The internet or world wide web is a great tool for businesses undertaking research. Market and Marketing Research are both essential tasks for companies wanting to stay ahead of the competition; the internet contains a wealth of information to help them do their research. Primary Data can be collected via clever use of online surveys and the internet contains many websites providing Secondary data. The internet can save companies valuable time and money by proving information at the click of a button. The important thing is to have an understanding of the type of information available and how to access it.
The Diagram below shows how the internet can be used to carry out market research
Online PESTLE Analysis
Every business needs to conduct an analysis of their marketing environment and PESTLE. The internet enables an organisation to monitor their external environment relatively easily. Firms can gather information through search engines such as Goggle, Yahoo and MSN. RSS feeds from news websites keep companies updated with news developments as they occur. Online forums and blogs (web logs) contain people's opinions on an endless list of subjects. Research can be found on the internet from organisations such as Mintel who conduct market research about consumer trends or Which who research and test consumer products and services.
The internet allows companies to research Competitors and analyse their Marketing Mix Strategy. Many businesses have websites about the firm, these websites contain information useful for competitors. A firm's website will usually have a detailed list of their products and often the price they are charging. Business websites also reveal information about how a firm is promoting its products and services. You can also obtain financial reports showing how a business is performing, through the firm's website or another website which charges for providing users with company financial reports.
Online questionnaires are a simple form of Primary Research. When a internet user visits a website containing online questionnaires, a message will appear asking the user to participate in an online questionnaire. The questionnaire will ask the user about their opinion on the company, its products, its websites and the market in which the company operates. To encourage user participation online questionnaires are usually short and simple to complete. The data collected from online questionnaires will be analysed and used to develop marketing strategy.
Businesses conduct research to find out how popular their websites are and people's purchase patterns. Some businesses will design their own software to gather internet useage information and others will commission external companies to do the research for them. Useage analysis will show how many people visited the website, the location of people visiting the website, how long they spent on the website and what sections of the websites were used by them.
Each time a user visits a website small text files called cookies are temporarily placed on their browser. Cookies tell website owners what pages you visited and how you browsed through the website. Cookies record what internet pages are visited, how long people spend on each page and how people navigate around the website. Information collected through cookies can help firms improve marketing and their websites. Cookies also help companies to customise web pages for users who have registered with the website.
Validity of data
The internet is saturated with lots of information some useful and some incorrect. Currently there is little control over the information posted, so all information collected from the internet should be double checked to ensure it is accurate and valid. The source providing the information should be validated to ensure that the data is fully referenced and has been collected legally. Not all websites are updated regularly so it is important to check the date that the information was posted online i.e. the date of publication. Finally businesses should ensure that their research will not result in legal action or affect the firm's reputation.
As we have discussed the internet contains an incredible wealth of information, perfect for market research. It's easily accessible and costs very little to access. However users should proceed with caution as information on the internet in general is not regulated; anybody with computer access can add information onto websites, blogs, apps and social media.
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