7 steps to follow for online data collection

Collecting data is key for all market research. This stage starts once we have defined the research objectives and ends when we have obtained the data to be analyzed.

Have you ever wondered whether your online data collection practices are the right ones? Are there differences between online and offline data collection? In this post, we are going to help you find the answer to this question.

Below are the 7 steps you need to follow in order to ensure effective online data collection:

1. Select a suitable data source

Stop for a moment to think about how you can recruit participants for your online research. On the Internet, it’s not as simple as just stopping people in the street for a face-to-face interview.

The majority of participants are recruited via online access panels (commonly known as online panels). These are communities made up of individuals who are available to participate in online research in exchange for rewards.

Other less popular sources of participants are river samples, probability online panels and proprietary databases.

2. Use a sampling method that suits your data source

There are many sampling techniques, which fall into two main categories: random and non-random sampling. We speak about random sampling when all individuals within the population are able to be part of the sample.

However, in practice, 99% of online research uses non-random sampling, due to the limitations involved in terms of representativeness when using the Internet. In particular, quota sampling is the most popular technique. This involves splitting the population into groups according to sociodemographic variables (sex, age, etc.) and setting response limits (quotas) for each group. You can therefore ensure that the sample has the same ratios as the population in relation to these variables.

3. Carefully select your online quotas

If you use quota sampling, you need to consider a few things when using this technique online:

  • The variables used to set quotas do not necessarily need to be the same for online and offline purposes.
  • Set quotas for the variables relevant to your study. Variables used for the general population and those used for the Internet-user population may be vastly different.
  • Common online quotas: sex, age and social class. Geographical region is not as important.
  • Use the lowest necessary quotas; otherwise you will obtain unnecessarily large amounts of data.

4. Establish a suitable research period

Yes, collecting data online is very quick, much quicker than collecting data in person or on the phone. It is possible to carry out the research in just a few hours. However, if you drastically shorten the time frame in which you allow individuals to participate in your sample, you may end up altering the results of your research.

If you limit data collection to just 3 hours, you may be losing up to 78% of potential participants that you would obtain if you extended the research period to one week. And, worse still, you could be skewing the results by only obtaining information from heavy Internet users.

5. Adapt your online questionnaire

If you are using a survey, follow the basic principles for all good questionnaires: be concise, avoid double-barreled questions, always give all possible response options, etc. However, also think about what things you need to consider when your survey is being completed using a device connected to the Internet. For example:

  • Use a different page for each question, rather than infinite scrolling
  • Reduce the length of the questionnaire.
  • Make sure that your questionnaire looks good on mobile devices.
  • Avoid using series of questions or matrices.

6. Think about the privacy of the data that you are requesting

The Internet is a useful tool for asking questions about sensitive data. Because there is no interviewer, the participant feels less intimidated when having to speak about sensitive topics, such as politics, health, sex or religion. However, participants may be worried about the privacy of their data. You will need to guarantee security of their data and present your privacy policies transparently.

7. Think about how the data is displayed online

It’s true that the reporting process is not part of the data collection process. However, online these boundaries are blurred. Customers want to see data in real time and want access to a certain level of autonomous analysis. There is a range of data visualization and reporting technology available that can help you to achieve this, such as Dapresy, Tableau or Qlik.


If you want to receive more information on how to be more effective in your online data collection, we recommend that you download the free e-book "The Essentials of Online Data Collection".

Free ebook - The essentials online data collection


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