What is the Right Way to Conduct Online Market Research? All the Techniques Explained

Last Updated December 9, 2021

In 2012, JCPenny’s store sales fell by 20% in the first quarter. 

The interesting part is, what led to this: Rebranding

I know, rebranding is supposed to work the other way around, right? 

Let’s see what exactly happened.

JCPenny decided to launch a “Fair and Square Pricing” where they removed all the coupons, promotions, and sales events from their marketing game. 

Unfortunately, the concept of “No sizzles, just the steak” did not work on JCPenny’s customers. 

Instead of growth, the sales numbers started dropping. Upon finding out where they went wrong, JCPenny realized that their customers found the new pricing hard to understand and saw low value for money. 

Forbes called this an ‘epic rebranding fail’. That hurts, right? 

So, why did this happen? 

Primarily because JCPenny failed to understand their audience. JCPenny could have easily avoided this whole situation with proper market research. 

With the rising use of the internet, online market research has become popular. Moreover, anyone can conduct online market research. All you need is an internet connection.

This post shows you different techniques for conducting online market research. 

What is online market research?

Online market research is a market research methodology where the data collection happens online.  

This focuses on two types of data:

  1. The data you collect directly from your audience
  2. Existing data that’s published online by others

The data you gather in both ways helps you get a good understanding of your target market and uplift your offerings and strategies accordingly. 

Online market research helps gain insights that come without any reluctance, which may be a limiting factor in traditional market research. They also mitigate the biases caused due to peer pressure of agreeing on a viewpoint or expressing thoughts influenced by peers or even the interviewer. 

Traditional market research involves market research techniques like physical surveys and focus groups that gather in a physical location to express their opinions. 

Apart from this, here are a few general benefits of doing market research online over traditional market research:

  • Less use of resources, mainly cost and time required to go door to door or gather people in one place.
  • Data collection in real-time.
  • Easy and secure access to the data along with analytics and insights.
  • Multiple platforms to reach the audience through. 
  • Higher customization based on the target groups. 

Pro tip: Gather relevant data from your leads as soon as they enter the funnel and sync with your database so that you can use these as a part of your subsequent online market research sessions. CallHub offers texting and calling tools that help you collect data and sync with any CRM you use through the various integrations available.

What is the purpose of online market research?

What does it all tie back to? Why do you need to conduct online market research? 

Let’s understand the reasons.

1. Understanding target audience

From the JCPenny example, it’s clear that understanding your target audience is crucial before you come up with a new feature, a strategy, a communication plan, and so on. 

Speaking to your audience’s requirements and expectations, their values, motivations, pain points help craft offerings and strategies that work in your favor. 

2. Understanding audience behavior

Understanding how your audience looks you up online, consumes the information you put up, and reaches the conversion stage helps you provide them with a better experience. Creating a friction-free buyer journey plays an essential role in conversion and retention. 

Discover the factors that influence your audience positively and work them to your advantage.

3. Finding revenue opportunities

online market research revenue illustration
Source: Freepik

The data that online market research yields can help you discover loopholes and hidden opportunities. Also, the buying patterns of your audience can help you create better pricing strategies that yield higher conversions. 

The bottom line is that accurate insights on your target market, which result from online market research, are the foundation for providing the solutions your market needs.

Types of online market research

In the section, here are the two types of online market research. 

  1. Primary research
  2. Secondary research

Let’s see what they are and different techniques to conduct them.

1. Primary research

Primary research involves collecting data firsthand from your audience using internal resources. Here, you collect the data you need and analyze it to extract the insights you need. 

Best practice: Before you execute this, define your research participants. Consider details like their challenges, motivations, fears, along with your target market’s demographics. 

Now, let’s understand a few techniques of conducting primary online market research:

Online focus groups

In this type of online market research, a moderator conducts and supervises the discussion. This moderator is in charge of gathering a preselected set of people representing an area of interest.

These focus groups can again be divided into two groups:

  1. Chat-based online focus groups
  2. Webcam and audio based online focus groups

The respondents are usually incentivized to be a part of the discussion. 

Online community discussion forums

Niche online forums are another platform for learning about your target market. They provide the facility to post discussion topics either manually or schedule them. 

Here’s an excellent way to execute this:

  1. List down the most relevant forums for your industry.
  2. Join them and check the discussions daily.
  3. Contribute to the discussions regularly. 
  4. Note the relevant points that help you understand the target market. Some boards allow you to download a transcript of the discussion as a report. 

Online surveys

The best audience to conduct a market research survey online are your most loyal followers. A survey consists of a set of questions posed to the respondents. In the context of online market research, the questions should focus on understanding your target market. 

Here are three things to keep in mind when conducting online surveys:

  1. 60% of people say they don’t want to take a longer than 10 minutes survey.
  2. 27% of people say not being able to skip a question leads them to end the survey.
  3. 77% of people say they wouldn’t provide contact information in a survey. 
    Source: SurveyMonkey

Check out these survey distribution methods to get you better responses.

CallHub’s texting and calling tools come with notes adding and tagging abilities which are great for conducting online market surveys and analyzing the responses. 

Online interviews

One-on-one online interviews are conducted through different online mediums such as phone calls, Zoom calls, emails, etc. These can be synchronous or asynchronous. In synchronous online interviews, the responses are acquired in real-time. Whereas in asynchronous interviews, the responses come as per the respondents’ convenience.

Online text analysis

This online market research technique focuses on studying the content online to derive the insights you need. There are a few text analyzing software that help in analyzing elements like sentences, paragraphs, documents, graphics, etc.

Once you have the data in, categorize them into the right groups and create a summary of the insights. Document all the research details, such as the participants’ background, key results, etc., accurately and form an action plan.

Often, it may feel challenging to acquire participants for your online market research due to issues regarding their privacy and confidentiality. Addressing these ambiguities clearly when approaching them with a request can help them feel at ease and consider participating. Offering a reward in exchange for participating in the research is also an excellent way to persuade your audience.

Here’s a detailed guide on getting people to take your surveys.

2. Secondary research

Secondary research involves using existing data and insights resulting from somebody else’s research. 

Here are a few techniques for conducting secondary online market research:

Social network analysis

Social media is a platform where people share their complaints, wishes, wins, and more. But to find the information that’s relevant to you, you’ll need to dive deep. However, there are a few shortcuts to this. 

  • Follow the influencers in your industry and see how actively they work with your competitors.
  • Analyze the popularity of relevant hashtags.
  • Keep an ear for conversations around your competitors to know your target market’s sentiments.

Competitor channels

Your competitors can tell you a lot about your target market. Look at your direct and indirect competitors and list them out. 

Analyze them to understand their offerings, pricing structure, and models through which their audience comes in. Find an opportunity and leverage it. This may even become your unique selling proposition. Extensive online market research will help you discover a competitive advantage that may help you compete against even the biggest players in the industry. 


Blogs are another great medium of gauging public opinion as they are updated regularly. While you’re at it, look at the comment sections of the blog posts to measure the popularity of the topic and the level of interest. 

Database research

Database research is a process of mining your database to extract information on your target audience. For instance, the answering patterns of a category of audience can tell you how active they are on a channel and when. 

Keyword research

Look for keywords that your target market may look up while searching for your offerings. This can help you understand the level of interest for your offerings among your audience. In addition, they may throw in ideas around your offerings you may not have considered before. 

Here are some free keyword research tools:

Government statistics

There are multiple valuable sources of data published by governmental bodies—for example, U.S. Data and Statistics.   

Industry statistics

Industry statistics usually are available on websites like Statista. These websites publish data around different industries and their target market. 

Industry reports

Industry reports typically involve an overview of the data yielded for a particular industry. This may also involve information like trends and insights available from the data. 

Now, let’s see a quick overview of the difference between the two types of online market research: Primary and secondary.

Primary researchSecondary research
Data collectionBy youBy someone else
Techniques1. Online focus groups
2. Online community discussion forums
3. Online surveys
4. Online interviews
5. Online text analysis
1. Social network analysis
2. Competitor channels
3. Blogs
4. Database research
5. Government statistics
6. Industry statistics
7. Industry reports
Key advantageThe data is tailored to your needs.Takes minimal time and effort.
Key disadvantageObtaining accurate data takes a good amount of resources such as time and money.The data may be obsolete and not specific to your needs.

Get started!

Learning your target market is a never-ending process. Conducting online market research at regular intervals helps you understand your audience’s wants, needs, and dislikes. 

Featured image: Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash