The crux of the market research process is in gathering the right data and effectively analyzing it. Unfortunately, false productivity is widespread because market research online has expanded options for both data collection and analysis exponentially. Before you start spinning your wheels on conducting your next market research online, consider the full menu of online market research tools and which combination will answer your research questions most thoroughly.
The volume of data gathering in market research has exploded with the increasing ubiquity of Internet access and mobile technology. This is true for both quantitative and qualitative data collection. Large sample sizes and a high quantity of data can be valuable but make sure you are collecting a quality data set that is also relevant to your research.
Tools for gathering quantitative data:
- Online surveys can generate a high volume of standardized quantitative data using close-ended questions. For instance, respondents can rate experiences on a scale of 1-10, select from a set number of options to indicate preferences, or answer straightforward “yes” or “no” questions.
- A/B testing and multivariate testing are ways to directly compare how users respond to different alternatives of one variable. For instance, you could measure click rates between two different versions of a website or track a particular product’s sales among stores with different displays.
- Quantitative observations, such as average time spent browsing a website before making a purchase, can be simple but important contributions to market research.
- Large data sets can be compiled for later analysis by computer algorithms. You can collect data sets yourself or use secondary data, information already collected from other sources.
Tools for gathering qualitative data:
- Web-based interviews and focus groups mirror their in-person counterparts but simply use webcams and web-enabled platforms for remote but real-time conversation. Moderator-led interviews and focus group discussions help you better understand people’s underlying motivations for decisions.
- Mobile usability studies allow you to observe in real time how users navigate apps or websites remotely. Using webcams and screen-sharing technologies, you can watch people’s reactions paired with their actions on the app or site.
- Online bulletin boards and market research online communities (MROCs) gather similarly-minded respondents on a private community platform where participants can upload audio or visual content, post responses to questions, complete activities, and/or discuss questions at their convenience. Gathering data using online bulletin boards and MROCs can be a happy medium between highly structured sources of qualitative feedback (e.g., surveys) and highly unstructured ones (e.g., social media posts). Knowing how to participate in an online bulletin board study is a must as well.
Effective data gathering is meaningless if you don’t have the right analytic tools; market research analysis is where the rubber meets the road. It’s all about discovering trends that suggest a course of action, confirm existing findings, or suggest a new direction.
Tools for analyzing quantitative data:
- Data mining utilizes machine learning, statistics, and other computer science capabilities to uncover patterns in very large sets of data.
- Heat maps, charts, graphs, and other visualizations can help interpret quantitative data and make it easier to grasp. For instance, a heat map of a website could show where users clicked and scrolled the most using different colors and color densities.
- Web analytics tools such as Google Analytics help you analyze data such as website traffic patterns or which landing pages are associated with purchases. You can easily compare data to any benchmarks you’ve set.
Tools for analyzing qualitative data:
- Word clouds or text clouds help you visualize word frequency trends; the more often respondents used particular words or phrases, the larger and bolder they appear on the word cloud.
- Charts, graphs, timelines, and other visualizations can showcase changes in trends over time, compare relationships between two or more factors, or highlight prominent differences in responses. You could filter your results by activities (e.g., most frequently searched brands of dog food on a shopping app) or by audience (e.g., dog food brands most preferred by young, single, suburban women).
- Excerpt tools allow you to highlight phrases or words that stood out to you during research or raised additional questions. You could even use coded excerpts during research, tagging words or phrases as positive, negative, or neutral, and then analyzing those word choices and frequencies.
Analyzing qualitative data is ultimately about filtering the nuggets of insight from the extraneous noise as efficiently and effectively as possible. During the data collection phase, think about how you’ll analyze it later. For example, when you’re gathering data using online bulletin boards, group the discussions and activities by key themes, audiences, or subject matter so that analysis is less laborious and more valuable later.
As you pursue online market research, consider how you can link quantitative and qualitative research tools to discover more nuanced answers to your questions and get that extra edge on your competitors.
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