Back to Articles and Publications

Market Research


Add Value to Your Market Research Project Results Via Web-Based Surveys - Without Adding a Lot of Cost to Your Market Research Project


Market research provides business owners, managers and planners with insights into the needs, preferences and buying patterns of their customers and potential customers (i.e., their "target market"). If you are a market researcher employed by a business or working as an independent consultant, you most likely begin your projects by conducting secondary market research: that is, by gleaning reports and databases from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, trade associations, press releases and other companies' publicly available market research reports. Often, however, low cost secondary research doesn't produce the specific information companies need to make strategic, informed decisions. In the past, many companies with small market research budgets have avoided hiring market researchers to conduct surveys because of the high cost involved. Hosted web survey companies have emerged to make conducting surveys very affordable, allowing even smaller companies on a budget to benefit from the tailored research results of primary research. Web based surveys allow you to survey large numbers of people quite inexpensively. You can now quickly and affordably gather strategic market information for your company or client.


Primary research results are tailored to your client's company's particular market information needs. You can find specific market information for your client by conducting primary research via interviews, observations (e.g., counting traffic, observing shoppers or actually shopping with competitors) and surveys. Personal interviews are easy to conduct but provide more subjective data than do surveys. Focus groups and interviews yield valuable insights into customer attitudes and are excellent ways to uncover issues related to new product or service development. The results of interviewing small groups of people are not statistically reliable, however, which means they don't necessarily represent the opinions, behaviors or preferences of a large segment of the population. Surveys, when well designed and based on a representative sample of market participants, reveal information that can represent the average views, opinion, habits and preferences of the entire market. The larger the sample, the more reliable (and useful) the survey findings.


Web based surveys are a rich addition to the more affordable secondary research, but are not meant to replace secondary research. For little cost, government data, trade association reports and literature searches often provide you with information on customer demographics (i.e., the average age, income, race, education level, geographic location of customers), industry wide sales and trends, and the number of potential customers. To provide the best value to your market research client, collect as much relevant secondary information before designing survey research projects. For example, the report, "Sports Participation in 2002: Series I," published by the National Sporting Goods Association, provides participation rates for 26 sports by metropolitan area for $295.00. If a retail tennis supply shop owner wants to know how many tennis players there are in a certain geographic area, you would most likely recommend that your client purchase the report. You probably could not duplicate the information contained in the "Participation" report for less than $295. However, if your client wants to know a region's tennis racket or clothing brand preferences, or how much the average tennis player plans to spend on tennis accessories over the next year, the best way to find out is to ask. And a web-based survey is a very cost effective way to do so.


Hosted Web survey companies provide online software tools, services and secure server space which allows you to easily design, administer and store market research surveys and survey results. Most hosted survey companies provide tutorials, question templates, and customer service support along with their software so that you can easily design and implement each online survey. In the past, small businesses went without the valuable information survey research provides because of the expense. According to Mie-Yun Lee, founder and editorial director of, and author of The Essential Business Buyer's Guide, telephone surveys can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 and mail surveys cost about $5,000 to $7,000, for 200 responses.

The total out of pocket cost for a web-based survey with 200 submitted responses varies from about $500 to $2000: if you have an e-mail list of qualified respondents handy, out of pocket expenses for a 200 response web based survey costs about $500. If you have to purchase a respondent list (you can purchase one from your hosted web survey company), out of pocket expenses for a 200 response survey will run you about $2000. The other major survey expense includes the minimal amount of time you'll spend working with the hosted web survey company and software to set up the survey.


It is possible, however, that some members of the market group you are researching do not use the Internet, and so you may consider conducting a "mixed mode" survey. Mixed mode surveys yield the best survey results for markets with a significant proportion of individuals who do not access the Internet. You can mail the same survey you designed using web-based survey design software to "offline" respondents, or conduct the survey via the telephone. The additional cost of adding about 50 offline responses to the survey varies, but would be about $1,500, assuming an average cost of $30 per response. Mixed mode survey costs are higher than surveys conducted solely via the web. For example, when you purchase 300 web survey responses from Hostedware, the cost per submitted survey is just $1.60 each (you pay only for completed surveys submitted), versus an estimated average cost of $8.70 per response for a mixed mode survey of 50 off-line and 150 web based survey results. The total project cost for conducting a 200 response mixed mode survey would range from $2000 to $3500, plus the cost of the minimal amount of time you'll spend on web based survey design and final reporting to your company or client. Mixed mode surveys are still more affordable than telephone and mail surveys costing an estimated $5,000 to $15,000.


Most Americans do use the Internet, and so low cost web based survey results represent the views, opinions and shopping habits of most market participants. According to "The UCLA Internet Report: Surveying the Digital Future," 71% of Americans used the Internet in 2002. With the greater availability of easy-to-use and secure web-based surveys, you can begin to offer your company or client more affordable, primary market research. If you're an independent market research professional, you can expand your revenue base by providing your clients with more strategic, timely market survey information. Business owners, decision makers and planners can turn to you for affordable information tailored to their specific market decision making needs when you incorporate the use of web based surveys as part of your market research tool bag.

Hostedware Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software solutions for research, education and performance improvement. Hosted Survey and Hosted Test are used by human resources professionals, market researchers, education and training organizations and membership associations worldwide.




< Back to Articles and Publications