Survival of the Focused: Using Research to Build Effective Online Relationships

Alex Johnston
Research International, UK

INTRODUCTION

The World Wide Web was invented in 1991 by Tim BernersLee at CERN in Switzerland. The Internet did exist before this, however it was the emergence of the Web that really established the Internet as the phenomenon it is today. The creation of the Web meant that the interface between humans and the Internet was considerably easier to use and could support graphics, which meant that its usefulness as a communications vehicle made a great leap forward.

Recognition and adoption of the benefits offered by the Internet has not been universal, either in terms of the elements of the Internet that have been exploited or the companies making use of them.

Most companies have now recognised the communications benefits of the Internet. IT departments have for many years been using it to download software patches or otherwise obtain help to solve the problems they experience in their day to day jobs. Many companies have also recognised the benefits of Internet email which is now common in most organisations, providing the benefits of faster and more efficient communications. Intranets and Extranets have also been put to good use.
The use of the Internet as a mass communications conduit between the company and the customer (or supplier for that matter) has been adopted less universally and with varying measures of success. This paper will now examine why the Internet is important, and then look at what has been done in the past in the area of market research and website development. It will then continue by exploring how research can be used innovatively to build effective online relationships, at this stage focusing on the key issues to address, the stages within the website lifecycle in which to carry out research, and the approaches that we have has found successful in the past twelve months. It will conclude by briefly looking at some truisms of good website design, based on our research. Finally the paper will briefly review how market research should develop in this area in the future.