The traditional web survey is no longer the only player in the online research ecosystem.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the emergence of:

  • Social Media Research;
  • Do It Yourself Research (DIY) and;
  • Mobile Research.

Social Media Research: “Listening” is the new buzzword. Why ask a question when the answer may already be out there, free and unbiased, on Facebook, on Twitter or other social networks? This is what social media research promises and tries to deliver by capturing and analyzing online conversations thanks to specialized tools such as Radian 6.

While the “analysis” portion of these tools often leaves a lot to be desired, the time required to crawl the web is drastically reduced, allowing for a more streamlined research process.

Do It yourself Research (DIY): Have a question? Need a quick answer that won’t cost much? Why not do it all yourself in a matter of days, from questionnaire design all the way to analysis? The tools are out there and, in some cases, they allow users to circumvent the traditional market research firm.

Heck, even Google threw its hat into the ring with Google Consumer Surveys. While these tools may offer many advantages, things are not always what they seem, as our Google Consumer Survey experiment showed

Mobile Research: Smartphones are providing market researchers with more unique ways to conduct research. For one, mobile research allows for “in the moment” data collection. As opposed to waiting for a user to be in front of their computer, researchers can now trigger surveys directly on a respondent’s phone, either through an app or through geolocating. They can even collect multimedia (photos, videos, etc.) data from respondents in real-time, as specific events unfold.

Mobile research is also a good solution for harder to reach audiences, such as 18 to 34 year olds or respondents in emerging markets where cell phones are more prevalent than computers.

With smartphone adoption on the rise, researchers also need to be conscious that some of their respondents will try to answer surveys meant for computers, directly on their smartphones. Don’t forget to take this into account the next time you program a survey.

Let’s get one thing straight – traditional web surveys are not disappearing anytime soon. However, their results can often times be complemented by integrating new practices such as social media research, DIY and mobile research into the process.

The online research toolbox is getting richer and market research firms need to adapt to this new reality or risk losing ground to firms specializing in these new techniques.