When it comes to market research there are plenty of methods at your disposal that can provide insights into your customer base or the audience you wish to reach. Market research is a crucial component of any marketing strategy, whether you’re looking to increase market share, inform new products and services or reach new audiences. However, how you go about your market research studies will depend on your goals, timeline, budget and the type of results you hope to achieve.
From surveys to focus groups, there are a number of ways to gather information that will help you better understand your audience’s needs and motivations. Here are some of the most popular marketing research methods you should know and try:
Surveys are one of the most common forms of market research as they allow marketers to more quickly obtain data on their target audience. They can provide insight into attitudes, behaviors, and opinions specific to your brand or a competitor’s products or services. Some of the most common types of surveys used for market research include:
Online surveys: Online surveys allow individuals to complete a questionnaire at their convenience (typically with anonymity). These surveys are relatively easy to set up and administer, making them ideal for market research purposes.
Telephone surveys: While less common compared to online surveys, telephone surveys allow a researcher to directly interact with the survey participant, which can allow for questions that may require more in depth responses. Today, many surveys conducted over the phone are initiated by either market research or customer satisfaction teams. A common telephone survey is a follow-up to a customer service call-in. Callers are typically asked to opt-in via an automated system before or after calling into a customer service number to rate their experience or answer a few questions about the product or brand.
Post purchase surveys: Post purchase surveys are commonly found on printed receipts, online pop-ups post purchase, or follow-up emails requesting information around the purchase or overall experience directly after the purchase was made.
Here are a 3 helpful tips to get the most out of your survey initiatives:
Tip #1 – Provide clear instruction and expectations: When conducting a survey, it’s best to provide respondents with a clear set of instructions and expectations (i.e. number of questions, average time to complete). Participants will be less likely to abandon a survey if they know what to expect upfront.
Tip #2 – Reduce bias: If you’re conducting your survey over the phone, it’s recommended to have more than one person conduct the survey – either split up between several members of your team, or better yet, consider working with a third-party that is both skilled in conducting surveys and free of bias. Depending on the survey study, it’s best to keep respondents anonymous to remove any identifying information such as race or gender that could create bias among the individual reviewing and interpreting the results. If possible, try to reduce bias by having different people take part in administering and analyzing the survey results, regardless of survey method.
Tip #3 – Provide incentives: Incentives increase the likelihood that respondents will complete the survey. These could include free samples or products, prizes, or discounts applied to a future purchase.
Interviews are another great way to learn more about your audience. Asking interviewees open-ended questions allows you to gain deeper insights into a specific topic. Keep in mind that the more specific the question, the better. Asking questions like, “What do you think of this product?” or “How would you feel if we introduced this new feature?” can help identify potential problems or issues within your market.
Here are 4 helpful tips for interviews:
Tip #1 – Ask follow-up questions: Ask follow-up questions to gain more information, or to clarify if it appears that the interviewee misinterpreted the question.
Tip #2 – Keep it conversational: Keep interviews conversational and make sure they’re sharing their opinions on what you’re asking them.
Tip #3 – Conduct face-to-face interviews: To guarantee that your interview provides accurate results that will help inform marketing planning, make sure that you remove interview bias. Let your respondents speak freely without interruption. If possible, conduct interviews face-to-face (whether in-person or over Zoom) rather than over the phone. This will give you the chance to observe body language and facial expressions as well.
Tip #4 – Record the interview: If the interviewee will allow you to record the interview, then go for it! It’s always helpful to go back and rewatch to make sure you fully captured their responses.
3. Focus Groups
Focus groups are similar to interviews but involve multiple people at once. By having several people discuss a particular subject or product together, you can get a broader perspective on your topic. When planning a focus group, remember to keep things moving along. You don’t want to have too much time discussing one issue or topic. Make sure that everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, and try to keep discussions lighthearted as well.
Luckily, focus groups are not antiquated. With new technologies, focus groups remain an effective tool for understanding consumer behavior. Many focus groups are conducted online using software that lets participants share ideas, photos, videos, and more while remaining anonymous. Using this technique can be particularly helpful when trying to understand demographic trends or cultural nuances.
Lastly, observation is used by researchers who need to gather information about real-life situations. For example, you might observe your audience in person at a restaurant, retailer, public space, or online via heat map technology. You can then use this information to inform advertisement placement, UI design, content or even where you locate your next store front. A great example of in-person observational research was when founders Ben and Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream counted the number of individuals that walked down the street before deciding on renting the space that would launch their famous ice cream brand.
Observation can even come in the form of reviewing online behavioral data. If you’re trying to find out the best time to post content for your social media calendar, then observing when your social audience is most likely to engage with your content is key. If you post the same type of content on Tuesday and Friday, does one day receive more engagement over the other? Is there a time of day you notice more engagement around your content? This information will help inform the best times and days your audience is likely to view and interact with your content, leading to more conversions to your website.
With this said, you can conduct observational studies with these two methods:
Direct observation: This is the most common form of observational research, involving watching and recording actions of individuals.
Indirect observation: This form of observational research relies on indirect measures such as measuring environmental factors, observing physical characteristics (such as size), or analyzing patterns in data.
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No matter what kind of research methodology you choose, it’s important to note that each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding which approach works best for your project will ultimately help you improve your marketing efforts and reach your goals.
Guest blog by Bash Sarmiento