The industry has been likened to the Gold Rush of 1849 in the frantic race to turn a business idea into reality. Yet what such pioneers often lack is a marketing or business plan, let alone an e-strategy. This means that use of qualitative research, which has always been integral to NPD work and marketing, tends to be minimal if a proposed hasn't done even the basic spade work.

But this state of play will not necessarily continue. Already there is evidence that qualitative research is adapting to changing needs. It has grasped that different types of respondents might be suitable for projects pre and post launch, and come to terms with the problems that come from having to get product to market by yesterday. And even if qual's use is scant prior to launch, more and more dot.coms are starting to use it to test out and improve their product offering. The good news is that prospects can only get better. Dot.coms are here to stay, and their owners know that getting a site up and running is only part of the problem. The main challenge is keeping the site sticky, in keeping visitors occupied, encouraging them to interact, to return. It's a project tailor made for qual.