Online marketing research is currently booming. A recent study performed by Ciao AG revealed that 87% of marketing researchers who use the Internet for research purposes anticipate that they will use it even more often during the next six months. Moreover, 36% of researchers said that this increase would be substantial.
The widespread use of the Internet in this field can be explained mainly by the following: the Internet makes it possible to find both primary  and secondary  data in record times and at very competitive prices. In fact, the above-mentioned Ciao AG study cited these two advantages (time: 73%; price: 71%) as the principal reasons for using the Internet over other tools or methodologies.
Primary and secondary data are both of utmost importance in research marketing. Generally speaking, secondary data research is performed prior to primary data research because the former often influences the latter.
With regard to primary data, many types of online research can be performed, offering marketing researchers high quality results. To quote Ciao once again, the principal type of data hunted online pertains to customer satisfaction and attitude. Online polls and observations of Internet users can provide information about customer satisfaction and attitude in real time, making it possible to rapidly correct the target to offer better package products/services to customers.
As for secondary data, the Internet opens the door on a global library of information that is constantly evolving and that offers a vast storehouse of data ranging from market sizes, company sales figures, demand for products/services, etc. Thanks to the referencing of many types of files (.html, .doc, .pdf, etc.), the constantly rising number of pages available on search engines and the numerous specialized tools available online, the web is a goldmine of both free and paid data.
Some research can only be performed using secondary data. This is true of all research in which it is impossible to pinpoint a product’s potential clientele. Secondary data also facilitates the formulation of marketing problematics and eliminates unnecessary effort by using existing data when available.
You must, however, be particularly careful with data found on the Internet. Though the information is plentiful, it can sometimes be incorrect. Therefore, you must rely on trustworthy sources when conducting research because many companies tend to work numbers to their advantage, biasing data that was originally accurate.
To illustrate this concept, one need only think of the numerous studies conducted in recent months by independent firms proclaiming that servers running on the Windows Server 2003 operating system are less expensive than those running on Linux. These studies have been widely refuted in various articles and Microsoft was in fact forced to retract certain ads that were ruled misleading .
Clearly, the web is a double-edge sword when it comes to research marketing. While it allows you to find data quickly and at minimal cost, it can also send you down the wrong path. Moreover, good quality secondary data is not always available to everyone. Many specialized databases require memberships to access good quality content. What’s more, once the content is obtained, you must be capable of interpreting it correctly. Conclusion: though the Internet offers much information, the challenge, now more than ever before, lies in interpreting it.