Great idea, enthusiastic team, vision of flowing profits- everybody is excited and ready for success... 3 months later the business closes down. Sounds familiar? According to StatsCanada, almost every second small and medium business fails within 5 years.
One of the reasons for the failure is overly optimistic projections about market size and, as a result, unrealistic expectations. Market research, therefore, becomes absolutely essential for businesses to make realistic and fact-based projections.
In the past, the main excuse was the cost associated with even the most basic market research. Telephone and mail surveys, face-to-face interviews and traditional focus groups where the only available option and only big budget companies could afford to conduct such research.
Fortunately, not anymore. Today, you don't need big bucks to conduct research. Let us look at two different ways of conducting research quickly, reliably and cost effectively.
1. Website and Web Page based surveys are primarily used for website evaluation, visitors' profile or e-shopping analysis. Website visitors are invited to participate in a survey using a "banner" type invitation or a "pop-up" window.
These types of surveys are an effective and inexpensive method to obtain the opinions of your current customers or website visitors. The only issue is that while the respondents can be randomly selected, they are invited to opt in and, as a result, are considered "self-selected".
The same is true for any employee or customer survey with a previously established contact list.
2. A more accurate and cost effective way to conduct unbiased awareness, perception and usage studies is via email online surveys. Respondents for the studies are recruited for participation through email invitation from, so called, web panels.
Web panels are large, demographically and geographically representative internet-based groups for customer, business to business and- sometimes- employee surveys. They include millions of consumers, business owners and professionals. These panels are consistently supported and refreshed to reflect demographic changes and to ensure (a) statistically representative sample(s).
As most surveys and research project require a relatively small sample size (up to 1,000 completed responses), the main reason to support and consistently refresh such large panels is to minimize the impact of "professional" or "self-selected" respondents. Each panel member can expect to participate in the surveys no more than 2 to 3 times per year. For this reason, a participation reward system is also based on random drawings of various prizes depending on length, complexity and topic of each survey.
Panels recruitment sources:
- Web advertising
- Permission-based databases
- Public relations (local newspapers' web portals)
- Partner-recruited specialty panels
- Alliances with heavily trafficked portals
Major benefits of web panels:
- Worldwide coverage
- Cost efficient (significantly cheaper vs. equivalent phone survey)
- Short reply time (2-5 days) and high response rate (over 50%)
- High accuracy - statistically representative of the general population
- No need to collect demographic information during the survey (the data is collected during the panel design process)
- Supports consistent follow-up analysis of virtually the same sample (change in awareness level before and after advertising, etc.)
- Allows incorporation of visual effects and objects (pictures, movies, etc.)