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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Marketing Research

Online Marketing research has witnessed a growth trend in the recent past. Market researchers, Marketing managers and b-school students have increasingly begun depending on Internet research for collecting primary data through surveys, experiments and online focus groups. Web research has proven to have several advantages over offline surveys and focus groups. The most obvious advantages include speed and low cost of execution.

Online research is relatively low in cost in the sense that participants from all over the globe can pitch into the discussions, without engaging in any kind of travel and/or living expenses. More specifically, the online surveys eliminates or substantially reduces the usage (wastage) of paper work, postage charges, phone charges, labour charges and printing expenses.

This module of market research also allows speed of execution. Although online research requires some prior advanced scheduling and preparations, in the long run it proves to be worth the effort. Teens, well-educated professionals, working mothers can be effectively reached through online research. The response rate is also seen to be better off as they can respond to the research in their own space and at their own convenience. Once submitted, the results are available to the researcher almost immediately without having to encounter manual labour for quantifying the responses.

Seems like a cream.. eh!! But there are a few drawbacks to Online Market Research. For example, restricted internet access can make it difficult to get responses from a broader cross-section of the society. Rural marketing campaigns dependent of online research for example may result in a disaster if the area faces insufficient internet access due to geographical remoteness. Similar problems could be found in the case of products oriented for children aged 4 to 10. Companies may not get appropriate results of consumer preferences due to lack of internet access to children.

There may also be a problem with controlling who’s in the sample? If a researcher doesn’t see the person who is participating in the research, how could he be sure that it is being participated by the rightly intended person?

Certain advanced offline focus groups may be based on recording the emotional expressions of the respondents. Internet, though equipped with emoticons like :-) or :-(, highly restricts respondents expressiveness. Of course with the recently upcoming technological advances we could soon have Video conferences while conducting online focus groups which could potentially reduce certain limitations, but that should take some time to materialise.

Perhaps one of the greatest issues faced by researcher is the consumer privacy concerns. Some respondents may feel that unethical researchers may use or sell their emails and confidential responses to other public researches there by personifying their responses and exposing their identities to spammers. Researchers need to exhaustively address such concerns to ensure the respondents participate actively, by continuing to protect their (respondent) identities with all researches conducted by them.

Tip: Always be honest, accurate and ethical with every market research you conduct. This will ensure success and non-intervention from third parties.

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