The internet era has allowed businesses to reach a wider market than relying on face-to-face marketing strategies. With that opportunity came the need to make targeted efforts to reach the right audience and understand them in greater detail so you can serve them better.
However, conducting unorganized or misguided market research won’t do. Long, boring surveys won’t get you the insight you need, let alone the assurance that people will really take them.
Today, market research has to be efficient, smart and impactful to compile data that’ll benefit your products and services and in turn, increase ROI for your brand. Sometimes, all it might take is a simple poll that hits the spot.
In this market research guide, we’ll talk about:
What market research is
Why it’s important
When to conduct it
The different types of market research and their purpose
While it’s tough to get consensus with this wider-reached market, brands and researchers strongly agree that employing the right research methodology will get them the insight they need to make actionable plans for their products and services.
No longer do business leaders solely rely on brand experts, past reports, and SOPs. A spot is paved for market research to be made a priority.
Business leaders need meaningful data to make the right decisions.
If you’re interested in knowing what market research strategy works best for your brand, this post is for you.
If you’re ready, let’s dive in.
What is market research?
Market research is the act of collecting data from customers and potential customers about what they need and prefer from a product or service offered to them. Simply said, you want to collect information about how your audience behaves and what they feel about your brand.
By gathering data, you can create a plan to meet those needs and preferences. This narrows the customer experience gap between what you deliver and what your customers expect you to deliver.
Gathering the right data will help you keep up with customer needs and thus avoid mistakes and assumptions about what they actually need. It gives a strong basis for business decisions made and solution implementations for problems.
For example, if your brand provides reviews on project management software or online security providers, you can pop a quick poll at the bottom to ask readers if they were satisfied with the information provided.
Market research mainly focuses on understanding:
Competitor best practices
Also, marketing trends are ever-shifting. What customers need now might not matter much tomorrow. Market research should be done regularly to meet the needs of consumers and keep up with them.
During market research, you should be able to answer questions like:
Who are my consumers and what do they need?
What moves or prevents them from buying?
How much do they buy?
Do my marketing efforts resonate with them?
Do I highlight the right features in my brand?
Some of these questions can be answered in quantitative research, others in qualitative one.
What's the difference?
Quantitative research, as the name suggests, uses quantity. Answers are generated with the help of numerical data.
For example, if a clothing brand like 3Wishes conducts a customer satisfaction survey, they can collect statistical data to measure:
On the other hand, qualitative research helps in gathering deeper insight into a consumer’s motivations, opinions, and underlying reasons for buying or not.
Why market research is important
When strategizing product features and marketing efforts, gut feeling and past consumer behavior are no match for a time-in-point market research effort.
When crafting new features or campaigns for a product, simply relying on “I don’t like it” or “I like it” from the marketing team won’t assure the campaign’s message or brand will resonate with your target audience. Your decisions will help you reach your goals if they’re insight-driven.
Without market research, you might not be able to realize that an automated subscription payments feature will set you above competing services.
Carrying out research will get you the answers only those who regularly use the service can give. You cannot improve what you don’t know stops you from giving premium services.
Say you provide predictive dialer services, market research will reveal if it does well with cold calling.
Simply said, you have to be keenly interested in your audience to improve user experience. Or else, you’ll lose your customers to those who can provide a great customer experience for them.
Simply assuming what they want your product for won’t help you specialize your efforts to be in line with their goals.
The results of good market research
When you carry out the right market research strategy at the right time with the right questions, you’ll be able to achieve at least 3 things:
Clarity of needs, wants and expectations
Clear communication among team members about the problem and the needed solution
Objective improvements that benefit customers
When to conduct market research
Earlier, we discussed that time-in-point market research tools will reveal current needs and expectations from customers.
In this section, we’ll talk about five instances you’ll need to do market research.
In many cases, one brand offers various services or products. However, a customer can be interested in one product but completely indifferent about another. Profiling your buyers will help you develop the right product and campaign for the right audience.
Profiling means you segment buyers based on their needs, motivations and pain points. Doing so helps you better target your audience so marketing efforts won’t go to waste and ROI can reach its maximum potential.
No matter how great a product is, there’s no point in selling it if no one buys it. After all, doing business is providing value to people that they’re willing to pay for. Unless there’s value, they won’t be willing to take out their money for it.
Market research will reveal how a market sees your product and why they like or won’t like it. Evaluating your product or service based on your target market's perceptions will help you focus your resources on products that will convert.
Everybody will agree that advertising campaigns are expensive. Pre-testing them will ensure this will not become flopped efforts. Testing your campaigns will check how consumers respond to them so you can make adjustments before fully deploying them to your audience.
Good branding is important for brand awareness. But unlike sales, branding is not a tangible metric. You’ll have to do market research to see how people perceive your brand, whether it creates an impact on them or not.
This is great for super-specific industries like a law firm SEO agency. You’d want to track if people even know your services exist.
The data you gather can then help you optimize your strategies so you can build or strengthen your brand for your target audience.
Market research is also needed when you want to understand your competitors, why they create an impact, or why certain products of theirs produce good revenue.
You can personally check out their website, but what you see might not be exactly how most consumers see them.
Unless you know why the competitor resonates with your target audience, you won't know how your brand is in comparison to them. You won’t be able to plan measures to exploit their strengths or weaknesses you can be better at competing well.
If you’re someone who creates a website and optimizes it to sell better, you might need to know how to value your online business and compare it with a competing website value to see how much more optimization you need.
Market research categories: primary and secondary
Primary research is the research of information gathered yourself. It can be in the form of surveys/polls, interviews, focus groups and target audience observation.
The good thing about this type of research is that you’ll be able to collect fresh data that competitors have not yet exploited. It gives you a current perspective and can help you target exact needs.
Surveys are a quantitative research strategy, mostly done through multiple-choice questions to gather feedback on a specific objective. It allows you to get mass feedback fast and at low costs.
It’s almost the same with polls, the only difference is, polls are usually short and simple, mostly with just one question at a given time. These are good if you want quick insight if a course review you made, say a comparison about Udemy and Coursera, pleased the reader.
Or if you offer illustration services or an infographic maker and want to know if a client was happy with your work, a simple poll can do.
Surveys are a bit more in-depth. You can ask more questions and you can request a short explanation of your answer.
Respondents like it best when surveys are straightforward, short, and anonymous. This way, you get more honest feedback.
One great thing about surveys is that there’s no interviewer to watch you all the time. Respondents can share unfiltered opinions about a product, service, or brand.
But there are also disadvantages. Technical mishaps like slow page load time can happen that’ll discourage the respondents to continue taking it. Or, respondents might feel the survey is too long or intrusive.
Keep surveys short and sweet. Respondents are willing to take surveys when they’re no longer than 10 minutes.
For a review on product management tools, a simple poll on whether the review helped them decide on what tool to use would suffice.
Interviews are a qualitative research method that’s more in-depth in nature. The one-on-one approach means direct engagement with the participants allowing you to capture raw emotions as you give out the question.
While you can do it via a phone call or a webchat, a web conference is best when you need their visual reactions.
The advantage of in-depth research is that it reveals vital information like:
Factors participants consider before buying or availing a service
The decision-making process for choosing a service or product
If the participant is satisfied with the product
If the participant has specific needs that are not addressed by the product or service
However, the downside with this market research method is the budget and time commitment needed both from the interviewer and the participant. And in many cases, incentives are customarily given to those who agree to be participants.
This is a tedious process but it can ensure accurate and real data.
Focus groups are also qualitative research that’s in-depth but done with at least 4-12 participants together.
It’s mostly done by separating two groups to verify the findings from the first group.
The usual questions asked here are:
Why would you buy product Z?
What did you like and dislike about product Z?
What would you like to improve in product Z?
Focus groups offer participants insight into a larger market. You get raw reactions, feelings, and opinions from several people at one time.
One factor to keep in check though is moderator bias. A moderator might be subconsciously asking questions that sway participant answers. This can skew the results collected.
Target audience observation
This “fly-on-the-wall” method can be an alternative to focus groups. It’s less expensive while still letting you see how the target market interacts with your product.
If you want to observe how a potential customer interacts with a website, you can use interactive heatmaps to observe user behaviors. You can track when they scroll down a page, click on a link and fill up forms.
When you see them stop or exit from something like a fill-up form, this gives you an idea that there’s something in that form that discourages them to continue, and then you can observe deeper by doing form analytics.
How to conduct primary research
Identify if you’re researching for:
A product launch
Product feature updates
Understanding a target audience better or segmenting them further
Crafting marketing concepts
Increase user experience
Draft a hypothesis
Determine what you want to find out from the research and what you’ll use it for. It can be anything from understanding customer motivations, opinions about a recently released feature and how much people consider spending for it.
For example, if you want to find out if your affiliate management software has the functions affiliates will use—you can state the function you have in the software, and ask a pool of affiliates what they think about the tool.
Or if a workflow software you promote will really streamline processes. State in the hypothesis which part of the tool you’re testing out.
Determine research methods
For starters, you can take a broad approach to use qualitative and quantitative data. You can do surveys and interviews at the same time.
For a language tutoring service offering Spanish course reviews like Preply or a review blog for the best torrent sites, you can carry out short polls about whether the reader has been satisfied with the information provided. You can then go deeper by asking respondents for a short interview.
Before doing the actual research, draft a timeframe, sample size of participants, and target audience. Creating a consistent process will help achieve repeatable, reliable results.
In most cases, especially for surveys and focus groups, large amounts of data can be gathered. Plan on how you can organize what you collect to uncover actionable insight you can use.
Conducting the research
Don’t go full blast in carrying out the research. You can do it in three staggered steps:
Soft launch - where you only gather a fraction of data so you can check your data gathering is going in the right direction
Full launch - research all of your target audience
Review - review for low-quality responses you might need to remove so it doesn’t impact the final analysis of the data
Analyzing research results
Examine the results and evaluate how you should move forward. Ask yourself:
What is the data saying?
How do I apply the results to our brand and products?
How will this data impact my business?
Secondary research is usually used to support primary research. With this type of research, data has already been collected and published. You just have to cite the researcher if you want to use it.
Compared to primary research, secondary research is more cost-efficient which can be helpful for small businesses wanting to get initial data before deciding if more time-in-point research is needed.
It’s best when primary and secondary research is used together. It'll let one research type verify the other, making you confident about a robust hypothesis.
Where to source secondary research
Public Source - this is information available for everyone. Government agencies provide library catalogs and census data. Private organizations also offer some of their research either to catch attention or advance a cause.
Commercial Sources - Market research organizations provide, industry-specific and in-depth market research you can buy
Internal Sources - If you do a bit of digging, you might realize the data had already been available somewhere in your organization all along. Say you own an eCommerce solution service and you need stats about the competition on Amazon selling options. You might find a certain content already has that data.
Make sure the source is reliable
Especially so when you’re scouring the internet, a lot of research presented is made by another organization. Make sure to cite the original source. There’s less risk with government-released research. Again, to be reliable, cite the whole source your team members refer to.
Market research promotes growth
Market research is a time-tested strategy to make marketing efforts count. Whether it’s for product development, brand tracking, advertising testing, or competitor analysis, market research will ensure you’re on the right track in scaling your business.
Define your business needs and the market research type that helps bring out the information you need, and you’ll bring your efforts in the right direction.