Trying to sell to a market without knowing it or having done your research is, to put it lightly, ill-advised.
Market research is the essential groundwork that will underpin the efforts to get your, service, or business entity in front of the people that might want to use it.
As a digital marketing agency, we encourage you to undertake market research – we would be hypocrites to say otherwise. But what is market research? And is it always strictly necessary?
What is market research and why is it important?
Market research is, quite simply, learning about your target market. It is the process of gathering information about the customers you wish to attract and the existing competition to your product.
This data can shape your marketing, redefine your understanding of existing markets, and possibly even spur you to go back to the drawing board on and refine your idea.
Market research is important because it allows you to build a profile of the people you want to target. You can draw upon your findings to understand what they are likely to want, where they might go to find it, and – most importantly – what you can provide them so that they see value in your product or service.
Trying to sell to people you don’t understand means you’re going in blind. There are plenty of business owners who can tell you about failed projects of the past that sank due to inadequate knowledge of the markets they were targeting.
Market research is equally as important if you’re marketing somebody else’s business instead of your own. Doubtless your client has given you some helpful information about them and what they do, but there are always new angles that can be unearthed through doing your own research and interpreting it through the lens of a marketing specialist.
By understanding the surrounding competition, you can identify what it is that’s unique about your – or your client’s – business and sell the USPs as they truly are; unique.
What is an example of market research?
Surveys are a form of market research. They’re ubiquitous thanks to the ease of setting them up and low cost of using them. Online surveys can be spread far and wide, and incentives such as entry into a prize draw make them all the more effective.
Analysing data from a survey can be straightforward, and your choice of which questions to ask can reveal precisely the kind of qualitative statements you like (open questions) or simple yes/no feelings on certain topics and ideas (closed questions).
Surveys are relatively free from bias, since each response is independent of others and the individual has little chance to be swayed by group opinion. However, no method of research is 100% free from potential errors.
Surveys can be devalued by leading questions, or questions that step around the real issues that a user might have with existing products or services in a certain market.
However, with the right questions and analysis, surveys can reveal some key opinions from your target market. You can find out what the most popular options are in a given market, what common values your customers hold, what age brackets they occupy, and plenty more.
How do you use market research?
Market research should be used to inform your business and guide your efforts to create, improve, and sell your product or service. It defines the relationship between you and your customers, allowing you to get feedback and act on it, reiterating and improving each time based on direct customer wants and needs.
Using the data from your market research may be as simple as changing your tone of voice when posting to social media, or it might lead to complete overhauls of your business model. If the data can be trusted, even huge moves can be made in confidence.
What are the four types of market research?
Market research yields different results depending on what methods you use. Generally, all market research can be broken down into four distinct categories:
Primary research is in many ways the most reliable and valuable form of information collection that you can conduct. It is defined by research that is conducted first-hand by you and your company, such as aforementioned surveys and focus groups.
Primary research is so useful because the findings have not come from other sources and is therefore untainted by outside bias. Data coming directly from your own consumer base gives you a first-hand view of what your users think, and what they would like to see in the future.
Methods of conducting primary research are simple to get to the right people in the internet age. Sharing polls and surveys through social media channels gets them to potentially thousands of users. Many retail and hospitality chains now invite every shopper to provide feedback with survey links or QR codes printed onto receipts.
This allows primary research to happen continuously and soon after visits to stores, when a customer is likely to remember their trip clearly and can give the most accurate recount of what they thought.
Primary research, however, is not free from certain biases, and often for these exact same reasons. A customer who has had a bad experience may respond more emotively than if they were to later rely on the facts of their experience. Some businesses wait until offering customers a chance to feed back, emailing them 24 or 48 hours after their visit using existing marketing information.
Secondary research is data collected from sources other than your own direct collection efforts. These can be e-books, articles, and whitepapers from other companies working in the same or a similar market as yours.
If primary research tells you best about your customers, secondary research tells you about your competition. There can still be a lot to learn about your customers through secondary research, but there will always be at least some degrees of separation between you and your customers through research that has come from other sources.
Ideally, secondary research should bolster your own primary research – neither replacing the other, but enhancing and qualifying your findings. By putting together a clear picture of your customers and an equally clear picture of your competition, you gain a panoramic view of your domain. This puts you in the best position to improve, disrupt, and become thought leaders in your market.
Qualitative research is not mutually exclusive with primary or secondary research. Qualitative and quantitative research can be either primary or secondary, since they are concerned with the ability to measure the research rather than where it was sourced from.
Qualitative research provides data that’s hard to measure or put into numbers. In regard to surveys, these are your open questions. Asking customers, ‘What do you like best about shopping at X?’ will provide as many different answers as there are respondents.
Though there will be some general moods and opinions between people, almost none of these will be precisely the same. This makes qualitative data the freest to represent people, but the hardest to ultimately measure. It requires interpretation beyond numerical analysis and takes a company sense of empathy to put yourself into the customers’ shoes and understand them.
In this sense, qualitative research lets you understand why customers hold the opinions they have, and to what degree they feel a certain way. This is why many surveys have questions that work on a 1-10 scale, usually with a comment box for further explanation or input.
Quantitative research is essentially the opposite of qualitative research, concerning data that can easily be organised and categorised. Yes/no and agree/disagree responses are ideal for quantitative research, giving you key answers to simple questions that can be counted and compared.
Quantitative research shines in situations where you have competing ideas and you need to cut them down. In research methodology, A/B testing presents users with two variants of a web page, store layout, or other element. A or B is presented at random among the user base. Reaction to these respective variants is monitored, and the winner is chosen from whichever appears to better drive the company’s aims forwards.
Aiming for quantitative research may sound like aiming for more ‘shallow’ data on the face of it, but it can be helpfully uncomplicated in the right contexts. Some questions simply don’t need detailed input or wordy responses. A customer doesn’t necessarily need to explain how a redesigned product makes them ‘feel’ – rather, it can be helpful just to know if they think it’s better than before, or worse.
Just like primary and secondary research is best when paired up, qualitative and quantitative research can paint the clearest picture when one is used to contextualise the other. Quantitative research can show you the thoughts and opinions of your customers and how prevalent they are; qualitative research can demystify them and reveal key routes into your customers’ thought processes.
What is the best type of marketing research?
The best type of market research for your business depends on what your business is. What you do and what you’re trying to change are key factors that must be ironed out before delving into asking for customer opinion.
Food and hospitality, for instance, may find the most use in primary, quantitative research. This could tell businesses in these sectors how many people buy products and eat at the establishments of their competitors, and how much they are likely to spend in any given week. This paints a picture of customer demographics and behaviours in target areas, defining their ideal buyer. For instance, businesses looking to grow their Manchester SEO need to know the market in Manchester itself.
To prop up their market research, secondary sources could also be sought out in the form of research studies, polls by consumer watchdogs, and government data.
The bottom line is that market research is at its strongest when it’s approached from as many angles as necessary to gain the most fleshed-out view. No single approach will obtain all the data you need on its own.
How do you conduct market research?
Knowing the types of market research available, the methods you can employ to conduct your research are numerous.
Surveys, focus groups, and interviews are good methods of primary research that each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Focus groups bring together members of your ideal audience, but they’re susceptible to biases that prey on both participants and the moderators who guide them.
An easy and inexpensive way to conduct primary market research is to create an online survey using existing platforms such as SurveyMonkey and Jotform, then distribute it via email lists and social media. It eliminates the need to physically organise participants and can run for as long as you like. This kind of research can be set up, conducted, and overseen from a desktop.
Conducting secondary research is often as simple as sitting down with a cup of coffee and a list of Google queries. Secondary research can be conducted in the background while primary research runs its course, needing so special training or set up. Gather your data, record it, and convert it into the facts and figures that you need.
Once your market research has led you to know what your customers are looking for, you can hone your marketing strategies so that your branding and SEO are saying exactly what they want to hear.
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If you’re still asking yourself, ‘what is market research and how do I use it?’, then don’t hesitate to contact us today.