Market research can be an expensive activity for companies. Some Fortune 500 companies spend 1-2% of their annual budgets on market research. No matter the size of the company, frequent market research is important to stay in touch with customers and consumers. To save money, some organizations will choose to conduct some of their market research through online services. Usually, consumers can fill out the surveys directly on the website or may receive an e-mail through contact/mailing lists. Companies can choose to conduct online market research surveys for a number of reasons:
- Cost – It is cheaper to conduct market research surveys through the Internet, especially as more consumers purchase their products online. Data from the surveys can be entered automatically into a database and analyzed by the company.
- Convenience – It is more convenient for consumers to fill out online surveys at any time. When designed that way, they can also save their surveys and complete them at a later time.
- Accessibility - Companies can access a wide demographic of current and potential consumers through online surveys.
Despite the advantages of online market research surveys, all the conditions of other research activities apply. For example, once the data is analyzed, it is important that the results are communicated in a clear and actionable manner. The recommendations have to direct staff to concrete action plans such as improve a website’s functionality or reduce wait time for customer service support.
3.1.Designing market research surveys
Assume that you are preparing an online market research survey for a beauty products’ manufacturing company, SkinBeauty Solutions. SkinBeauty is a nation-wide manufacturer and retailer with products sold in its own shops and large retailers across the country. Known for its innovation, the company introduces new products periodically and have used social networking media to promote them.
Since the company has hundreds of thousands of its customers on its Facebook page, they regularly conduct surveys. To encourage their customers to fill them out, they offer incentives such as promotional codes for lower prices.
In creating the survey statements in an online market research survey, it is important to make sure that the questions or statements are:
- Consistent with company branding
As seen in Table 1, a market research survey by SkinBeauty managers is designed for present customers. Despite familiarity with their customer base, managers have to assume that some people may not be familiar with the products. For this reason, the company brand/name has to be included. These types of questions are usually reserved for current customers or those familiar with a brand. For new customers or the general population, market research questions will most likely be broad and non-specific.
Table 1 – Online market research survey - SkinBeauty
Please answer these questions.
|We want to know more about you!|
|Are you male or female?|| |
|How old are you?|| |
|What is your approximate monthly income?|| |
|How much do you spend on SkinBeauty products every month?|| |
|Where do you buy your SkinBeauty products?|| |
|Which SkinBeauty product(s) is your favorite?|| |
|Which SkinBeauty product do you DISLIKE the most?|| |
3.2.Creating online survey
Companies can create online market research surveys using either commercially available software or ones designed/purchased by their company. If using commercially-designed ones, a company must give respondents an assurance that their answers will be confidential and that their contact information will not be sold to other companies. When collecting information from consumers or customers, it is important to give an assurance that their answers will not be given or sold to other retailers.
As covered in previous modules, an online survey must include: Welcome Text, Privacy Statement, and Survey Goal. Each statement appears on the screen as consumers enter their responses as follows:
“Do you buy SkinBeauty products?!
If yes, fill out this survey and enter a chance to win $50 in products.
Thank you for taking the time to fill it out.”
“Unless you give us your express permission, we will keep your survey answers confidential. We will NOT attribute the answers to any person. The information we collect in this survey will be used to improve SkinBeauty products and services. We will NOT sell your information to private companies.”
“This survey is to find out more about you, our customer! Please fill out all the questions
so we can provide you with better products and services.”
3.3.A market research survey
Market research surveys ask consumers about their behaviors, their preferences, and their needs. These questions are usually about personal items. In an online survey, it is important to make the questions direct and simple. If the goal is to ask about the client’s eating habits, a question would be: How often do you eat at a restaurant? However, this would be too vague. It is better to ask a direct question or write a simple statement and then give some choices.
When was the last time you did these activities?
How satisfied are you with these products from SkinBeauty?
How likely are you to do these activities in the next 7 days?
Market research questions as seen from the 3 examples above can vary. Some questions will ask about past purchasing behavior or future behavior. Once the data is collected, market research results can be organized into a report that includes the following:
- Research authorization document – This document contains the privacy and confidentiality statements.
- Market research objectives – This outlines clearly the purpose behind the survey and what recommendations are expected from the data.
- Methodology – This section outlines how the sample is chosen and the participants targetted by the survey. It also details how the data will be analyzed.
- Results – This section shows the analysis of the data including graphs and illustrations.
- Limitations – Research limitations such as sample size are included in this section.
- Conclusions and recommendations – This section contains the actionable recommendations from the market research.
- Appendices – Survey questions are included in the appendices.
3.3.Final thoughts on online market research surveys
It is important to note the online market research surveys face the same limitations as surveys of other types. Constructing the right questions, choosing the appropriate sampling methodology, and using the right tools are a challenge. How well you develop these will be the limitation to any online market research survey.
Another limitation is the analysis of survey results. While any company can create a number of market research surveys, having the right expertise to analyze data is a significant challenge. Companies must invest money in making sure that surveys are designs carefully. This means that the survey has a clear problem to address. It also means that the survey has chosen the right sample out of a possible population. Finally, sample size is important in determining how valid the results of a market research survey are.
Anderson, D.R., Sweeney, D. J., and Williams, T.A. (2007). Statistics for Business and Economics. South-Western College Publication. 10th Edition.
Somekh, B. & Lewin, C. (2005). Research Methods in the Social Sciences. London: Sage.
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