Gathering Market Intelligence Online

Market research is key to any business, big or small. Your market defines the boundaries of your potential sources of revenue. The more you know your market, the more you can craft your products and services to fit that market’s needs. As Shawn O’Connor writes for Forbes, “By doing your homework before starting your business, you can be assured that your product or service is properly priced and positioned and you are offering the most sought after attributes.”

How can you do that homework, especially if budgets are tight? Technology has had a big impact on how market research is conducted, for better and for worse. Here’s what you need to know.

Wealth of Information

One of the big positives technology has brought to market research is the ability to access a wide range of secondary research online. Secondary research refers to research conducted by, and reported by, others. There is obviously a wealth of data available online. To make sure you’re looking at reputable sources, focus on those sites ending in .gov or .edu.

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Technology’s reach has also made conducting primary research much easier. Primary research is that which you conduct yourself based on your own observations and measurements. The use of the Internet and telecommunications technology to connect a wide range of people has been a boon to research activities such as sentiment analysis and consumer perception analysis through social media monitoring.

Geographic Reach

We can now also conduct focus groups online through technology, allowing us to interact with people across wide geographic boundaries. We can also easily use research to conduct in-depth interviews with people around the globe. Just because you’re located in the American Midwest doesn’t mean you can’t pick the brain of members of your target market in New Delhi or Hong Kong.

The Downside

The downside, though, is that online research can give the false impression that it is as statistically reliable as traditional research. It certainly can be, but much of what passes as statistically reliable, quantitative research these days really isn’t. Consumers of research need to understand how to tell what is, and isn’t, reliable or valid.

While there’s certainly potential to inadvertently rely on less-than-credible information, on the whole, technology has to be considered a positive for the world of market research. The wealth of information and reach of technology can be put to good use by any company looking to learn more about its market—if they take the time to both understand and use it.

How are you using the Internet to improve your understanding of your market and your competitors?

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