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How to Conduct Successful Online Research


Effectively managing online research can be a big deal. This 5-step guide will walk you through the process start-to-finish.

Setting Goals

What is your Mission?

Whether you are in business trying to grow or a scientist wanting to know – it’s always important to start your data-  discovery  journey with a clear goal.

Try starting with this simple question:  “What are you trying to improve?

Understanding what you actually want to make better may sound simple but the exercise of looking at what you do want to optimize with the resources you have, will force you to focus. This will serve you in every step of the process in conducting online market research – especially fast paced online research.

Understanding what you want to improve will keep you clear on what is valuable and lead to sources of information that will help you gather data to which leads to a better understanding the dynamics of the current environment in play.

A clear mission will help you confidently target on priorities so you can keep your attention on the data and the audience sampling which is essential when you want to stay on budget and think about respondent engagement.

In the end, when you are writing your executive summary you will reflect on how glad you were that you stayed on goal.


  • What Are You Trying To Improve
  • Focus on Sources and Quality of Information
  • Focus on Study Design & Priorities

Study Design

Map It Out!

As soon as you are clear on the What – the next step is the How.

Here is where goals start to become a plan and decisions have to be made concerning the research roadmap. Decisions made here will affect online sampling, questionnaire design, programming, data and statistical analysis.

Decide what is the best study methodology for the problem you are trying to solve. Is it mostly exploratory and qualitative? Maybe online bulletin boards , focus groups, or in-depth interviews are the way to go.

Are you looking at simple online message testing or A/B testing? Then make sure you have defined your target audience and set up effective ways to measure online response rates that match marketplace behavior.

Are you conducting a multi-country study? Be certain that your language translations are also localized to allow for cultural nuances and norms in order to avoid a brand blooper or worse, an international incident!


  • Online Qualitative or Online Quantitative – Both?
  • Apply the Right Methodology, Using Common Sense to the Appropriate Audience.
  • Think Global / Act Local – Design Your Study With Local Markets in Mind.


Be Online Survey Savvy

Qualifications / Observations / Classifications 

Simply stated, any online data collection exercise (like online questionnaires) contain a screener section, which is in effect a gate, or a series of questions designed to determine whether a respondent qualifies for your survey. There is no rule to say which questions are correct for your screener, only that you combine them together to filter you to the right respondent.  Your screener is the final authority on respondent survey qualification. Your panel company may send you targeted prescreened respondents, but you still have to be certain they pass all of your screening criteria before you qualify them to enter your survey.

Depending on what type of online research you are conducting your questionnaire observations section will vary widely. If you are doing an Attitude & Usage Study, you might have many sections: Brand Awareness / Brand Purchase / Advertising Awareness / Brand Perceptions / Ratings / Usage / Media  Awareness / Brand Perceptions / Ratings / Usage / Media Consumption.

If you are conducting other types of studies, like Pricing or Feature Modeling, you might include a Discrete Choice Analysis or Conjoint Analysis into the questionnaire design.

For market researchers, classification generally means a demographics section.  Online consumer research generally includes: Gender / Age / Income / Education / Ethnicity / Race / Region / Children / Relationship Status. On the other hand for Online B2B research you would find:  Industry / Revenue / Employees / Industry Subsegments / Region. 

Every data point collected adds another dimension to your survey reporting depth. So think about what story you will want to tell and what level of detail you will need to understand.

The greater the granularity the more cases you will need to collect to be able to get statistical accuracy and validity.


  • A Well Designed Screener Gets You the Right Respondents
  • Choose Your Online Survey Type and Questions to Match the Story You Are Telling
  • Survey Length / More Questions May Increase the Number of Cases Required to Collect

Sampling & Field

Online Sampling for Results

Your online survey is ready, programed and you tested it yourself. Or perhaps you need to contract with a online sampling company to connect you with your audience and program your survey.  Either way once you have finished programming the questionnaire you will generally want to do a slow start with a handful for respondents and then do a data check ( depending on the complexity of the online survey).

Once you are satisfied with the program you can begin a full launch of the study. It is important to manage the flow of online sample carefully so that you get balanced responses. You also need to make sure you set quotas in your demos and subgroups so you do not overshoot targets and miss other targets. This is the responsibility of the programmer and the online sample company to coordinate together. A good online sample partner can guide you through setting up your program correctly (if you are a survey DIYer) or they can manage the whole thing for you.

Successful Online Audience Sampling for Consumers / B2B / Healthcare takes experience and skill. Delivering quality sample to customers with great service takes all that and more. Online sampling is where the quality begins – and ends.

Make sure you Know What You Are Getting – and you that are getting the Service You Deserve – Online Sample is NOT a commodity business! 


  • Remember Slow Start Your Survey Once it’s Programmed and Tested
  • Expect the Online Sample Company to Guide Sample and Quota Balancing to Reach all Targets and Subgroups.
  • Your Online Sample Company Is Responsible for Getting you the Right Audience  – Choose Wisely

Report & Action

Do the Research – Tell the Story

Your Research Report is going to be the capstone of this endeavor and all you have to do is bring the pieces together that you have organized so well thus far. It’s all coming together now and the responses are coming in. You will be done soon.

You probably have preliminary data to get a read on where things are headed, and the tables are all set up and ready to run once the final cases are collected.  A final set of cross-tabs should be ready within hours of the end of field.

Curating Insights, posting supporting charts & tables can require some Online Market Research Support. This is science – but it is not rocket science. Find the key points that relate back to your mission. What are the variables that will most drive change if you apply different inputs to them?. What are the likelihoods? Who will be affected ?  What are the Costs / Benefits / Risks?

This Is Your Story!


  • Get Reporting Setup In Advance
  • Leverage Help for Curating Insights & Posting Tables & Charts
  • Tie the Data Discovery to the Mission and Tell the Story

We want you to think of OvationMR for Online Market Research primary because we can deliver you what is 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


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.

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

Jenn Whaley


Contact OvationMR

We are ready to get to work for you, by providing a project estimate/proposal, our latest Panel Book, ESOMAR28 response, or an open dialogue about your next project.


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