How to Conduct Online Research Like a Pro


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

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

Setting Goals

How do you begin online market research?

If you’re considering conducting online market research, you must set a clear business goal so you know what information you’re seeking and why. An easy place to start is by asking this question: “What are we trying to improve?


Once you and your team have considered this question use that 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.


Your mission statement should serve as your road map, always guiding you back to your goal-focused journey. It should keep you from wandering out 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 help you directly on your data-discovery journey. Today there are an enormous array of web-based online resources 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 there are many search engine alternatives to Google which can provide high-quality search results you will find 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 to various references on census data and the public filings corporations. Don’t forget to cite the sources, whether it’s 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. In addition, a well-focused market research project will be more appealing to your audience, who will be more likely to want to participate.


When you’re pulling into the final stretch, now focused on crunching your numbers, coding open-ends, and compiling your data, you will be excited to see your results. Results that help you meet your business objectives. Results that were delivered on time and on 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 Most Compatible Research Design and Methods

Study Design

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 type of research to help meet your particular goals.


Primary research involves a wide range of methods including:


  • surveys,
  • focus groups,
  • interviews, and
  • A/B testing.


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. Which is why you want to continually return to your mission statement. 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. There are different targeting methods which 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, only that you develop the ones that will connect you to the correct respondents for the information you are seeking. Here are some possible screening criteria for common online studies:


Online Consumer Research Respondent Screener Qualifiers 


Online B2B Research Respondent Screener Qualifiers 



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

Sampling & Field

Testing your sample and surveys with online panel companies

Once you have completed the programming of your online market research study, 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.


Online panel companies can help you 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

Report & Action

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 that you need to make the changes you set out to explore in 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 report, begin with an executive summary that highlights 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 best 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


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


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


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