LONDON: Following the success of its web-based consumer research programme in the USA, Unilever plans to accelerate use of the internet as a research platform within the UK.

Online research stateside by the consumer products titan has risen by 80% over the past five years.

On a global basis the company's annual research budget is currently in the region of £272.2 million ($545.52m; €401.88m) and it estimates that the trend toward online studies will lead to savings of between 10% and 20%.

According to Chet Henderson, vp of the group's research arm Unilever Insight, the benchmark for employing online polling within individual nations is when consumer access to the web exceeds 50% of the population - achieved in the UK in 2003.

Cost-reduction is not the web's only advantage. Internal data testing has also established that internet responses in some countries are more candid than those gathered by traditional methods.

But Henderson says there is a downside to web-conducted research: "Where you lose is in not being able to have a conversation. People type in a lot less than they say; and online you miss the non-verbal way people signal their reactions."

Overall, Unilever also plans a "more strategic approach" to its research. In addition to brand-related questions, consumers will also be quizzed on their personal lifestyles and general attitudes.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff