6 New Technologies that are Transforming Online Research Methods

Innovative technology is being infused into various online research methods, making the industry not only advanced but an almost virtual reality rewarding to respondents and researchers alike.

I’ll get to them at once, not to appear as tedious as the last phone company provider’s questionnaire or Starbucks online survey for those extra gold stars.

Eye-tracking Technology



Woman using glasses that follow her gaze to heat spots







Already utilized in tablets and home products by such companies as Samsung, eye-tracking technology can be implemented to online surveys or focus groups, with the assistance of cameras. The technology can support market researchers with issues like respondent bias.

Gauging honesty by eye movement has been widely criticized in scientific circles. However, we reported a recent University of Buffalo research noting how eye movement could indeed measure levels of honesty in individuals:

In their study of 40 videotaped conversations, an automated system analyzing eye movements correctly identified whether subjects were lying or telling the truth 82.5 percent of the time. That’s a better accuracy rate than expert human interrogators typically achieve in lie-detection judgment experiments. (Experienced interrogators average closer to 65 percent.)

Beyond that, eye-tracking technology can capture the focus of respondents’ gazes in order to find preferences in web page design or copy location.

Online Focus Groups




It’s no secret that with the popularity of video conferences and chats—widely used with Skype or Google Hangouts—getting acquainted to a group of people in a virtual setting is almost painless. In the online research industry, such enterprise software as our QualStorm can seamlessly execute and manage an online focus group through the entire process—from incentivizing to cross referencing survey data after the research. This can also include inline polling, available chat transcripts and exchangeable audio files.

One consumer research specialist detailed the various advantages of online focus groups for both provider and respondent:

 Excellent in obtaining detailed feedback on copy, marketing concepts, adverts and packaging.
  Relatively easy to convene, especially if participants are engaged in an online community.
  Customers from a broad geographical region (or even different countries) can join together to share their views.
  More convenient for customers to take part – especially significant for groups such as       professionals and those with young families.
  No travelling for researchers or clients.
  Moderators can present visual, audio and video stimuli.
  A degree of anonymity disinhibits participants.
  Transcripts are readily in text format for analysis.
  It’s no surprise focus group facilities are eclipsing.

Mobile Technology



Advantages of Mobile Surveys








A huge chorus across the world clamors at the dynamic dawn of the mobile age, and the perils and opportunities of this tech sunrise include online research. The opportunities are too many too ignore, though. After all, more Americans use mobile devices to browse the internet than they do PC’s; and already 60% of cell phones are smartphones. As our research shows, the advantages of mobile technology for online surveys include:

  Ability to use GPS technology.
  Easier to administer, and with a more available audience.
  More versatile with video and audio recording endemic to mobile technology.
  Superior real-time input, as respondents are typically close to their tablets or smartphones.

Heat Map Technology



A copy of an online survey map with heat spots










In the online domains, heat map technology offers a visual representation of user activity such as clicks and eye focus on a website. Companies like Crazy Egg already utilize it for marketing. In the online research industry, understanding the focus of attention of a respondent could potentially filter respondent bias, honesty rates and even drop off rates.

A market researcher furthermore explained how heat map technology can integrate with online survey methods:

Here is a theoretical example of a print advertisement displayed through a theoretical online survey screen. A simple question can ask the respondent to click on the first item that catches their eye, second item, third item, etc. The colors show frequency of clicks (dark red represents a higher number of clicks, yellow represents a lower number of clicks, followed by green, and lastly white). Additional follow-up questions can be asked to probe as to why that item caught their eye, what they liked and what they disliked about each zone clicked. Heat maps illuminate what your customers and potential customers are looking at first and their impressions of it. In this instance, this technique helps the business optimize and re-focus the print ad so it stands the best chance of being noticed by customers to generate leads.

Sensory Analysis



People before screen testing food an inputting their results.








This is commonly use in facilities—where experimental design and statistical analysis are combined to the use of human senses, all for the purposes of evaluating consumer products. Panels are required for this research, and already companies are using sensory analysis for online panels. The products are mailed to respondents for testing, with data collected acquired via questionnaire, video or even an online focus group. On the other hand, respondents that are known to utilize certain products can be contacted by various means.

Combining sensory analysis to online focus groups, heat map technology and eye-tracking technology could be productive and even save costs in versus fielding a facility for research.




Pepsi using gamification to find user preference of soft drink.







This is a burgeoning method of data collection in online surveys. The word means what it sounds like: the application of game techniques to enhance processes that are not games. For online surveys or focus groups, these may include:

  Leader boards.
  Achievement badges or levels.
  A progress bar to show how close respondents are to completion.
  Virtual currency.
  Respondent challenges.
  Unique rewards.

As with the other technology mentioned, gamification may be a valuable online survey tool, reducing respondent fatigue by making the overall process more enjoyable. Maintaining an online sample is never easy. Gamification is one method that can assure engagement and mitigate drop offs.

These technologies are already being implemented or are in the alpha stages, and just in time. The New York Times reported that the online research industry is booming, a main data collection tool for market research, but many issues like respondent fatigue has caused “declining response rates over the last decade.”

Help is already on the way, and in some instances already here, in the form of innovative methods of data collection that can potentially benefit all sides of the marketing equation. This before or after a Starbucks and its gold stars, as it always should be.


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