in to accommodate the number of participants required and there still must be adequate time to design the questions and tasks.
However, there is a small difference in time between the initial set-up and research taking place. As most participants will have constant access to an internet enabled device, it is far easier to schedule a time that the desired participants are able to attend. But, overall, online research should be treated like any other type of needs — with the same degree of planning and analysis time built in.
5. Samples are not Representative
One of the most understandable myths on this list, this is something that market researchers are still debating to this day. In North America, 86.9% of the population have access to the internet and more importantly — these 300 million+ users are all available to take part in research (regardless of race, gender or even geographical location).
There is truth to the argument that internet adoption is higher in younger generational cohorts: the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that 99% of those aged 16–34 are internet users, while only 37% of those aged 75+ are. These types of sample considerations should be factored in to your decision of whether or not to conduct research online. However, with so many users in the USA alone — there are few select demographic groups which the internet does not represent.
6. Respondents are Less Trustworthy
The final myth on our list relates to the quality of feedback that online participants can provide. The argument is that in a similar way to how people can create fake identities on social networking sites, it can be hard to know those participating in your research are who they say they are.
Fortunately, in the last decade there have been huge advances in screening methods that allow us to verify those who express interest in taking part in research. Through screening questionnaires and analysis we are also able to weed out the ‘professional research participants’ and provide access to participants with genuine opinions on your brand.
Of course, in our ten years of experience, we have come across many more misconceptions of online market research. But these are the most prevalent — those that prevent brands and businesses from conducting research online and reaping the benefits. What other online market research myths have you encountered? Let us know in the comments below.