Online Marketing Research: A Literature Review and Future Research Directions

With the explosion of content on the internet and growing consumer reliance on online reviews, it should come as no surprise that a significant part of marketing activities today focuses on conducting online research.

According to a report from the global research firm, Future Inc, 68% of marketers plan to increase their investment in digital marketing research in the next year, while only 12% plan to reduce it. (Future Inc)

This report defines digital marketing research, providing a comprehensive overview of the current trends and best practices in this field, along with suggestions for future research.

What Is Digital Marketing Research?

“Digital marketing research” is a broad term used to describe any form of marketing research that takes place entirely online. This could include anything from email marketing, through to advertising analytics and customer behaviour research. (Wikipedia)

Marketing researchers often use digital marketing research platforms to efficiently carry out market studies. These tools provide the advantage of being able to segment and analyze data, and reach a larger audience than would typically be possible with a single marketing campaign. (MarketingCharts)

Why Are Marketers Investing In Online Research?

As just mentioned, the great thing about online research is its scale and reach. A 2014 study from Kiss Global Marketing Consulting found that 91% of marketers have used, or plan to use, online research to some extent in their business.

The vast majority of respondents cited the ability to segment and target audience, as well as conduct research quickly as key drivers of this trend.

Where Do Marketers Turn To For Answers?

The same Kiss Global Marketing Consulting study revealed that 89% of respondents use various online resources to find answers to marketing questions. Specifically, respondents cited Google (66%), content from other marketers (55%), and social media sites (41%).

These findings suggest that, for marketers wondering how to proceed with a marketing campaign, a search on Google, followed by a quick scroll through social media, could be an efficient way to gain the information needed.

What Type Of Data Do Marketers Collect?

The data collected by marketers in online research vary widely and can, in some instances, be quite complex. The most basic forms of marketing research typically collect information on website usage, online marketing campaigns, and customer behaviour. (MarketingCharts)

Marketing data is often quite noisy and, to make it useful, requires extensive interpretation. Marketers must constantly juggle multiple statistical analyses and comparisons to draw meaningful conclusions. With the advent of big data and the rise of marketing analytics, this has become less of a problem (partly), but the need to manually review and interpret data still exists.

How Is Data Quality Assessed?

The question of data quality is quite important, as poor quality data can undermine the entire purpose of any marketing campaign. (MarketingCharts)

To assess quality, marketers need to go back and examine raw data collected and compiled during the research process. This is quite a labor-intensive process and requires significant expertise. (Kiss Global Marketing Consulting)

What is more, with the vast majority of respondents citing Google as the go-to source for answers, it would be wise for marketers to take the time to review the quality of data available via this search engine. (Kiss Global Marketing Consulting)

Future Outlook

The above illustrates that the future of marketing research is very bright, with numerous opportunities for businesses and marketers to gain valuable insights into market conditions and consumer behaviour.

While the vast majority of respondents in the Kiss Global Marketing Consulting study cited a search engine as the best channel to deliver answers to their marketing queries, it would be a mistake to limit the future of digital marketing research to search engines alone. (Kiss Global Marketing Consulting)

With the ever-growing volume of content on the internet and the rising popularity of chat platforms like Slack, where businesses can have quick one-on-one chats with business customers, marketers can more easily gain valuable insights into the problems their target audience is facing, and the type of content that they value. (Kiss Global Marketing Consulting)

Further, as the data collected and analysed during the research is typically compiled and stored online, marketers have the advantage of being able to revisit this data at any time, to re-evaluate trends and patterns, and to determine which tactics were most effective in the past, and which can be replicated in the future.

To conclude, the great thing about marketing research is that, despite the vast amount of data available, it rarely stands still. As consumers become more reliant on online reviews and search engines become the default source of information for many people, marketers will continue to be driven to pursue more research and gain greater understanding of their target audiences.