The internet is becoming one of the chosen medium to spread information and for people to interact. Thus it is no surprise that marketers are striving hard to reach their target audience through the internet. But just like any other medium, the internet too can make or break the brand of a company, it can increase the sales of a product, or cause a complete product failure through its ability to spread negative feedback’s. Thus in today’s age, gathering online market intelligence is crucial.
The internet can be divided in several types of websites. However there are 6 different ways in which you can collect market intelligence on the web. These are discussed below.
1) Social networks – The number of people using social networks is on the rise and there are sites like Facebook and twitter which have a huge user base. Social networks are the modern example of word of mouth publicity. If you see someone praise a fashion brand, you will definitely have a positive vibe once you visit that brand store. But if someone has said something negative about a product, that too would remain in your mind. Thus nowadays companies are having a dedicated social network team which tries to build a positive brand for the company and at the same time tries to convert customers online. Social networks can become a huge online market intelligence source if you want to know what your customers are thinking about you, your product as well as your competitors.
2) Forums – Prior to social networks, conversations used to happen through online forums. Forums such as Digital point, Thinkdigit forums, tech talkz.com are places where major technology geeks can be found. Similarly management paradise is a forum dedicated to management graduates. Forums are generally more focused towards one specialty. Thus you may find a banking forum, a real estate forum, an automobile forum, so on and so forth. On these forums, you can find people who are actually interested in using you product, comparing it with competitors, and if they like it, they may even purchase the products. Online forums too can be used as a source for gathering market intelligence online.
3) Blog – The article which you are reading is on a blog. Blogs are written by one or multiple authors. A blog author generally writes about one area of interest. Blogs such as problogger (blogging), perez hilton (celebrities), huffington post (news) are considered to be the pioneers of their field with millions of pageviews and lakhs of followers. Thus if the author were to publish positive or negative content about a brand, the readers would follow and build their perception accordingly. Therefore marketers keep an eye on strong blogs too and try to introduce their own products through strategically written content which attracts the followers of these blogs. Fashion designers will write on Perez hilton to attract the public followers, a new business software guy will give custom content on huffington post to attract business readers and a blogger will write on problogger so that he himself gets more traffic on his blog. These blogs can therefore become an important source of online market intelligence and they can also help in influencing the potential customers.
4) Review sites / Expert opinion columns – There is a concept known as “the zero moment of truth” which says that nowadays consumers make their decision even before entering a showroom by doing all their research online. Companies need to keep an eye on what their consumers are searching online and what results are coming up. Accordingly they can influence the consumers or try to adjust their product such that it meets consumers demands. Sites such as cnet.com (technology reviews), gamespot.com (games reviews), tripadvisor.in (travelling reviews) are crucial sites for a marketer as marketers would like to know what message is being sent to their end customers. Many experts too paricipate on such review sites and these experts have their own followers. Thus by giving a sample of the propduct to the expert, you can obtain feedback from the expert, modify the product as per the expert and then launch the product. This does 2 things – it gives you a better confidence in your product as you have feedbacks from the experts AND it generates a positive vide in the market place thereby increasing the sale of the product. The review sites can show you your strenghts as well as weaknesses.
5) Consumer complaint forums – If you want to get the post sale feedback from your customer, you cant visit a better website than the consumer complaint forum. On this forum, the consumer might complain about your product, your service, your distributor, your price or anything else which the consumer thinks is wrong and that the consumer has a right to raise his voice. These forums are taken seriously. The Indian government too has an official consumers forum.
6) Polls / feedbacks – Feedbacks and polls can be found on blogs, forums, social networks or anywhere. This is because recently, the web coding of polls and feedback forms has become very simple and hence many websites are adopting this simple but effective method of knowing what their readers want. Thus, if you were a celebrity marketer, you could start a poll on perezhilton of who the hottest actress is. Or on pagalguy.com, there are regular polls of which is the best management college and which courses would students like to do post management. These polls and feedbacks can become an important source of information for marketers, By using paid poll programs, the marketers can also find out the next plan of action by taking direct feedback from their customers.
One of the best advantages of gathering online market intelligence is that it can subsequently present you with the information of what your customer actually wants. Social networks, forums and blogs, while mentioning the negatives, also unconsiously mention what they would actually like to see in the product. As the internet is spreading in each and every home and through smartphones in everyones life, it can become one of the best ways to gather online market intelligence.