Research techniques

Internet-based marketing research can help determine the influence of a website and related communications on customer perception of the company and its products and services. But it also has wider applications of gaining feedback from customers about a brand and how it could develop in future. Smartinsights (2010) identifies these five different classes of online feedback tools:

Website feedback

Provide a permanent facility for customer to feedback by prompts on every page. They are run continuously to enable continuous feedback including ratings on page content, and also products and services.

Site user intent-satisfaction surveys

These tools measure the gap between what the user had hoped to do on the site and what they actually achieved.

Crowdsourcing product opinion software

These are broader than web feedback enabling customers to comment about potential new services.

Simple page or concept feedback tools

A form of crowdsourcing, these tools give feedback from an online panel about page, layout, messaging or services.

General online survey tools

Tools like Zoomerang ( and Survey-Monkey ( enable companies to survey their audiences at low cost.

The full options for conducting survey research include interviews, questionnaires and focus groups. Each of these techniques can be conducted online or offline.


Malhotra (1999) suggested the Internet surveys using questionnaires will increase in popularity since the costs is generally lower, they can be less intrusive and they have the ability to target specific population. This has proved to be the case. Questionnaires often take the form of pop-up surveys. The key issues are:

1. Encouraging participation

Techniques that can be used are:

- Interruption on entry – a common approach where every 100th customer is prompted

- Continuous, for example, click on a button to complete survey

- On registration on-site the customer can be profiled

- After an activity such as sale or customer support, the customer can be prompted for their opinion about the service

- Incentives and promotions (this can also be executed on independent sites)

- By email (an email prompt to visit a website to fill a survey or a simple email survey).

2. Stages in execution

It is suggested that there are five stages to successful questionnaire survey:

- Attract (button, pop-up, email as above)

- Incentive (prize or offer consistent with required sample and audience)

- Reassure (why the company is doing it – to learn, not too long and that confidentiality is protected)

- Design and execute (brevity, relevant, position)

- Follow-up (feedback)

3. Design

Grossnickle and Raskin (2001) suggest the following approach to structuring questionnaires:

- Easy, interesting questions first

- Cluster questions on same topic

- Flow topic from general to specific

- Flow topic from easier behavioural to more difficult attitudinal questions

- Easy questions last, e.g. demographics or off-putting questions.

Typical questions

(that can be asked for determining the effectiveness of Internet marketing are:)

- Who is visiting the site? For example, role in buying decision? Online experience? Access location and speed? Demographics segment?

- Why are they visiting? How often do they visit? Which information or service? Did they find it? Actions taken? (can be determined through web analytics)

- What do they think? Overall opinion? Key areas of satisfaction? Specific likes or dislikes? What was missing that was expected?


- Record marketing outcomes

- Can record customer satisfaction and profiles

- Relatively cheap to create and analyse


- Difficulty of integrating data with other methods of data collection when service collected manually or in other information systems

- Difficulty of recruiting respondents who complete accurately

- Sample bias – tend to be advocate or disgruntled customers who complete

Focus groups

Malhotra (1999) noted that the advantage of online focus groups is that they can be used to reach segments that are difficult to access, such as doctors, lawyers and professional people. This author suggests that costs are lower, they can be arranged more rapidly and can bridge distance gap when recruiting respondents. Traditional focus groups can be conducted, where customers are brought together in a room and assess a website;this will typically occurs pre-launch as part of prototyping activity. Testing can take the form of random use of the site or, more usefully, the users will be given different scenarios to follow. Focus groups tend to be relatively expensive and time consuming, since rather than simply viewing an advertisement, the customer need to actually interact with the website. Conducting real-world focus groups has the benefit that the reactions of site users can be monitored; the scratch or slap of the head cannot be monitored in the virtual world!


- Relatively cheap to create and analyse


- Difficult to moderate and co-ordinate

- No visual cues, as from offline focus groups

Mystery shoppers

Real-world measurement is also important since the Internet channel does not exist in isolation. It must work in unison with real-world customer service and fulfilment. An eMysteryShopper survey involves shoppers not only commenting on site usability, but also on the service quality of email and phone responses together with product fulfilment. Mystery shoppers test these areas:

- Site usability

- Ecommerce fulfilment

- Email and phone response (time, accuracy)

- Impact on brand


- Structured tests give detailed feedback

- Also tests integrated with other channels such as email and phone


- Relatively expensive

- Sample must be representative

Adapted from

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

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