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10 basic market research methods

We live in a world that is flooded with information. Finding the relevant insights about a market or target group from all the noise can be a challenge.

This is where market research comes in: it's a way for brands and researchers to get information about target markets and groups.

While market research used to rely on traditional methods such as focus groups and surveys, it is now at a crossroads. New tools that can identify insights, such as social media data, have expanded the range of market research methods available.

In this blog post, we take a look at what market research is and the different methods you can choose from to get the most out of it.

Primary vs secondary market research

Market research can be divided into two different areas: primary and secondary.

They are also known as field and desk research (although these terms have become obsolete as many types of primary research can be done from your desk).

Primary (field) research

The primary market research is the research that you can do yourself. This includes holding your own focus groups or conducting surveys. The “field” label refers to the act of “going out into the field” to get the data.

Secondary (desk) research

Secondary market research is done by other people. This can include studies conducted by researchers or financial data published by companies.

Market research methods

The methods in this list cover both areas. Which one you use depends on your goals. Take a look at the possibilities and see what works best for you.

Focus groups

It's a simple concept, but it can be tricky to use.

You put a group of people in a room and pick them up and ask about the things that you are interested in. For some it is about new product ideas, for others it may be about the opinions of a politician.

The organizer draws some insights from these discussions or uses them to assess a general view of society on a particular topic. Generally, participants are chosen based on certain criteria, interests, and professions.

The focus group's strength lies in the natural conversations and discussions that prevail between participants (assuming it is properly implemented).

Compared to the questionnaire or surveys, which consist of a series of fixed questions, the focus group can go in a direction that the organizer cannot foresee (and therefore cannot plan questions about). The good thing is that such unexpected topics can be covered. However, this is inconvenient when the goal of the research is to answer a specific set of questions.

It is important to include the nature of the discussion as a potential factor that can skew the resulting data. Focus groups can encourage participants to talk about things they would not otherwise address, and they can be influenced by other participants in the group or the presence of the researcher. This can also apply to unstructured face-to-face interviews.

Survey

In surveys, participants are asked questions (in person, over the phone, by email or online form). Questions can be closed or open. There are many different types of closed questions:

  • Divided into two (two choices, such as “Yes” or “No)
  • Multiple choice
  • Checkbox
  • Assessment scale
  • Likert scale (common version is five options between “fully agree” and “strongly disagree”)
  • Matrix (options are shown in a grid)
  • Demographic (information on gender, age or occupation)

Surveys are very versatile due to the large number of question formats. However, the selection and combination of the possible questions requires sufficient consideration. Different questions need the right setup.

How questions are asked is also important. Good questions lead to good analysis. Writing clear, concise questions that don't use vague terms and don't direct respondents down a particular path can help you get results that provide real insights into respondents.

There are many different ways to conduct surveys, from creating your own or using tools like Qriously to do the main work for you.

Social media listening

Social media has reached a point where it has fitted seamlessly into our lives. And since it works like a digital extension of us, people can freely share their opinions and thoughts on social media.

Since so much content is shared online on social media, and often very quickly, social media is a treasure trove for market research. There is a lot of data to immerse yourself in.

Using a social listening tool like Consumer Research, researchers can identify topics they are interested in and then analyze relevant social posts. For example, you can track brand mentions and what consumers say about your brand's products.

Social media listening democratizes insights and it is especially useful for market research because a large amount of unfiltered information is available. Since they are unsolicited, you can be pretty sure that what is being shared really shows what the person is interested in and what they are thinking (rather than, when presented with a topic, that they discuss in the presence of a researcher) .

Interviews

In interviews, the interviewer speaks directly to the respondents. This type of market research is more personal, allows communication and clarity, and is good for open-ended questions. In addition, interviewers can go beyond superficial answers and explore more deeply in the interview.

The disadvantage of interviews, however, is that they are time-consuming and expensive. Those who choose this method need to determine how to allocate their resources effectively. You also need to be careful when asking, because asking bad questions can lead to useless results. Here is a good introduction to the question.

Experiments and field trials

Field tests are carried out in the participant's environment. They depend on the independent variable and dependent variable: the researcher controls the independent variable to test how it affects the dependent variable. The key here is to find out if there is any causality here.

Take Hofling’s experiment, for example, which examined obedience in a hospital setting. The aim was to find out whether nurses obey authoritarian persons (doctors) when the rules of the authoritarian persons violate guidelines. The dependent variable is the nurses and the independent variables are the wrong doctors telling the nurses to adjust treatment.

According to Simply Psychology, this method has its strengths and limitations:

  • Strength: Behavior in a field trial is more likely to reflect real life due to its natural environment, e.g. B. a higher ecological informative value than a laboratory test.
  • Strength: The results are less likely to be influenced by requirement characteristics because participants do not know they are being investigated. That's what happens when the study is hidden.
  • Limitation: There is less control over extraneous variables that can skew the results. This makes it difficult for another researcher to repeat the study in the same way.

There are also massive ethical implications for these types of experiments, and experiments in general (especially when people are unaware that they are participating in them). Take the subject seriously and read all guidelines that apply to your area.

observation

Observational market research is a qualitative research method in which the researcher observes the test subjects in a natural or controlled environment. This method is like the researcher playing a mouse, but the mouse takes notes and analyzes them later. In observational market research, the test subjects are very likely to behave naturally and reveal their true selves. You are not under pressure. However, if they learn from the observation, it may be that they behave differently.

This type of research works well for retail stores. Researchers can study shoppers' behavior by day of the week, season, when discounts are offered, and more. However, observational research can be time consuming and researchers have no control over the environment they are exploring.

Competitive analysis

Competitive analysis is a very strategic and specific form of market research in which the researcher analyzes the company's competitors. Knowing how your brand compares to your competition is important. At the beginning of the competition analysis, the product, service, or brand and market segment are defined. There are several areas in which you can compare your company to your competitors.

From a marketing perspective, that could be: content being produced, SEO structure, PR coverage, and the social media presence and engagement. From a product perspective, it could be: the nature of the offers and pricing structure. The SWOT analysis is important here to assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

You can learn more about this method in this blog post.

Public domain data

The internet is a wonderful place. There is publicly available data for those who have no resources or simply want to support their research with more data. As data increases every year, the issue of accessibility and curation becomes more important, and this is why researchers and librarians are so keen on public data.

There are many different types of public data that can be useful for market research: government databases, survey data, platforms like Pew Research Center, and more. APIs also give developers programmatic access to applications. Much of the data is free, an added benefit.

Buy research

Money can't buy everything, but research can buy. Subscriptions are available for those who want to buy relevant industry and research reports. Sites like Euromonitor, Mintel and BCC Research list a number of reports for purchase, often with the option of a single user license.

This can save a lot of time and will give you a better idea of ​​what results you can expect right from the start. You also get your data in a format that is structured, which saves you the trouble of being organized and organized.

Analyze sales data

Sales data is like a piece of the puzzle that can help you get a complete picture of your market research insights. Basically, they hint at the results. Together with other market research data, sales data can help researchers get a better picture of actions and consequences. It's also important to understand your customers, their buying habits and how they change over time.

This is of course limited to customers and it is important to keep this in mind. Nonetheless, the value of this data should not be underestimated. If you're not already tracking customer data, this is the place to start.

Choose a market research method

Not all methods are suitable for your situation or your company. As you go through the list and some methods are appealing to you, you should read deeper into each method.

You should think about what you want to achieve, what data you need, the pros and cons of each method, the cost of doing the research, and the cost of analyzing the results.

Done correctly, you will not regret your efforts.