The world is online and so can research

Online research has become such standard practice nowadays it’s easy to think that it can be used across for the board for research projects be they qualitative or quantitative. However, there are a number of watch-outs when considering the relevance and application of online methodologies:

1.   Understand how the internet is used 

We need to be aware of the type of internet usage in any market if we are proposing online research.

Take Indonesia for example.  At face value the internet is widely used and people appear to be tapping away at their phones constantly.  There are 115 million users of Facebook, the fourth highest in the world.  Facebook recently have also opened an office there which further entrenches the perception that this is a country with its finger on the internet pulse.

However, it is only if we take a deeper look at the type of internet usage, that we see that online methodologies are not suitable in this market.  Many Indonesians have a rather straightforward use of the internet, using social media and text to connect with their friends.  In fact, a large proportion of people still are on 2G with limited data usage.

This means any online pre-task or quantitative survey has limited relevance in this market.  Not to mention the propensity for the society to prefer face to face contact.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, markets such as Singapore are highly digitally savvy and is often used as to test new product ideas before venturing into other markets in the Asia Pacific region.  

2.   Be mindful of what you ask for

Even in more developed internet markets closer to home, there is a word of caution in terms of designing online tasks for respondents.  Our thirst for real time and real life information needs to be balanced.

Ask for too much and respondents in an online qualitative diary will be tempted to put on a show.  The response becomes contrived and staged as people struggle to digitally diarise their every need state, especially over an extended period.

Even in developed markets like Germany consumers can struggle with online pre-tasks particularly if the exercise strives to capture too often ‘in the moment’ needs and actions.

This also applies to quantitative surveys where over-lengthy questionnaires lead to respondent fatigue.   An example of this is where a battery of attribute statements is repeated across multiple media or ad executions.  This leads to meaningless answers as respondents tire and often parity results across media or execution. In short detailed interrogation tells you very little.  It’s key to distil down the number of attributes to be tested to avoid duplication or slight nuances of meaning that ultimately don’t matter.

3.   Watch out there’s a bot about  

Give consumers the freedom to complete online surveys at their will and the system opens itself up to a new kind of abuse – the automated survey responder or bot.

There have been several reports recently around duplicate survey completes.  They are only are discovered via interrogation of open ended responses which show repeat answers. Consumer blogs sadly exist to offer tips on market research as a secondary income stream. We have observed some debating the pros and cons of how to submit multiple answers to online surveys.

This underlines the need to use reputable survey platforms and be aware of any strange patterns in the data.  And this has even greater relevance if conducting surveys via local online providers where data security may be less robust.