Market research involves gathering information about needs, wants, preferences, and opinions. Market research is essential to the success of a company, organization, product, or brand, and it can be used to develop knowledge about a multitude of topics. Through market research, you can quickly become an expert on almost any topic through primary or secondary efforts.
Market research can be used to better understand your customers’ preferences and needs, discover consumer buying habits, gauge brand identity in the marketplace, differentiate how successful or unsuccessful a potential product will be desired by your ideal customer, identify the Voice of the Customer (VoC) to use in advertising and marketing, and even recognize problem areas within the company.
There are many things to consider as a beginner regarding market research, and this article will highlight and discuss some of those factors.
Questions about market research? We'll show you how to get started and what you should be thinking about to hit the ground running.
In-House Versus Professional
First, the decision will need to be made if the market research will be conducted in-house or using an outside market research company. In-house means the company will conduct the research itself, and the other option involves a market research company assisting with the project.
There are pros and cons to both avenues. In-house is less expensive compared to hiring a professional company, but the analysis of the information will lose value without a professional to analyze it. Secondary research refers to gathering data that has already been published to create strategies, benchmarks, or marketing campaigns, and can be conducted in-house as well. Again, more cost effective, but it will not be information about your company’s specific ideal consumer.
The decision is ultimately up to you, but I would encourage you to consider the objective of the market research project. For example, if the company is planning a million-dollar advertising campaign, it is more beneficial to have a professional market research team conducting research to ensure your advertising campaign experiences a return on investment. On the other side, if you are concerned about employee satisfaction, it may be plausible to conduct a survey in-house and gather information about your employees without hiring a professional market research company.
Just be very careful about bias. If you conduct the market research in-house can your customers or employees be 100% honest with you? Would they be more open and honest if their feedback was going to a third-party confidentially? The answer is likely yes, and this is why many opt for outside support.
Choosing a Methodology
Another crucial factor to consider is what methodology will be used. Simply stated, methodology in market research means how the research will be carried out to gain knowledge. Methodology at its most basic level can be categorized as quantitative or qualitative. Think of quantitative as numerical data and qualitative relating to the human experience.
A few examples to help your understanding:
If you desire to discover how successful an advertising campaign is, you could compare the number of visitors to your website and number of purchases before and after the campaign. The numbers can be compared and a percentage can be acquired, identifying if there are more visitors and more buyers after the advertising campaign. This research involves numerical data and therefore would be quantitative.
Another quantitative example could be if you gather data through a survey, but want to know numerical information. For example, how many people think X, or what percentage of Y. This also would be considered quantitative, since you are gathering numerical information.
If you desire to know how your ideal consumer thinks and feels about a product you are considering launching to the marketplace, you would want to ask questions about their thoughts, feelings, needs, preferences, and opinions. Their responses would refer more to their experience, qualitative.
Another example, if you desire to know why a consumer chooses your product or does not choose your product over a competitor. This information is regarding their experience as well, making it qualitative information.
Defining Your Sample
The ‘sample’ in research refers to the group of people that will be involved in research project, and includes the ‘who’ and ‘how many.’ It is important to have clarity about who your ideal consumer is.
Think about it. If you are designing a product to solve a problem for a new mother, how beneficial would it be to conduct research with a sample of non-mothers? It wouldn’t be.
Also consider, would asking five people truly give you enough information, or would interviewing 50, 100, or 250 be more beneficial? Remember to think about who and how many when conducting market research.
How to Collect Sample
Collecting the sample dives deeper into methodology discussed above, and there are many options to choose from. Here are a few ways data is commonly collected.
Surveys are the most widely known and used method to collect information. Surveys come in a wide variety, including the consumer satisfaction survey link available at the bottom of your receipt, the feedback card at your favorite local restaurant, to the long and detailed web survey you may have experienced.
Focus groups involve getting a group of people together in a room, physically or virtually, that meet the sampling criteria. A moderator leads a guided discussion about a product or service to gather data from the participants. Sometimes a focus group is observed through a two-way mirror, while other times they are not. Most focus groups are recorded and transcribed for analysis upon the completion of the guided discussion.
One-to-one interviews are similar to focus groups in the sense they also involve a guided discussion. However, they occur between two people, the interviewer (moderator) and the interviewee (participant). Depending of the objective of the research, one-to-one interviews can be free flowing conversations, or they can be guided by very specific and strategic questions.
Shop-alongs are an excellent methodology to gain knowledge about packaging, placement, customer experience (CX), in-aisle marketing efforts, and offer a different perspective in comparison to traditional focus groups or other forms of qualitative market research. Shop-alongs provide real-time data with real-life experience from entry to a location to point-of-purchase (POP). This involves an interviewer or moderating literally shopping alongside of the participant asking questions.
What Questions to Ask
What questions to ask is another critical component to designing and executing a market research project. On a basic level, questions can be open-ended, meaning they spark a longer response, or closed, meaning they will yield a short and simple answer (for example: yes or no).
For starters, it is important to know what the objective of the research project is and who is the ideal participant when developing questions. Secondly, would open-ended, closed, or a combination be best suited for the project. Thirdly, what are some main questions you can create? What are some sub-questions related to the main questions?
When developing questions, it is important to create, analyze, and rework the questions multiple time before they are utilized in a survey, focus group, one-to-one interview, or shop-along.
Market research is immensely beneficial when seeking knowledge about a company, organization, product, service, or brand. Market research is complex, but as a beginner remember to consider the important factors discussed in this article. Whether you decide to conduct market research in-house or hire a professional market research company, such as Drive Research, you will need to decide who will your participants include, what methodology will you use, how will the data be collected, and what questions need to be used.
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Drive Research is a market research company in Syracuse, NY. We work with businesses both large and small to assist with market research.
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