An article in American Demographics in November reports that an increasing number of marketers, recognizing that research speed online has value, are moving more of their research dollars onto the Web. Since the pros and cons of Online Research has come under observation in prior Briefs in this column, this article in it's entirety makes for good reading to understand how market research firms are utilizing unique approaches in addressing some of the criticisms.
Inside Research, an industry newsletter, indicates that the value of online research conducted by 29 of the largest market research companies (representing 90 percent of industry revenue in this arena), has grown from $3.5 million in 1996, to $254.8 million this year. While this is still a small percentage of the 1999 total U.S. market research industry revenue of $4.8 billion, (as reported by the American Marketing Association's Marketing News), it represents triple-digit percentage growth in each of the past four years for online research.
The advantages of using the Web include lower costs, the ability to survey hard-to-reach respondents, and speed. General Mills believes that by using the Web, it is saving as much as 50 percent in research costs, and speeding up the research process by up to 75 percent.
The refusal rate of people asked to participate in telephone or in-person surveys has increased from 49 percent in 1978, to 60 percent in 1999. With Web surveys, people can be invited to participate via e-mail, and then decide when to complete them, at their convenience. And, the Web opens up the use of rich media, such as streaming video, to test ads and movie trailers, something not possible over the phone.
However, as with many new techniques that challenge tradition, not all marketers or researchers are convinced of the Internet's utility in this field. Among the criticisms: Online research is restricted to those who are already online, and that it doesn't represent a broad cross section of Americans.
Within the article, several resources are discussed along with arguments for their reliability. Here's a brief notation, but complete reading is suggested:
Knowledge Networks has created a panel of over 100,000 consumers chosen through random digit dialing technique, which gives every household in the U.S. an equal chance of being selected to ensures that the panel is a scientifically valid cross section of the U.S. population. InsightExpress is using the data collection capabilities of the Web to provide inexpensive, automated, do-it-yourself research. While the company agrees that you can't use Web surveys to conduct research on the population at large, he points out that there are plenty of marketers and research projects for which an Internet sample is adequate, or even desirable.
Harris Interactive differs from Knowledge Networks and Insight- Express in that company executives believe they can accurately weight the r