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An honest look at online research

Issued by: Interact RDT | 14 Feb 2013 09:59
There's no denying that the internet offers the research industry an incredible opportunity to reach consumers in their comfort zone. Especially with the growing African mobile market, now more than ever, it's easier to reach a wider range of respondents online.
And online research isn't just about surveys either, Marketing Research Online Communities (MROCs) are also growing in popularity, and offer a more qualitative, on-going approach to online research.

But just like any tool, online research has its strengths and limitations. Now we don't want to be the buzz kill and say that the growing trend of online research isn't all it's cracked up to be. Instead we'll simply say that it is incredibly valuable under the right circumstances.

Reasons that make Online Research viable:
  • It's relatively low-cost
  • It boasts faster turn-around times than more traditional research
  • It offers flexibility in the design of Surveys and Community tasks
  • It's invasive and more convenient for respondents
  • The right survey software also allows for automation of feedback and data capturing
That being said though, there are some considerations that clients should take into account before delving into online research solutions:

Is the range wide enough?
If your research provider has their own Online Panel, and they take the time and care to maintain and grow their consumer base, the answer should be yes. One of the main reasons that Online Research boasts fast turnaround times is because diverse groups of respondents are readily available through successful online panels. If your research provider doesn't have a clear, transparent plan and evidence of available samples; the chances are they will be using unreliable databases and recruiters which cause delays, uncertainty, inaccurate results and of course unforeseen costs.

Do you need Qualitative or Qualitative data from this project?
When launching online surveys it's important to remember that automatic feedback and data can only be collected if the survey is quantitative. If you want to launch a lengthy survey that's filled with open ended questions, unfortunately you're going to have to wait for those to be analysed by your research provider, and this increases cost and project time.
It's not all doom and gloom though, as you could launch an MROC for anywhere from weeks to months, and this allows for the equivalent qualitative and quantitative engagement that a focus group would have, as well as data and feedback capturing on an on-going basis.

Is Online the best possible platform for you and your sample?
At the risk of going with online research simply because it's a popular trend at the moment, it's important to explore all your options. For example, are the people you are surveying comfortable with using the internet to answer surveys? Are you confident you'll find a large enough sample of your target audience online? What kind of data are you hoping to collect with your online surveys?


If a research provider suggests a methodology that isn't online, it may be because it's more suitable and not necessarily because they're not keeping up with the times. But on the other side of the coin you should try to gauge the quality of the Online Research you're receiving.

Don't be afraid to ask questions, and most importantly make sure that the research provider you choose has enough resources to accommodate the type of online research that's moving the industry forward.

Interact RDT's press office

Interact RDT
Interact is a Level 2 BEE brand experience and research consultancy. We use innovative technology and propriety methodologies to provide comprehensive insight into the consumer's mindset and how they engage with brands.
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