Conducting Online Market Research Like a Pro

A guide to take your online research insights game to the next level in 5 easy steps…

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Market Research » Survey Design, Programming, Reporting, and Panel Services » Conducting Online Market Research Like a Pro

How do you begin doing a market research project?

If you’re considering conducting online market research, you must set a straightforward business, social, or academic goal to determine the information you seek and why. This will help guide you as to what type of research design you will use. An easy place to start is by asking this question: “What are you trying to improve?


Once you and your team have considered this question, use the answer as your mission statement. Most importantly, keep that mission in front of you every step of the way, from designing your survey questions to doing the analysis and writing the report.


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Your mission statement should be your road map, guiding you back to your goal-focused journey. So whether you want to innovate a product or service or simply tie employee bonuses to customer satisfaction, these goals should keep you from wandering into the hinterlands of irrelevant questions, tangential sources, and ineffective survey designs, especially during fast-paced online research. It will help you stay focused, on schedule, and within budget.



What are the types of secondary research sources?


As you embark on your journey, remember to focus on what you are trying to improve when you select your secondary resources. Use your business goals to help you focus only on those sources that will directly impact your data-discovery journey.


Today, an enormous array of web-based online resources are available to you, whether you are looking to do market research or social science research.


If you are beginning your research process with an internet search, consider many search engine alternatives to Google that can provide high-quality search results that are more fine-tuned to your topic of interest.


Don’t forget offline sources like a public or school library. Both can be outstanding resources for information on criminal justice statistics and the economy, as can various references on census data and public filing corporations. Don’t forget to cite the sources, whether from an academic journal article or another reference source.



Is social media considered a primary research source?


As you turn the corner and begin pulling together your plans for primary research, return to what you are trying to improve before selecting the sampling methods, target population, and research tools you will use.


Don’t forget the social network! Social media is now an excellent and viable source for collecting primary quantitative and qualitative data.


Balance the time it takes, the cost of the research, and how well the results will help you meet your mission before selecting your final primary research methods. A well-focused market research project will appeal to your audience, who will be more likely to want to participate.


You will be excited to see your results when you’re pulling into the final stretch, now focused on crunching your numbers, coding open-ends, and compiling your data. Results that help you meet your business objectives. Results that were delivered on time and within budget. Results that will help you improve the areas you set out to tackle in the very beginning.




  • Ask, “What Are You Trying to Improve?”
  • Focus on Relevant Sources and Information
  • Select the Most Compatible Research Design and Methods



How do you design online market research?


Once you have your starting point and your destination, as well as some key stops along the way, it’s time to get into the details of how to proceed. Begin by deciding if you’ll be conducting:


  • primary research,
  • secondary research, or
  • a mix of both methods


If the latter, consider what proportions of each you’ll be using. Remember to keep that mission statement nearby as you make this initial decision.  A Market Research Expert can help you select the best research type to help meet your particular goals.


Primary research involves a wide range of methods, including:



Secondary research involves gathering existing data from other sources to uncover data.


It’s easy to get off-track when exploring all the market research possibilities. This is why you want to return to your mission statement continually. As you’re reviewing the possibilities, ask yourself every time whether that particular method will help you reach your focused goal.


By maintaining that pinpoint focus, you’ll be able to select the best online sampling, questionnaire design, programming, and data and statistical analysis for your project.


It will help you choose between exploratory, qualitative and quantitative options. It will help you better define your target audience. It will help you effectively measure online response rates that match marketplace behavior.




  • Decide Between Online Qualitative, Quantitative or Both
  • Apply the Right Methodology and Target the Right Audience
  • Design Your Study with Local Markets in Mind



How do you find your target audience using online research?


The most important factor in online data collection is getting to the right respondent. This is equally important whether you are doing consumer research or B2B research. Different targeting methods are used for sampling for a consumer target audience versus a B2B audience.


The first step in the process involves a screener section, which is essentially an online gatekeeper that asks several qualifying questions.


Even if you begin with a pre-qualified respondent list, you will still want to make sure your respondents meet all of your particular qualifications. You may want to work with an expert to develop this qualification screener survey.


It’s important to note that there are no perfect qualification questions. You only develop the ones that will connect you to the correct respondents for the information you seek. Here are some possible screening criteria for common online studies: 


Online Consumer Research Respondent Screener Qualifiers 

Relationship Status
Product Usage
Brand Usage
Home Ownership

Online B2B Research Respondent Screener Qualifiers

Industry Sector
Decision Maker?
Years of Experience
Company Size (Revenue / Employed)
Product Qualifiers
Job Title
Markets Serviced
Regions Located
Minority or Woman Owned
Decision Cycle
# of Employees Managed
Service Qualifiers
Job Function

As you’re developing your survey, remember that every data point collected will add a dimension to your survey reporting depth. Return to your mission and overall goals, and think about what your final story needs to tell to determine the level of detail you will require.


It’s important to understand that the more detailed you get, the greater the number of respondents you’ll need to obtain statistical accuracy and validity.




  • A Well Designed Screener Gets You the Right Respondents
  • Choose Your Online Survey Type and Questions Thoughtfully
  • Longer Surveys May Increase Number of Needed Respondents

Testing your sample and surveys with online panel companies


Once you have completed your online market research survey’s programming, it’s time to test it before you roll it out. If your online survey is relatively simple, you can test it yourself or convince a few colleagues to help you make sure it’s working as you envision it.


Using an online market research panel test more complex surveys with a small segment of your target audience. After the test run is completed, perform a data check to ensure that the survey is ready for a larger launch. It’s important to manage the flow of your online sample during the main launch.


Be sure to set quotas, so you achieve the sample size and the distribution you need for all your audience subgroups.


As far as implementation, you can manage the online survey yourself, enlist an online sample company as a consultant, or outsource the entire effort.




  • Program and Test Survey Tools
  • Start Implementation Slowly and Continue Methodically
  • Check Balance of Subgroups During Main Launch
  • Select Experienced Online Panel Companies for Added Support


How to analyze online market research and tell the story


If you’ve stayed focused on your mission and business goals throughout the process, this final report writing stage will come together quickly and easily. It should give you the data you need to make the changes you set out to explore at the beginning of the entire process.


As soon as the results begin rolling in, begin compiling and reviewing your tables and charts. This will help you see preliminary results and give you time to think about the implications. A market research expert can also help you with the quantitative data analysis, providing direction and guidance on how to interpret your results.


When it’s time to put together the final market research report, begin with an executive summary highlighting your key findings as they relate to your overall goals. Each section of the report can delve into those key points in more detail, providing the accompanying data charts that support your findings and conclusions.


Finally, your report should have clear action items and a plan for moving forward. Be sure to exhibit how you will use this new-found information to improve the areas you set out to change at the beginning.



  • Setup Data Capturing Tools Early
  • Leverage Experts for Curating Insights & Posting Tables & Charts
  • Tie the Data Discovery to the Business Mission
  • Tell the Story




There has never been a better time than now to be in the Online Market Research Industry. I have enjoyed helping all of OvationMR’s Customers with their Online Sampling needs and their Research Services needs by delivering the right audience with the best tools.

I know I have helped so many other agencies and companies I know I can help your company too.

Jenn Whaley


We want you to think of OvationMR for Online Market Research primary because we can deliver you the audience and tools most important for today’s research practitioner: quality dataresearcher support services, global access.

We can do this at the best value of any leading Online Panel Company or Online Sample Supplier.

Jim Whaley


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