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Market Research Online: Benefits, Methods & Tools

Updated: Apr 9

Market research online: benefits, methods & tools - customer survey on a tablet

Learn about doing market research online even on a tight budget with this easy-to-follow guide to online research tools, sources of information and the variety of online methods available from online surveys to focus groups or user testing research.

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[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through these links at no additional cost to you.]

Top 5 advantages of online market research

There are big advantages of using online market research especially with the use of survey panels (those people who are signed up to take part in online surveys).

Below are the top 5 advantages of online market research:

1. It’s quick and easy to do

Dependent on the online questionnaire, you are able to get responses to your survey within days or even sooner within hours. Quite often you will have access to an online portal for your surveys, so you can see your results in real time.

2. Cost-effective option to use

This is a cost-effective option to use and cheaper than other methods of research. · For example, the cost of one completed online panel survey tends to be less than half the cost for a telephone interview.

3. Is more straight forward to carry out

Is more straight forward to carry out without needing large amount of resources to design and run a large survey even on your own when using panel survey or doing your own online survey of your customers.

4. Responses to questions are of a high quality and well considered

The people answering these surveys can take their time and fully digest of what is being asked of them rather than something they misheard. They can go through a long list of points in an online survey, which would be very difficult to do over the phone.

5. Easily carry out surveys worldwide

Ability to easily carry out surveys worldwide rather than being restricted to certain areas. Plus, you are able to receive results from these international surveys in a short time period.

Key online market research methods

Online surveys is the main market research method to do on the internet. There are two types of online surveys – panel surveys and DIY surveys through platforms like Google surveys that enable you to not only setup the survey but also to go into field and collect the results.

1. Panel surveys

Panel surveys are equipped to run large and complex surveys and have a large pool of people who have signed up to take part in surveys, which is very useful when you don’t have a database of customers to call on or want to ask questions to a new audience.

The agencies that run these panel surveys can manage the whole process for you and send you the clean results in different formats that you are comfortable with like Excel tables or dashboards. Online research agencies such as Alligator Research or Toluna provide these services.

Alternatively one quick and easy method, if you are looking just to assess the appeal of designs, ideas, products, book covers, Amazon sales pages and advertising copy is to run a quick poll with Pickfu, where you can ask that question to your target audience amongst their 15 million panellists in countries like the US, UK, Canada and Australia. It's straight forward and relatively inexpensive starting at $15, so give PickFu a try and get 50% off your first poll with the promo code - ANPAR.

2. DIY surveys

The following are two online platforms that allow you to setup and run your own surveys without any prior experience of writing a questionnaire or launching a survey:


Jotform is another great online survey platform you can use that requires no coding, is customisable to your branding for both report and survey design and integrates seamlessly with a number of software applications you maybe using like Slack, Excel online and more.

Download this free E-book from JotForm to learn how to make use of the platform's productivity and automation features and much more.

It’s great you can interview people that meet your criteria that create a picture of your ideal customers but what about surveying your current customers to see what their experiences were like when buying your product or service. This online platform is perfect for this in producing surveys that you can send to a list of your current customers or pop up for visitors to your website as well as surveying followers on social media.

Online focus group

The online version of a focus group is pretty much the same as a normal focus group where a group of people have been recruited based on a set of criteria like bought a car in the last 3 months have been placed together for a discussion about topic or issue with a person in charge of guiding the group discussion called a moderator.

However, unlike the standard face to face focus groups, it’s not difficult to recruit people from far locations to be at the same online session to discuss a subject of interest or a new concept that maybe important to them.

Online video interviews

Similar to online focus groups but your able to interview anyone with an internet connection and webcam. This can be done on a one to one or group basis via software apps like Zoom or Skype. In this way, location is not an issue, it’s more personal and your able to record reactions to questions or stimulus material that you may share online, which can help bring certain results to life.

Discussion forums or Bulletin boards

Unlike online focus groups, boards can be run over a period of days or weeks, where a moderator can add questions at different times and respond to individual answers. Participants can receive text messages or other notifications to check the board for new content. Often stimulus is used to see their reactions, views and opinions of the participant such as marking up areas of an image that is of interest to them.

User testing research

This is where you can capture users’ reactions in navigating their way around a website or an app and carrying out certain tasks that help feed into the design process of a website for improvements or new sections.

This is all carried out via a special user testing research platform like Pastel that records the screen, face and voice of the participants as they interact with a digital product. It can give you valuable insight into the needs and wants of your customers when using the digital product.

Online market research tools for secondary research

So before thinking about whether you need to do you own market research survey, there are number of ready-made secondary research resources available online, many of these sources of information are free to help you gain insights about the customer base, trends and competition.

This is a great free tool from Google that allows you to gain insight into what are the hot topics amongst your audience based on the most search for terms around the subject you are looking for. These can be filtered by category or region over a period of time.

An extremely useful source of information regarding your website. It can monitor visitors to your website, providing numbers on where they came from, which pages of the website did they visit and duration of their visit to your site including individual webpages. This helps to highlight the most and least popular areas of your website.

Keyword Research

Text written on a table saying keywords research with people around the text witing down things. This one of the online market research tools for secondary research
Keyword research

As part of the keyword research for popular search terms on the internet, you have tools such as the Google Keyword Planner or Alexa’s Competitive Keyword Matrix tools to visualize the proportion of people searching for the business idea you have in mind and also provide you with a list of related keywords as well. This will help to form ideas for websites, descriptions, online advertising, product names and more.

You can obtain reports and datasets from this website covering demographics, public opinion polls, content analysis and other data driven social science research for changes in attitudes and trends in industries and regions.

For more data and stats, Statista is another useful website for research on topics in over 600 industries. The data is provided in an easy digestible form of charts and infographics.

Alexa Tools

One of the tools available from this platform has been mentioned above for keyword research but there’s more where Alexa can uncover various details about your audience’s habits, interests and demographics.

Government sources

Government sources are good for solid statistical data like the census data of the country’s population, (US department of commerce) for industry data, UN Comtrade ( for imports and exports, Eurostat - European office of statistics.

The National Intelligence Survey’s online Factbook is a treasure trove of business information for over 250 countries in providing individual country summaries of the economy, population, geography, government, communications and more. The online Factbook helps improve your understanding of the different markets for international research.

Databases containing company information

Databases containing company information to help you benchmark against your competitors such as, Hoovers or Companies House for financial data.

Social media is so ingrained in our lives, this offers another platform for research to be carried out. Views, thoughts and opinions that people have expressed via social media and the amount of content that has been shared is an invaluable source of information that can be taped into. Using social listening tools like Awario, you can identify topics of interest and analyse the related posts such as examining the number of brand mentions and what people are saying about the product. Social media analytics can also track the number of likes, shares, impressions and link clicks.

A couple of things to keep in mind

Online market research is great but as with all things, it does have its limitations that you need to be aware of.

  • Bias towards the population who are online and tend to be young. For example, the elderly population are less likely to be online compared to those people who are much younger but as the internet is so ingrained in our lives especially now with the pandemic, there’s less discrepancy in older age groups who have adopted the technology available.

  • For online panel surveys, there can be respondent fraud and bias due to the financial incentives (cash or vouchers) for taking part. However, there mechanisms in the survey to remove those people who do not qualify through screening, gone through the survey too quickly or given the same answer at multiple statements.

So there you have it, where there are a number of ways to do online research whether that’s through secondary sources or carrying out your own market research. It's totally up you, which fits a particular situation and your budget.



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