July 2011

How do you get maximum value from online research?

Dear Reader,

In these challenging times, it’s no surprise that most people are looking to achieve more ‘bang for our bucks’ in all areas of business spending.

When it comes to survey data (eg to keep ahead of your competitors), online market research is a way of keeping costs down. But is it really better value than traditional face-to-face or telephone interviews?

“It depends,” is our advice. In this newsletter we bring you our need-to-know guide to online research: when it really can save you money – and when traditional methods are more likely to give you the results you need.

Happy reading!

Martin Holliss

Martin Holliss

e: martinh@research-insight.com
t: +44 1235 812 456
m: +44 7931 376501

What do you need to know to get the best from online research?


The advantages of online
Your main advantage is speed. Typically you’ll get three-quarters of your responses within three days of sending out your questionnaires. So, online research can be ideal if you need results fast.

It’s great too if you want to include multimedia material like films, images, or audio clips within your survey. Though including such content may only be possible if participants have broadband.

Online research is useful for surveys in more than one country, especially if you have a tight timeframe – we access online panels in more than 80 countries. Though if your questionnaires are in several languages, do invest time to make sure your translations are “word perfect”. Talk to us  to find out more about international and market-entry research.

How costs compare
Online quantitative research is likely to cost less than face-to-face. And if you normally do telephone interviews, online may also be cheaper – especially if you need a sample size of several hundred (or thousand) people.

Qualitative research…
…can be done online – via bulletin boards and online focus groups, for example – and tends to be a little cheaper than traditional/offline, with the main saving being on venue costs. But you risk missing out on the detailed insight you get from in-person groups. That’s partly because online you’re restricted to the speed at which respondents can type. There’s also no visual/non-verbal interaction between respondents, and none of those body language cues that alert an experienced facilitator to probe an issue more deeply.

Aim for consistency
Mixing online and traditional research methods in the same survey is like mixing drinks – best avoided. Also, if you need to compare the results of your latest survey with data from previous surveys, find out how they were conducted. If they were done face-to-face or by telephone, and you’re doing you next survey online, are you confident that comparisons are valid?

The advantages of online panels
If, having weighed up the pros and cons, you decide online is right for you, the best way to get representative sample is by working with a reputable panel operator. That way your respondents will have been pre-screened and meet vital quality control criteria.

Professionally-run panels are carefully managed to ensure that participants are bona fide and to ensure that members who consistently don’t respond to survey invitations are dropped. If you’d like more information about online panels and their quality control procedures, get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to tell you more.


Our 6 top tips for getting the best from online research…

Don’t skimp on questionnaire design
Yes, online research gets results faster than traditional methods. But be sure to build in enough time beforehand to design, refine and test your questionnaire. 

Keep your survey snappy…
‘Respondent fatigue’ is a danger with online research. So keep your survey short. 10 minutes is the longest completion time you should aim for. If in doubt, delete…and if you do need more questions then a telephone or in-person survey may be a better option.

… and keep it interesting
Long lists of long-winded attributes (all of which need to be scored) and blocks of questions which all look the same from one screen to the next (even if they’re not), will quickly turn off respondents and lead them to give up on your survey.

Build on your relationship with your customers
Online research works particularly well when respondents are already engaged with your brand or company. So, an online survey amongst customers is more likely to yield full answers and a high completion rate than one amongst non-customers. that said, while researching non-customers online is more difficult, we can suggest tips and techniques to address this.

Subject matter matters
By definition, online survey respondents tend to be computer confident and younger. This makes online surveys ideal if you’re researching technological subjects, but less good for getting representative data from, say, technophobes or retired people.

Beware the too-cheap quote
Online can save you money. But if you get a really cheap quote from an agency, investigate before saying ‘Yes’. Ask how they recruit respondents, and how representative they are of your target audience. If your survey respondents are not representative, the resulting data will be meaningless.  The old adage “You get what you pay for” definitely applies here.

LinkedIn Question

This month we’ve posed the following question on LinkedIn:

How successful have you found online primary/survey research compared to ‘traditional’ methods?

You can click on the link above to add your own suggestions. And if you’d like to ask us a question, we’ll do our best to answer it if we can.