The Best Methods Of Market Research
Updated: 4 days ago
Discover all the best methods of market research both old and new, so you can understand the relevancy, benefits of the research and how they can be applied to a given situation.
Table of contents
The table above illustrates the 6 most common methods of market research.
[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through these links at no additional cost to you.]
Traditional methods of market research that can be applied
There is a wide range of traditional market research methods available from using census data to conducting online surveys. This could be information found on Google, face to face interaction, telephone interviews or self-completion exercises (paper or online). In some cases, a mix of methodologies can be applied. All this comes down to two types of market research: primary and secondary research, which I will outline in detail below.
Secondary market research methods
Secondary market research, which is also known as desk research has been done separately by other parties for a different purpose and is made available through free or paid sources. This could be studies done by different researchers or financial data made available by companies.
This can act as an initial step in research and help build up your knowledge of the subject, where secondary sources of information can be a goldmine especially with Google search making things more freely available.
The following are 10 secondary market research sources of information available to use:
1. Company sales records
The first source of information dependent on the goal would be to utilise your company’s records, where you can tell how many customers you have, where they are located, how much they buy, what do they buy, the average price they pay, how many visitors to your website. This is just a broad example as it depends on your business as you may have a more sophisticated database technology that can delve more into the data you have available.
2. Online search engines
Online sources through search engines like Google and the free online encyclopaedia called Wikipedia. Although you need to take caution with the latter as it may not be completely reliable as anyone can contribute it and there is no verification process.
3. Online reports and articles
Online reports (free or paid) and articles that cover an enormous range of subjects from market forecasts to the latest trends on Instagram.
4. Industry experts
Speaking to industry experts who have a wealth of experience and knowledge of their area and have written articles and presented at committee gatherings. They can help to answer some questions you may have.
5. Trade and business press
The news they cover will include background material to specialised supplements on markets and industries.
6. Business and commercial databases
Databases containing company information to help researchers with competitor benchmarking such as www.sec.gov, Companies House or Hoovers for financial data.
7. Government sources
Government sources are good for solid statistical data such as the census data of the country’s population, www.commerce.gov (US department of commerce) for industry data, UN Comtrade (https://comtrade.un.org/) for imports and exports, Eurostat - European office of statistics. Also the National Intelligence Survey’s online Factbook is a treasure trove of business information covering over 250 countries in providing individual country summaries of the population, geography, the economy, government, communications and more. This helps gain an understanding of the different markets for international research.
8. Trade and industry bodies
Industry trade bodies and associations have a wealth of information at their disposal covering their particular field. This could be information on industry trends and concerns as well as pointing you in the right direction of industry experts to speak to.
9. Directories and lists
Is a perfect source of information particularly for business to business research, where you can build a sample list of companies that buy or supply certain good and services to include in the reseach and build a profile such as size, number of employees and company type. The Yellow pages and Experian (www.experian.com) are examples of these type of lists and directories.
10. Social media
You can find out what is trending, peoples views and opinions of companies through social media and track this type of information through social listening tools, which is mentioned in more detail later on.
Primary market research methods
Remember secondary research will most likely gather part of the information sought for a project. This is where market research comes in to focus on key objectives set by the decision maker of the organisation or business that is paying for the research to be carried out.
For example, this process would be through development of research material such as questionnaires, fieldwork where sample of the target audience profile are interviewed or observed, data analysis and interpretation of results for conclusions and recommendations to be made.
Although, you can utilise bought or old market research that was previously carried out in secondary research, this won’t entirely be relevant to the issue at hand and most likely be out of date. On the other hand, primary research will have a key set focus on the objectives for those moments in time. Primary research is split into two forms of research - quantitative and qualitative research.
Types of qualitative research
Qualitative research is exploring the in-depth behaviour, attitudes and opinions of a small group of individuals in a more open manner rather than a fixed set of questions. These tend to be observational techniques like mystery shopping as well as face to face in-depth interviews or focus groups, where people can discuss the subject at hand openly but with guidance from the interviewer to help lead the direction of the conversation.
Qualitative research is often used at the initial stage for exploratory purposes and build understanding of the subject from the key target audience that tends to lead to further research, where the insights gained from the initial phase can feed into. However, qualitative research can operate independently as a separate project through a programme of focus groups or depth interviews testing advertising and new concepts of products and services.
Below are the three main types of qualitative research:
1. Depth interviews
These tend to be direct face to face interviews, where you can talk at length with individuals at their homes or another suitable private location. Otherwise this can be done over the telephone and even online using applications like Skype. This allows individuals to be comfortable in talking openly particularly around sensitive subjects and helps gain further insights this way.
A discussion guide will be needed to help aid these interviews with relatively unstructured list of topics to follow. The person moderating these interviews needs to be skilled in determining the success of the research, where they can delve further than what the general topic questions that have been set in the discussion guide and still guide the discussion even if gone off topic at times.
Unlike with standard surveys, there will be small number of interviews required for the research as this is about gaining a greater understanding and reasoning of the subject rather than quantifying particular points with numbers.
2. Focus groups
This is where individuals have been specially selected based on a set criteria like those who have bought a car in the last 3 months or regularly watch family films at the cinema to take part in group discussions consisting of 5 to 10 people led by a person moderating the group. These meetings take place at a special venue with viewing facilities or an online portal and as with depth interviews a discussion guide will also be required.
This is where these selected individuals can discuss openly about the topics and even debate as there will be those with opposing views, which in itself can help build understanding of the subject. The person moderating the group will need to steer the discussion and allow each member of the group to give their opinion rather than being dominated by one or two people and minimise bias in the discussions.
3. Ethnography and observation
This is where people are studied in a specific environment to understand their behaviour and is more fly on the wall in observing and listening to these people in certain situations. In doing it this way will allow you to go beyond answers given by people by observing their actual behaviour.
This can be at home or in a special environment, so after a period of time as these people are conscious of prying eyes their true selves will eventually appear. The application of this type research works well in retail by observing the shopper’s behaviour during every week or season (discounts offered).
Types of quantitative research
As the name suggests quantitative research is where results can be measured by quantity and is straight forward to understand for those making the decisions to pick up. These quantified results are collected by interviewing a sizeable group of people (from 50 running into the 1000s) which is a reflection of the whole population. Hence with a bigger sample size, statistical analysis can be used to provide better insights such as optimal price levels, predicted behaviour and key drivers of purchase decisions.
These surveys can be versatile due the wide range of question formats, which can be a mix of mainly closed questions with some open ended questions (reasons why in their own words). Closed ended questions can be yes or no answers, multiple choice, rating scales, checkbox, and a matrix of options. These surveys will also include with some demographic questions.
The following are the 3 main types of quantitative research:
1. Face to face interviews
Not as popular as the other two quantitative methods due to technological advancements, is time consuming, is more costly and security of interviewers. However, they are conducted in certain environments such as shopping malls, exhibitions and even on the high street.
2. Telephone interviews
Telephone interviewing is now used more for business to business research rather than consumer research unless it’s been done in some less developed countries. Telephone interviews tends to be for 15 to 30 minutes in duration and still enables the interviewer to probe for more answers or clarification in a couple of open-ended questions that may be in the survey.
3. Online surveys
As technology has moved on swiftly over the years, online surveys have pretty much replaced paper self-completion surveys and is the main method used for consumer research due to its speed and low cost.
This type of research method can be administered quickly and efficiently within minutes to be received on tablets, mobiles and computers and provide data in real time. You can create your own surveys using survey platforms like JotForm, which are intuitive, really easy to use and is flexible in serving many different purposes.
New methods of market research and analysis
As social media has integrated so well in our lives, this provides another platform for research to be done. Opinions, views and thoughts that people have expressed via social media and the amount of content that has been shared is an invaluable source of information that you can tap into. Using social listening tools such as Awario, you can identify topics of interest and analyse the relevant posts such as monitoring the number of brand mentions and what people are saying about the product. Social media analytics can also track the amount of impressions, likes, shares and link clicks
Other new methods of market research are:
Text analytics from analysing open-ended mentions given in basic form of a word clouds (more frequently the words used the larger they are) to automated categorization of text.
Research gamification, where survey questions feel like you are playing a game, so the people taking part in the survey are much more engaged. This could be asking people to move words from a word bank and match them to different brands.
Selecting the right market research method
In choosing the right market research method a lot is dependent on what exactly is required, time available and the cost involved. Therefore, not all methods might be right for you. However, it’s worth going through what has been outlined above and investigating the options that are of interest to you.
Firstly, you will need to consider, what you are seeking to achieve from this research, the information and data that you require, the advantages and disadvantages of each method and both the costs of carrying out the research and the analysis of findings.
If you do it the right way, this will prove to be invaluable to you.
RELATED POSTS BELOW ABOUT MARKET RESEARCH