I have been conducting digital research since 2003. Below is the thought process I apply for digital research only (i.e. this does not include important methods such as in-home visits / ethnographic research) :
Conduct Primary Research (Do It Yourself)
- Behavioral – Watch what they do and draw conclusions about them.
- Pros: Authentic – actions speak louder than words. Cheap and easy to monitor large quantities of your consumers
- Cons: Hard to do when they are using a digital channel that you do not own and therefore can’t easily track
- Survey – Ask them what you want to know
- Pros: Can get very detailed and customized. Can ask pre-screening questions and make sure responses only coming from targeted audiences
- Cons: Survey bias. Respondents can sometimes tell you what you want to hear. Further, respondents often require compensation of some form for their help, which can bias their responses
Consult Secondary Research (Use an Expert)
- Why go secondary?
- Experts may have already conducted the research you need or are better equipped to collect and analyze it due to their economies of scale and relationships
- Experts have cross-industry benchmarks and insights that individual companies do not possess
- Experts bring credibility to any analysis
- Prices can be more cost-effective since you are purchasing just what you need and not paying the overhead for an entire project
- Who to use?
- There are many great names in digital secondary research companies. My preferred vendor has always been Forrester Research. They provide detailed reports, access to raw data, access to their analysts, input into their survey design, live and web-based training, and benchmarks
Examples of What to Collect
- Why does your target choose to go online? When and how often? From which device or location to they access the Internet?
- What do they do online? (sites, activities, purchases, etc.)
- What digital devices does your target own? How often do they use them?
- How do the digital behaviors of your prospects, new customers, and loyal customers compare?
- How are your audiences using digital devices to learn about and purchase from your competitors?
Examples of How to Collect
- Field a survey, or purchase results from a fielded survey. Typical options are:
- Online: Can serve before visiting a site, after a targeted activity, upon leaving the site, upon return
- Email: Can send only to targeted segments, such as those who purchased, visited a site, visited and didn’t click on a call-to-action, or have certain demographics
- Mobile: Limited to short answers
- Place tracking tags into any digital assets that you own, or use available analytics packages. Examples:
- Tags in an e-newsletter
- Tags on a website
- Analytics on a mobile campaign
- Analytics that come with a blog or Facebook
- Use social media monitoring tools to collect and analyze relevant online conversations