Online focus groups, concept testing and consumer surveys are three types of primary research from which online execution can provide excellent data at a lower cost and shorter timeframe than conventional phone, mail, or in-person methods. Asking for clients’, customers’ or prospects’ online input often provides a greater response rate than conventional surveys as well. The savings include resources ranging from paper and postage to the number of people and amount of materials required to prepare and conduct the research. Additionally, online surveys equate to 24/7 availability to a larger and geographically wider sample size.

  • Focus groups consist of a group of people asked to answer and discuss among themselves questions posed by a moderator. They are useful in the early phases of researching a problem—perhaps even helping define the initial problem or opportunity—before more robust and rigorous research is designed. Because of their small size, focus groups cannot statistically represent the wider population, so analyze the results accordingly.

Live focus groups can prove very effective in seeking out problems and opportunities, providing an exclusive or in-depth look at more complex issues. However, it can be more expensive and labor intensive to coordinate. When the questions at hand are relatively straightforward, using the Internet eliminates those problems, allowing participants to participate from any location with an Internet connection.

  • Online execution of concept testing and market testing has also become popular. Reduced cost is a primary impetus behind this transition, as well as speed of results and the ability to adapt the test based on early results.

SA has conducted early testing of various brand concepts to ensure that various publics understand and resonate with the proposed messaging. This analysis can lead to small tweaks or major insights, all of which ensure that a campaign will be on target when it rolls out.

  • Online consumer surveys are extremely effective. They offer significant advantages over mail-based and telephone surveys in terms of setup, cost, interactivity, result processing, and participant follow-up. Examples of online survey tools include SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang. Each offers a similar product, and they are free to use in a stripped-down version. For example, Strategic America, on behalf of the Worldcom PR Group, of which SA is a partner, has conducted a partner participation survey for more than five years, using an online source and sending the link through email.

There are times in which in-person research is vital, including ensuring that your participants are who they say they are and are part of the right audience. Beyond security, interaction with a product or persons can also prove helpful. Moderators can draw out opinions by being amiable and welcoming. Live voice surveys can also generate instant sales activity at times.

No matter what, any survey instrument must ask the right questions and provide options that make sense to survey participants, so they can answer in a way that truly assists a company or organization.

For more information on how you can save money, speed up implementation, and simplify fact-gathering through online market research, email me at or give me a call at 515-453-2047.

Jim Stafford
Principal  & Vice President, Client Services

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