In the past few years, the use of the Internet in marketing research has surged. Currently, online research is estimated to make up $300 million of the 6-7 billion dollar marketing research industry. Experts estimate that within the next five years, online research with make up about half of all marketing research revenue, approximatley $3 billion.
This is a stark contrast from 1998 when Rockbridge Online surveyed market researches about online research. Unfortunately there were only 38 participants and a majority had smaller budgets, but of those, most spent very little of their budget on online research as the chart shows on the right.
Although, most in the business agree that the Internet will never solely replace traditional methods, this practice has established itself in the future of the industry. The Internet can be used for both qualitative and quantative research. Surveys and questionnaires are easily administered via the Net to willing participants. The costs involved are usually less and the response rate is faster and sometimes greater as compared to traditional phone and snail mail methods. This is especially valid considering the response rate of telephone surveys has dropped from 40% ten years ago to a mere 14% today. Online research can boast figures in the rage of 60%. Here is a sample online survey regarding Midwest Airlines from Survey SaidTM Survey Software.
Also, it has been shown that respondents answer more truthfully when they can remian anonymous. Jon Rubin, for example, once conducted the same survey in the mall and via the Net. The question concerned how often the person bathed each week. Those who answered in the mall environment averaged 6.2 times versus 4.8 times a week via the Internet version.
Qualitative research (focus groups), although available via the Internet has not been embraced as rapidly. Focus groups are set up in a chatroom-like setting with a moderator leading the discussion. Typically, the screen is divided into two sections, one for the dialogue and the other to show visuals or directions as provided by the moderator. Online focus groups tend to be cheaper because they eliminate travel costs and the costs invloved in a booking a room, but don't allow the facial expressions and body language which are a vidal part of focus groups. In addition, it is harder to interact with products in a 2D setting. Here is a sample screenshot of an online focus group.