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Episode 2: Market Research on the Internet

Air Date: May 6, 1998


What do you want?


Susan Langdon

Susan Langdon, Executive Director of the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), has finally uncrated the new computer, loaded the software, and powered it up. She is eager to begin exploring the Internet to find fashion web sites relevant to the needs of the TFI and its designers, but is at a loss as to where to begin. Fortunately, IBM's Tom Vassos drops in and gives Susan a crash course on conducting research via the Internet. Tom clicks on the computer's web browser, an application that provides a 'window' for viewing web content. With its navigation buttons and other easy-to-use features, a browser allows you to point-and-click your way across the Internet without having to learn any arcane file-transfer protocols or obscure voodoo resurrection mantras.


Search Engines

Hotbot Logo

Immediately, Tom goes to Hotbot (www.hotbot.com), a popular Internet search engine that sorts through over 50 million web pages, and identifies all the relevant web pages based on whatever keywords or phrase that you type in. There are literally hundreds of search engines available on the World Wide Web, some of which are all-encompassing, like Hotbot, while others will focus on a specific subject matter, such as health care. In addition to the search engines, there are also web directories, such as Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), which organize the catalogued web pages under subject headings, such as 'computers:Apple' or 'entertainment:movies'. There are also meta-search engines, such as Metacrawler (www.metacrawler.com), that will use several other web search engines to ensure a thorough search.


Narrowing the Search

Susan asks Hotbot to search for web pages relevant to the keyword:


and within a few seconds, she is inundated with over a million different possible web pages. Realizing that it will take Susan a very long time to sort through all those pages, Tom suggests that she narrow the search with more keywords to zero in on the specific information that she needs. Susan is specifically interested in New York fashions, and so she asks Hotbot to search for:

New York fashions

This time, Hotbot returns only a few thousand pages, but that still is unwieldy, because Hotbot is reporting web pages which contain not only 'New York fashions', but also those that contain only 'New', 'York', and 'fashions' as single words. To further narrow the search, Tom clicks on an option within Hotbot which will only report web pages that contain the exact phrase 'New York fashions', resulting in a more easily-digested list of less than forty hits.

There are several other ways to narrow the search. On most search engines, you can enclose your search phrases in quotation marks:

"New York fashions"

such that only web pages with the exact full phrase 'New York fashions' will be reported. On the Altavista search engine (www.altavista.digital.com), you can use Boolean operators to include or exclude search words. For example,

"New York" AND fashions

will report all web sites containing both 'New York' and 'fashions' in the same web document. Another example:

"New York" AND fashions NOT leather

The above will report all web sites containing both 'New York' and 'fashions', and exclude any with the word 'leather'.

Another way of finding useful web sites is to find the 'links' pages of the sites you have already visited-- sometimes they may point to other sites that are not as easily found. And remember to 'bookmark' everything (storing the web site addresses in your browser so they are easily retrieved in the future), since you never know when you'll need it again.


Finding Industry Information

Strategis Logo

Susan then wonders if the web can be used to research specific industry information, such as statistics on Canadian fashion retail sales. Tom immediately clicks on the Strategis web site (strategis.ic.gc.ca/engdoc/main.html), maintained by Industry Canada, which publishes a wide range of industry information and contact lists (to learn more about Strategis, see Episode 5: Exploring Strategis).

One of the caveats of doing research on the Internet is that much of the information is unsubstantiated. For example, an Internet query on the population of Edmonton results on numbers that fluctuate between 610,000 and 720,000, depending on the site consulted. So when doing market research, it is important to find reputable sources of published information. In addition to Strategis, there are other web sites offering published news, business, and statistical content. For example, one of the web sites that Tom finds is that of Womens Wear Daily (www.wwd.com), an industry trade paper for the fashion industry, which Susan currently subscribes to. With this new means of access on-line, Susan can get the latest news right away, instead of waiting for her copy to arrive by mail.

Let Someone Else Do the Searching for You

If you have the time, there are web-based services that will search for the information you require, and send you an e-mail with the results. For example, there's HumanSearch (www.humansearch.com), the brainchild of five University of Rhode Island undergraduates. After you enter your query, a human volunteer at HumanSearch surfs the web for you to find the information, and e-mails you back the relevant information the next morning. Once again, only 'meaty' articles are provided, with the less-useful articles filtered out by the human volunteer. And the best thing about this service is that it is free, but you may have to wait a bit to put your request in, as they often get more queries than they can answer.

Market Research on the Internet

Reference.com Logo

Susan is amazed by the amount of research available on the Internet, but she is curious as to how she can find out customer opinions on a specific topic or product, such as what people think of Calvin Klein's fashions. Tom then points out the ease of creating her own 'instant focus group', with the help of Reference.com (www.reference.com), which taps into the thousands of Internet discussion groups, such as UseNet and mailing lists. With the click of a mouse, Tom finds several comments about Calvin Klein from all over the world.

This further illustrates the power of the Internet as a market research tool, that will allow you to obtain the information you need for marketing your product or service, in a very cost-effective manner. Several companies have already used the Internet to their advantage: for example, Hanes underwear learned from the Internet that several of their customers were complaining about scratchy tags, and as a result, they made changes to their underwear tags to correct this. Imagine what could be done with your product or service; the possibilities are limitless:


Hot Links


Want to learn more about the topics covered this week? Then check out these great web sites and resources:


Web Search Engines




Many options for narrowing your search, such as looking for your search words in only the address of the web site, web sites containing only all of the search words, web sites containing any of the search words, or the web sites containing only the exact phrase



Updates its database the quickest, so you'll probably find the most up-to-date information here (many search engines and directories have a delay of up to 2-3 weeks before new listings are added)



Updates its database in a timely manner by sending out 'spiders' throughout the World Wide Web to find new web sites















Lists hundreds of different internet search engines, some specific to certain topics



Another listing of all search engines



A meta-search engine that uses other search engines to find your information, and reports all the findings, saving you the need to go to each search engine individually



Another meta-search engine that allows you to enter your search in plain English (in the form of a question)



A great name for another meta-search engine


Web Directories




This is the most popular web directory on the Internet, and is often a very good place to start. Furthermore, Yahoo! has many city- and country-specific mirror sites, which bring up hits relevant to the respective geographical area, such as Yahoo! L.A. (la.yahoo.com) and Yahoo! Canada (www.yahoo.ca)

Open Text Index



Whole Internet Catalog




Search Services




This free service has a human volunteer the web for you to find the information, and e-mails you back the relevant information the next morning


Usenet and Mailing List Search Engines




Will search through hundreds of thousands of Usenet and mailing list postings



Another discussion group search engine, though not as extensive in its database as Reference.com


News and Information


Reuters Canada


The world's leading news and financial information company

The Pointcast Network (Canada)


Offers a free downloadable application that allows you to receive personalized news and information

Canada Newswire


Contains full-text press releases in a searchable database

Canadian Online Explorer


Offers current news with links to other major North American online newspapers

Clarinet News





Will give you access to several dictionaries, a thesaurus, translators, the King James Bible, phone directories, stock quotes, zip codes, currency exchange tables, and financial tools

The Electric Library



The Electronic Newsstand



IBM Infomarket





Has a pretty extensive book database

Argus Clearinghouse


A collection of library databases


Sources for Demographics and Statistics


Statistics Canada


A wide range of Canadian economic and industry data, and links to other international statistical web sites

U.S. Census Bureau


U.S. statistics and information


Industry Information




Sponsored by Industry Canada and loaded with Canadian industry-specific information (learn more about it in Episode 5)



Lists sites where you can get industry or corporate information

SEC Edgar Database


A repository of SEC corporate filings, including annual reports for publicly-listed companies

Annual Reports Library



Investor Corner (Canada)



MicroPatent's Patent Searcher (US)


Lists all US patents

Thomson & Thomson's Intellectual Property Resource Centre




Miscellenous Sites of Interest


Exchange Rate Calculator



Cost-of-Living Calculator



Consumer Price Indexes




Internet Fashion Sites


Susan, having become an expert in doing research on the Internet, did some surfing and uncovered the following fashion-related web sites:


Women's Wear Daily


The web site for the daily trade journal of women's fashion, and features the first page of the daily, along with a listing of trade shows and classifieds (a subscription is required to access other features, such as the full text of the daily publication and to search the archives)

The Fashion Mall


A virtual shopping mall based in New York that features virtual storefronts for various fashion designers and suppliers



A web site serving the fashion industry, with a searchable company database, extensive links, and a bulletin board for posting messages to other people in the fashion industry

Fashion Industrynet


Another fashion industry web site, that also features a bulletin board for posting messages

The Fashion Center of New York


Another extensive web site with information on the fashion scene in New York




Mark Schneider		CTV - Host of "Digital Desktop"
Tom Vassos		IBM e-business Advisor and Host of "This New SoHo"
Susan Langdon		Executive Director, Toronto Fashion Incubator


Production Credits


John Slonmiski		Camera
Anthony Leong		Senior Web Editor

All episode summaries and supplemental information written by Anthony Leong, with material and assistance from Tom Vassos, his book Strategic Internet Marketing, and Mark Schneider.

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