The Internet is a useful tool when conducting both primary researchThe collection of data to present a new set of findings from original research. and secondary researchCollection of existing research data.. Not only are there a number of free tools available when it comes to calculating things such as sample size and confidence levels, but it is also an ideal medium to reach large numbers of people for a relatively low cost. Notably, the origins of the Web as a network for academics to share information make it a useful tool for researching existing research reports.
Figure 18.2 Sources of Primary and Secondary Research Data
Market research based on secondary resources uses data that already exist for analysis. This includes both internal data and external data and is useful for exploring the market and marketing problems that exist.
Research based on secondary data should precede primary data research. It should be used in establishing the context and parameters for primary research.
Uses of secondary data include the following:
Companies that transact online have a wealth of data that can be mined that exist due to the nature of the Internet. Every action that is performed on the company Web site is recorded in the server logs for the Web site.
Customer communications are also a source of data that can be used, particularly communications with a customer service department. Committed customers who either complain, comment, or compliment are providing information that can form the foundation for researching customer satisfaction.
Social networks, blogs, and other forms of social media have emerged as forums where consumers discuss their likes and dislikes, and customers can be particularly vocal about companies and products. These data can, and should, be tracked and monitored to establish consumer sentiment. If a community is established for research purposes, this should be considered primary data, but using social media to research existing sentiments is considered secondary research.
The Internet is an ideal starting point for conducting secondary research based on published data and findings. But with so much information out there, it can be a daunting task to find reliable resources.
Google shows many entries for “research.”
The first point of call for research online is usually a search engine, such as http://www.google.com or http://www.yahoo.com. Search engines usually have an array of advanced features that can aid online research. For example, Google offers Advanced Search (http://www.google.com/advanced_ search?hl=en), Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com), and Google Book Search (http://www.google.com/books).
Learning how to use search engines to find the information you need is a valuable skill in using the Internet for research.
Many research publications are available online, some for free and some for a fee. Many of the top research companies feature analyst blogs, which provide some industry data and analysis for free. Some notable resources are the following:
Primary research involves gathering data for a specific research task. It is based on data that have not been gathered beforehand. Primary research can be either qualitative or quantitative.
Primary research can be used to explore a market and can help develop the hypotheses or research questions that must be answered by further research. Generally, qualitative data are gathered at this stage. For example, online research communities can be used to identify consumer needs that are not being met and brainstorm possible solutions. Further quantitative research can investigate what proportion of consumers share these problems and which potential solutions best meet those needs.
Although online communities are a valuable resource for secondary research, communities can also provide primary data. General Motors’ Fast Lane blog is an example of an online research community that aids in the gathering of research data. The blog can be used as a means to elicit feedback on a particular research problem. This is qualitative data that can aid the company in exploring its research problem further.
When developing Web sites and online applications, usability testing is a vital process that will ensure that the Web site or application is able to meet consumers’ needs. Listening labs involve setting up a testing environment where the use of a Web site or application by a consumer may be observed.
Who would you select to participate in listening lab exercises? How do you think the demographic of your population affects the outcome of these tests?
Conversion optimization aims to determine the factors of an advertisement, Web site, or Web page that can be improved so as to make the Web site convert best. From PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, to e-mail subject lines, to shopping cart design, tests can be set up to test what variables are affecting the conversion rate of visitors to the Web site.
Chapter 15 "Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization" contains details and tools for running tests, such as A/B split testing and multivariate testing.
There are four main uses of secondary data: