Today, particularly in the backdrop of globalization, marketing research has been revolutionized by technology, mainly via the Internet. This is specifically highlighted in the role that the Internet plays in data-mining – the most important aspect of marketing research. Key approaches to marketing research offered by technology are the opportunities it offers to the firm to collect information from customers and other stakeholders. According to Wind, Wind, and Mahajan (2001):
Many sites collect data on consumer Internet shopping paths, options they consider, the information they seek, and their final choices. This information not only provides deeper insight on how to design products and service offerings and marketing strategies but also is a new source of revenue for firms that sell the collected data. (p. 19)
Harris Black International found that online research could indeed predict population behavior. This has been documented by Duboff and Spaeth (2000), and to quote:
In 1998 the company attempted to forecast the outcome for gubernatorial and senatorial races in 14 states by using both its traditionally successful telephone survey method and comparing its results with those of an online survey… The result: The Harris Election 1998 Experiment correctly predicted the winner in 21 of 22 races. The average error projections for the 44 main candidates came out slightly less than 4 percentage points, which they reported is nearly identical to the average error for telephone polls for similar elections. (p. 266)
The above information is just a few of the data collected about market behavior. And the huge amount of data gathered could be processed, accessed and analyzed with the speed unimaginable thanks to data management applications offered by technology and the Internet. This process could take years when done manually or the services of an army of analysts. A case in point:
The Barbie Web site allows a young girl to customize-design her own Barbie doll. This feature is called Section Fun and all the activities herein, as with all websites, are logged – from the demographics to the visitors’ preferences.