The Internet as a medium and means of communication, containing a large amount of information in almost all areas of knowledge and representing the majority of leading firms and wide strata of consumers, can be effectively used for marketing research. The Internet allows for both primary marketing research, based directly on primary data obtained as part of marketing research conducted by the company on the Internet, and secondary marketing research based on data published on the Internet, or other information that indirectly affects the area of research conducted by the company. The Internet can be used to research product markets, to study the firm structure of the market, or to study consumers.
The study of the firm structure or the commodity structure of the market is based on the collection of information presented on the Web servers of companies with its subsequent processing by the methods used in traditional marketing research, as well as on the collection and analysis of information published on the Internet. In relation to the Internet, the main task is to search for the company’s Web servers or information from areas of marketing interest to the company conducting the marketing research.
As methods for finding the necessary information by firms, the following can be distinguished:
Search for information using search engines. Search engines are a key way to search for information, because they contain indexes on most Internet Web servers.
Search in web directories. Like search engines, directories are used by Internet visitors to find the information they need.
Another type of marketing research is marketing research of Internet users – current or potential consumers.
Among the methods of conducting such research are:
Questionnaire visitors Web-server. If the company’s Web-server is well visited, the server visitors can be asked to fill out the questionnaire posted on it.
Survey with improved return rate. This type of survey can be used on servers where the filling of questionnaires is mandatory (for example, when registering users to access paid services).
Conduct polls in newsgroups. To conduct surveys using the teleconference, the following steps should be taken: to find the teleconferences with the audience of interest; some time to follow the discussions in these newsgroups; take an active part in the discussions; post questions in the newsgroup that need to be answered. You can combine questionnaires on the company’s Web server and participate in newsgroups.
There are two main groups of products on the Internet: informational and material products.
Information products are most widely represented on the Internet. Information can be provided both for free and for a fee. Free information can serve to perform the functions of advertising and promoting the company’s trademark in the form of attracting users to the Web-server, to increase the recognition of a trademark or a number of company goods. Paid information directly performs the functions of the goods and serves to get the firm profit.
Material products, sometimes referred to as transactional products. Under the transaction refers to the transfer of anything, with the exception of information from the seller to the buyer. The transaction in most cases involves the transfer of money, although this is not the rule.
The following products are most suitable for sale on the Internet:
High-tech products that require the analysis of significant amounts of information to purchase. The Internet has the ability to provide all the necessary information on the Web-server for its further analysis by the consumer. Examples of such products are electronics and automobiles.
Products with medium or high cost, which is associated with the demographic feature of the Internet – a high average user income.
Technical products, since the Internet today is widely used by people with technical education.
New products, as consumers need to provide the necessary information about these products and, most importantly, the Internet audience is represented by most innovators who can more easily buy a new product and take the risk of purchasing it.
Price and pricing when selling goods over the Internet is a very flexible tool that significantly affects demand and requires consideration of a number of factors. For example, if a firm offers traditional goods through a virtual store, then pricing is lower than in regular stores, and the free delivery offer will certainly be an incentive for network buyers. However, if a completely unique product is offered, which can be bought only in one single virtual store, then setting a maximum price will be a reasonable strategy.
The right choice of a distribution system largely determines the competitiveness of a product and, ultimately, its success in the market. The advantage of the Internet is the ability to avoid using the services of intermediary organizations by automating the processes of collecting orders, making payments, maintaining databases of customers, which allows you to realize the functions of a retailer: to explore the situation prevailing in the product market; determine the supply and demand for specific types of goods; keep in touch with consumers, etc.
Service and customer support can be significantly expanded through the use of the Internet by:
Additional public information for presentation to consumers. This is especially significant in the case of high-tech products like computer equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Submission of such information is important not only for existing consumers of products, but also for potential consumers, to convince them of the need to make a purchase in this particular company.
Additional feedback mechanism. The Internet can be used to organize effective feedback with consumers, which greatly expands the possibilities of interactive interaction between consumers and companies. Of great importance is the presentation of adequate support from firms to the demands of customers. Tracking and analyzing requests are elements necessary for organizing effective customer support.
Changes in the functions of the communication channel compared to traditional media lead to the involvement of consumers in the marketing process. For example, consumers can cooperate with the company not only in the process of searching for ideas of new products or developing a project, but also in the process of establishing and improving directly the marketing links themselves.
The main factors limiting Internet access are:
the high cost of access, including the need for a computer and modem;
fairly high level of complexity;
limited speed of communication channels;