1. Why is marketing research important?

Marketing research is important simply because we--web marketers-- need such information to make our marketing decisions. The more accurate the information we have, the less likely we are to make mistakes in our decisions. 


2. What exactly is web marketing research?

Web marketing research is about conducting research (usually statistical analyses) to understand web marketing issues. The process of a research project includes: finding a market issue, translate it into a marketing research project, design survey questionnaire, collect information from a survey, conduct analyses and report the findings and marketing implementations.

Web marketing research focuses on web marketing issues only. 

3. Can you provide examples where research was critical for success?

Yes! In our recent Online Competitive Advantage study, we tried to understand what contributes most to the success of a web business. We have used a sophisticated research design to identify the "Key Drivers" of the success.


Suppose you are planning a web business. With a limited budget and time, you certainly need to focus your marketing efforts on the most important areas. Without such marketing research information, you are more likely to focus on what you are familiar with: if you are a tech guy, you may put most of your time and money to improve Internet development techniques on your web site. On the other hand, if you worked in the ad industry, you are more likely to focus on web site promotions.


But our research results show that the most important factor that contributes to the success of a web business is a solid marketing strategy. If you have such research information, you should put your money and time into designing your web marketing strategy. It helps you get on the right track at the very beginning. 


4. What are the web marketing questions that every web site should think about?

I believe these questions are currently the most important questions for every web marketer:


? a. Who will be my potential customers?

? b. Why do they shop online?

? c. What are their shopping habits on the street?

? d. How do they choose a company or a brand?

? e. How many segments are there in a certain market?

? f. Is there a niche market that's best for my Web business?

? g. What are the winning strategies?


Of course, to answer these questions, we need to conduct very sophisticated marketing research. For most small web businesses, they cannot afford it.


However, marketing research is not a methodology, IT IS A BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY. Even you know nothing about marketing research (as a method), you still can conduct marketing research. The very first and the most important thing a web marketer needs to know about his/her customers and the market is to ask the customers: "What can I do for you?" 


5. How can web marketing research data be used to improve the usability of a web site?

WebCMO provides a freeware--SiteSurv-- to help web site owners to understand their visitors: Where did they come from? How did they find your web site? How do they evaluate your web site? How are they satisfied with your web site? Why are they satisfied with your web site? Will they re-visit your web site? Why do they re-visit your web site?


As you see, all these questions are very important for a web marketer to develop site sign strategies to attract more people to come back again and again.


The software is absolutely free. We even don't need you to trade your email address for the software. At WebCMO, free has only one meaning: free! 


6. What research has been helpful for both web marketers and their customers?

Any web marketing research shall benefit both web marketers and their customers. As I describe in the article What Can I do For You?, marketing is not about selling. The real marketing is about understanding what your customers need and try to provide superior services or products to meet your customers' needs. Therefore the function of marketing research is to understand what customers need and to gather information for web businesses to provide exactly what customers need.


For example, if a site owner is able to understand why people visit his/her site and why they come back again (from the survey results of SiteSurv, for example), they will be able to develop more effective strategies. Visitors are happy because the site provides what they want, and the navigation on the site is easier. 


7. What have been your most striking findings? What data have really shocked you?

It is hard to say "striking". However we did have some valuable and interesting findings in our research.


For example, about one year ago, while very few large online companies promoted their businesses through offline ad media and while the online advertising community doubted about the effectiveness of offline promotion, our research, Online Promotion Strategy Study, shows that offline promotion (for web businesses) is one of the most effective promotion methods.


Another example is that when comparing CPM pricing model with CPC pricing model, we assumed that advertisers preferred the CPC model because the CPC model give advertisers guaranteed advertising results. However, in the research Understand Advertisers' Preferences, we found that advertisers don't prefer the CPC model. A further study shows that this is because advertisers expect higher than average click through rate.


Good marketing research provides useful information. But useful information does not necessarily need to be striking. Of course, I do hope our research yields "striking" results. But I don't intentionally to pursue "striking" effects. To make the research result useful to web marketers is our fundamental goal in the research. 


8. Are there any good web marketing research books available?

This is my most frequently asked question.


In my opinion, any book about marketing research is ok. Always remember, understanding your customers is a business philosophy instead of a method. I would suggest paying more attention to the question "why should I conduct marketing research?", instead of the question "How can I conduct a survey?"


But a good book will certainly help you make the research smoother. I would recommend the book How to conduct your own survey, written by Priscilla Salant and Don A. Dillman and published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. It gives step by step instructions of a research process. 


9. Why has so little web marketing research been conducted?

As a matter of fact, there are many web marketing reports available on the Internet. However, few of them are of high quality. In a recent article, I discussed why the quality of online research is poor:


The real reasons for poor quality of online research, I believe, come from: 

1) limited marketing knowledge; 

2) limited stats knowledge; and 

3) irresponsible attitudes. 


10. What do you mean by limited marketing knowledge, limited stats knowledge, and irresponsible attitudes?

Limited marketing knowledge: while we have so many online research reports, how many different kinds of information do we get? Not much! So far, most online research are about "how many people are online" or "how many people bought online". While we have so many marketing issues to explore, why on the earth does almost all of the research explore such questions as "how many people are online", again and again, and again?


The answer is: most researchers don't have much marketing knowledge to explore the Internet issues. Have we ever heard from these online research firms discussing our marketing issues? If a marketing researcher has less marketing knowledge than his/her clients, how can he/she help the clients understand their markets?


A good marketing research consists of 80% marketing knowledge and 20% statistics. 


11. What is WebCMO? What is your role?

WebCMO is a web site dedicated to web marketing research. WebCMO stands for Web Chief Marketing Officer.


We named our web site by defining our customers. WebCMO is for Web marketers.


I have two hats at WebCMO. As director of research, I am responsible for identifying web marketers' needs and conducting research studies to provide useful marketing information. As the Editor of Journal of Web Marketing Research, I am responsible for creating an online community. 


12. What resources are available at WebCMO?

Currently, we have several resources on our web site. The first is the email publication--Journal of Web Marketing Research. It provides useful marketing research information. More importantly, it discusses many important web marketing issues. For example, it was the first publication to question the validity of one to one marketing. It was the first publication to propose the concept of "Total branding management".


On the web site, we provide freeware--SiteSurv to help web marketers develop their site design strategies.


Our risk free and satisfaction guaranteed survey service CyberAnalyzer helps web marketers profile and target their customers on the Internet.


Research reports are a major part on our web sites. We are going to accumulate research reports at our web site and make WebCMO a definite destination for online research resources in the near future. 


13. Who can benefit from WebCMO?

Every web marketer. You will not only benefit from our research reports but also our strategic thinks about web marketing.


An interesting thing is that many students who study marketing research found our web site very useful because we provide real marketing research cases with many analytical techniques they are unlikely to find anywhere else. 


14. How does WebCMO help companies understand their Internet position and online strategy?

Currently, WebCMO teams with LinkExchange Digest (A popular mailing list for web marketers) to conduct a series research about web marketing issues: Explore Web Business Markets. We are going to explore many aspects of the web marketing.


The important feature of this series research is we provide web marketers free and high quality research reports. We have finished two surveys (Online Competitive Advantage Study and Online Targeting study). Currently we are conducting a new survey about email marketing strategy. 


15. What are the differences between WebCMO and other online research firms?

First off, WebCMO is a web site dedicated to web marketing research. When we use the word "dedicated", we mean it. On WebCMO's web site, you see nothing but web marketing research. We have even rejected banner advertising on our web site many times because we want to keep it a clean place for marketing research. There is something more important than money in our world--marketing research.


Secondly, our attitudes of conducting marketing research. We are serious and treat marketing research as a science. However, many marketing research firms treat marketing research as a business. The very popular but unreliable online forecasts are good examples of such bad attitudes.


Thirdly, our web marketing knowledge makes us stand along among many marketing research firms. A good marketing researcher should be a good marketing strategist. Without a thorough understanding of marketing issues, one is unlikely to conduct good marketing research.


Lastly, it is our marketing research capability that makes us different. Have you seen marketing research firms use "advanced" statistical techniques in their marketing research? To us, these are the basic techniques for understanding marketing issues. We use them not because we want to show off but because we have to use them to understand complicated marketing situations.