NONE: ONLINE-ADS>> Online marketing research dilemmas

ONLINE-ADS>> Online marketing research dilemmas
Mon, 15 Jun 1998 07:48:36 -0700

Richard and the list:

This mailing list has discussed whether we were surveyed out
online. In my opinion, we haven't been surveyed out yet. As
a matter of fact, we haven't started it yet.

The dilemmas

1. Many web marketers are searching online marketing
research information, but many of them are suspicious about
what they got;

2. There are many web marketing research reports online, but
few of these reports are found useful in web business

3. Many web marketers are eager to get online marketing
research reports, but few of them are willing to participate
in research surveys.

Self-selection is not the problem

Many people think these dilemmas are caused by online survey
self-selection problem. I am afraid I cannot agree with this
argument. The reasons are:

1. Self-selection exists in all surveys----not only online
but also offline. No one can overcome this problem (if you
like to call it a problem.). Any method to overcome this
problem will introduce new sources of biases. Although
self-selection does make a survey result less reliable, a
well designed survey gives you the most reliable result you
are able to get. You only have two choices: survey or not

2. The problem of non-representative sample came from the
fact that online survey is not representative to the whole
population (online & offline). But if your whole population
is online, your survey sample should be as representative as
any other offline surveys.

3. Sampling issue is not as important as many people think.
In fact, more than 95% of the error from a survey comes from
the inappropriate survey design ---- asking wrong questions.
But most people focused on that much smaller (less than 5%)
error source.

Then where are the problems?

Problem 1: Skeptical research qualities

Although you can see many online marketing research reports,
few of them are of high quality. We have strong evidences to
support this statement:

1. Do you know how many people online? The more such
research reports, the more confused we are. Perhaps the best
way to know how many people online is to conduct a new
research: how many research firms have conducted 'how many
people online' study? And try to get the average of their
survey results. (If you are interested in conducting 'How
many people online' research, we have an article ("How many
online and demographics") to demonstrate the whole survey
process and tell you how to avoid common mistakes.)

2. Do you know what the total online revenue in the year of
2000 is? You have seen projections from a couple of hundred
billion US dollars to more than one trillion US dollars.
Which one is true? We have read a confession by a leading
online research firm: in 96, their bold projection of
online revenue in 97 was only about 50% of the real value
(How real is this 'real value'?)! And they are proud of it
because this is the closest number among all the
projections! How reliable is a projection if it is based on
courage instead of facts? (We have an upcoming article
("Forecasting and beyond") to demonstrate the whole process
of a projection. After you read it, you know why we will
never conduct such projections.)

3. Many marketing research firms claim that they can conduct
multivariate analyses. (In fact, many of them cannot.)
Claiming being able to conduct multivariate analyses is just
like a web design firm claiming that it can use HTML. Why
does this happen? Because most of the marketing research
firms are unable to conduct multivariate analyses. We have
designed a web survey software --SiteSuev-- to help a web
marketer understand how his/her visitors evaluate the site.
The software is free because we think this kind of standard
marketing research should be available to every web
marketer, just like many other freeware on the Internet.
However, most marketing research firms are making living
(good living) on conducting such researches. They usually
charge more than US$1,000 to conduct a similar study but
with less sophisticated analytical techniques. If you are
interested in finding out the quality of their researches,
you may try to find a site which provides web site
evaluation service (not log analysis) or customer
satisfaction study and compare its analysis with our free
software----SiteSurv. Pay special attention to the
techniques used in their analyses. (Basically speaking, if a
research firm does not use a Causal Path Analysis (see in its site
evaluation or customer satisfaction study, you have more
than enough evidence to disbelieve its analytical ability)

Problem 2: Useless research reports

Any time, we conduct a survey not because we need a survey
but because we need survey result to make marketing
decisions. When these marketing research firms conducted
such as "how many online" researches, did they think about
how web marketers can use their marketing research results?
They conducted such surveys because they wanted to meet the
favor of news media and because they CAN only conduct such

However, as web marketers, we need more than 'how many

What information is most useful to our web marketers?

1. We want to know the basic needs of the customers;

2. We want to understand the structure of the

3. We want to understand the preference structure in each

4. We want to know how to target a segment;

5. We want to know how to design our business strategies.

If a research firm asks you to participate in such a survey
and in return you will receive the survey report, will you
go for it?

A marketing research is not about some statistics. A good
marketing research is about the processes of forming
strategies and finding business solutions!

We haven't been surveyed out yet because we haven't seen a
good survey that can really help us make business decisions.


Tim Lee
Director of Research
A site dedicated to web marketing research.

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