How Long Does Market Research Take?


From focus groups to in-depth interviews to surveys, are you left wondering how long market research actually takes?

In truth, the answer is that your market research timeline depends on many factors. However, we can provide some more information and context to those timelines below.

There are several different factors involved which impact timelines for market research, but the biggest factors are:

  1. Understanding the objectives of the research.
  2. Developing an effective market research methodology to meet those needs. 

Remember: the length of time for market research studies varies based on the methodology.

In this post, we will discuss how long different types of market research typically take and the factors that affect the timeline. It will help answer the question, "How long does market research take?"

Steps to Choosing Your Methodology

Before we dive into some popular methods of market research that will help determine your timeline, we’ll give you some quick pointers on how to choose the right method for your project.

Having a solid market research plan in place will take much of the stress away, trust us.

First off, don’t be overwhelmed.

If you’re totally new to market research, you may not even know where to start. Instead of bombarding yourself with all the different methods, start with organizing your research goals. 

Consider these factors: 

  • What you’ll get out of the research feedback
  • How you’ll implement new strategies based on that feedback
  • How much you already know about market research
  • If you want to work with an outsourced team

If you treat this like any other project in the beginning stages (AKA, having an outline and objectives) choosing a methodology won’t be as hard as you think. 

Qualitative or Quantitative? 

Another aspect of your market research timeline is if you’ll be using qualitative or quantitative research

Put simply, qualitative research is small-scale, while quantitative research is large-scale. 

Based less on numbers and data, popular forms of qualitative research are focus groups and other observational methods. Think of it as more personalized and focused on the details. 

Whereas quantitative research is made up of solid feedback strategies, like online surveys and other related methods. Data and numbers are the focus here, the opposite of qualitative research. 

In regards to project length, qualitative methodologies take longer to complete than common forms of quantitative market research.

Recommended Reading: 11 Types of Market Research to Consider


How long does a focus group take? 🗣️🗣️

Typically, a focus group with 10 to 12 participants will last for 1 and a half to 2 hours. However, shorter focus groups, which last less than an hour are also becoming popular.

Depending on the subject and goals of the conversation, shorter focus groups are ideal and can be completed at a lower cost. The lower cost stems from decreased moderator time, smaller honorarium payment, etc.

An entire focus group project takes 3 to 5 weeks to complete.

The first week encompasses project set up such as:

While the second and third weeks are for qualitative recruitment or finding participants to join the focus group. A third-party market research firm will work to recruit an ideal mix of participants based on your criteria.

After the recruit is complete, the focus groups are held. The final week is reserved for creating the report and analyzing the results.

Depending on the needs and qualifications of the focus group this timeline can be sped up. For example, we once completed a focus group project in one-week.

💡 The Key Takeaway: If focus groups are playing a role in your market research project timeline, these typically last anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks. 

How long do in-depth interviews (IDIs) take? 🗨️

An IDI can last anywhere between 15 minutes to 1 hour. This is another case where the amount of time spent doing the IDI is dependent on the needs of the project.

Most IDIs take roughly 30 minutes to complete, but the time it takes to complete is also dependent on the participant. Some respondents will go in-depth and their interview may take 45 minutes to complete, and others may be straight to the point and their conversation may take 25 minutes to complete.

An IDI market research project will typically take 3 to 5 weeks to complete.

The first week is reserved for the setup, conducting a kickoff meeting, and receiving the information needed to develop a screener for the IDIs as well as an IDI guide.

Following this, an additional one or two weeks is needed for recruitment and conducting IDIs. The final week is reserved for reporting.

This timeline will depend on how difficult the audience is to reach and recruit, and how many IDIs need to be conducted. If your organization wants to conduct 40 IDIs instead of 10 it will likely take longer.

As a rule of thumb, reaching professionals is more difficult than reaching general consumers. There is definitely a difference between conducting B2C and B2B market research.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Averaging at about half an hour, IDI length can also depend on the participant. If IDIs are a part of your market research process, consider that the conversational aspect can add on time. However, on average they typically take 3 to 5 weeks.

Interested in learning more about IDIs? Read a real-world example of our market research company in action.

How long does an online survey take? 💻

It's best practice for online surveys to take respondents 3 to 5 minutes to complete (or less). Online surveys typically include 10 to 25 questions. An online survey company, like Drive Research, is able to work with clients to prioritize objectives and create questions to meet the research goals.

An online survey project can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 to 4 weeks to complete. The difference in the time needed to complete the project depends on the research methodology and deliverables.

For example, running a quick study with 10 questions to the general public and receiving charts and graphs can take only a matter of days. On the other hand, a larger study with roughly 25 questions that target a specific population can take longer.

What is the usual process for an online survey?

Each online survey project starts with a kickoff meeting where market research professionals identify the goals and objectives of the project and get the information required to draft the survey.

Once the survey draft is signed off on, fieldwork can be completed in a matter of days or weeks depending on the target audience. For some studies, fieldwork at our market research company has been completed in 24 hours.

From here, results can be presented in the form of charts and graphs within 24 hours of fieldwork being completed, or a full report with an in-depth look at the results can be developed within a week or two.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Online surveys are a timely and effective way to gather data. Ranging from 10 to 25 questions, online surveys take 2 to 4 weeks to be completed. 

Learn the factors that impact the cost and timeline of an online survey project.

How long does a phone survey take? ☎️

Somewhat similar to an IDI or online survey, phone surveys typically take between 10 to 15 minutes to conduct with a live respondent. Depending on the goals of the research, a phone survey may be shorter if there are no follow-up questions.

A phone survey project can take 4 to 8 weeks to complete.

The difference in time depends on the research goals. If the survey is more in-depth, specific, and longer these projects typically take more time to complete.

Also, larger phone survey projects that require 400, 600, or 800 completes also extend the timeline of a project. However, if the phone survey is short, to the point, and aims to reach a general audience of consumers the project can typically be sped up.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Phone surveys can last up to 2 months, depending on the research goals. This market research project timeline can be prolonged if your phone survey requires more incompletes.

How long does a mail survey take? 📭

Mail surveys will take the longest to complete. For most mail surveys, our market research company recommends keeping the surveys short and on one page. It's important to keep the respondent in mind and consider what completing the survey gets them. 

Think to yourself...

  • Do respondents value the relationship enough to respond? 
  • Are you offering an incentive for completing the survey? 

Both are important questions for mail survey projects.

A typical mail survey project takes 6 to 8 weeks to complete.

Similar to the prior market research processes, a kickoff meeting is held, a draft survey is developed, and once the draft survey is signed off on fieldwork begins.

The length of time to complete fieldwork is amplified for mail survey projects. Fieldwork for mail survey projects can take 4 to 5 weeks.

This is the largest variable and longest portion of the mail survey timeline. Once fieldwork is completed, the final week is reserved for developing the market research report.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Taking 6 to 8 weeks to complete, mail surveys are known to take the most time. It’s best for these surveys to be short and stay at one page. 

To learn more about conducting a mail survey, read this case study.

How long do intercept surveys take? 🚪🚶‍♂️

Intercept surveys should be kept short and are typically kept to 10 questions or less.

If a market research interviewer is attempting to stop someone to ask them questions at an event or retail location, it's important to get straight to the point in the survey because time is of the essence. The goal is to limit the risk of a respondent walking away before completing the survey.

Intercept survey projects take 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

After the project kickoff is held and the intercept survey is developed, fieldwork is conducted on-site. These intercept survey locations can range from business lobbies to areas where target consumers are such as malls and more. After fieldwork is completed, the last week is held for developing the results and reports.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Another survey option for a short market research timeline are intercept surveys. They take about 2 to 3 weeks to be fully completed. 

How long do IHUTs take? 🏠

🛑🛑 Not sure what an IHUT is? Watch this quick recap video.

From a respondent perspective, an in-home usage test (IHUT) can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to complete. The length of time needed to complete the IHUT depends on the goals and objectives of the market research.

For example, respondents may only need a week to test a new food product but it may take longer to effectively test a household appliance that’s used infrequently.

An in-home usage test study typically takes 4 to 8 weeks to complete.

However, the project timeline may be sped up or extended depending on the time needed for respondents to test the product and how difficult it is to reach the target audience.

After the project kickoff meeting is held, the team develops a screener to recruit participants, prepares for the IHUT shipments to be sent to participants, and develops survey(s) to be sent to participants during the test.

After fieldwork is completed, the last week is held for developing the results, reporting, and a debrief meeting.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Taking 4 to 8 weeks to complete, an IHUT timeline really depends on the product in question. 

Interested in learning more about IHUTS? Here is the only guide you'll ever need to become an expert in this area. 

Contact Our Market Research Company

Drive Research is a national market research company. We consult with clients to ensure market research is executed effectively and the data provided fuels strategies.

Want to learn more about our team? Contact us!

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily taylor about the author

Emily Taylor

As a Senior Research Analyst, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.

Learn more about Emily, here.

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