Posted by Leger ● Jun 16, 2022 9:00:00 AM
Market research can play a vital role in the ongoing health and growth of a company.
But what does that actually look like? How does "market research" play out in practice?
Generally speaking, market research takes the form of a carefully-constructed study that can provide answers to a company's questions or hypotheses.
Often, these studies adhere to one of the formats below.
Surveys consist of a series of questions delivered in person, on the phone, via mail, or online.
The way in which a survey is dispatched is called the "delivery method," and each delivery method comes with advantages and disadvantages.
For example, the online delivery method is the most common because it's generally low-cost and easy to access a wide range of demographics and geographies. This method usually uses pre-made questions with a handful of possible pre-made answers, and there may be a few open-ended questions included.
This makes online surveys excellent at collecting large amounts of quantitative data — objective information that is easily categorized to compare against other data points.
However, the phone delivery method may yield more qualitative data — information that is more story-based and individually subjective than quantitative data. This could make a phone delivery method more appropriate for a survey that is seeking to understand how individual consumers use a certain product or what motivates them to select a service provider over another.
Overall, surveys are common and powerful tools that can provide a suite of different data points. This makes them excellent research methods to help answer any number of different questions or validate a variety of hypotheses.
Interviews consist of one-on-one discussions between a market researcher and a single consumer.
Interviews work best when they seek to get large amounts of qualitative data, similar to the phone call example we discussed for the survey research method.
Unlike the survey research method, interviews are not necessarily set in stone for what they can ask or the answers that they can expect.
Interviews consist of a deep dive into a person's individual thoughts and expectations when it comes to a brand.
The questions are hand-tailored to the interview itself, and there's typically a built-in opportunity for the researcher to circle back with the interview subject for followup questions, if they're needed.
Personal interviews are also far more selective than surveys. They'll often include researchers and companies working hand-in-hand to identify the best possible fits for an interview, and then they'll decide which individuals to engage as the interview process begins.
3. Focus Groups
Focus groups are the classic method of market research that many people know in the context of television or film. However, focus groups have far more applications than getting feedback concerning media productions.
Focus groups are led by a moderator who has a list of prompts and questions. The participants then answer or discuss freely, creating an open space of new ideas from the consumer perspective.
Focus groups are traditionally led in-person, but the advent of video conferencing tools has also made it possible for them to be done online.
Either way, the focus group sessions are recorded for posterity, and the researcher also takes notes on key findings and compelling points.
The goal of focus groups is to get free and open opinions that are considered qualitative data. This research method is also unique in that a company can hear their consumers converse with one another, as opposed to only giving feedback directly to the company.
As a result, the qualitative data from a focus group can feel more "honest" and "real," as it takes the form of a conversation that two people would have in everyday life.
It's rare for a company to conduct a single focus group concerning a product or service.
Often, a market researcher will hold multiple focus groups with different individuals to ensure the qualitative data truly reflects the thoughts of the company's customer base.
Observation studies take the form of a market researcher watching the behavior of a consumer remotely, such as via a video feed or recording, to see how they engage with a product on a shelf, in the home, or otherwise in use.
Observations have the benefit of being completely objective, meaning that there's very little or no engagement with the consumer from the market researcher or client company.
Instead, this form of research is similar to purely scientific methodology, in which a phenomenon is observed and the researcher takes meticulous notes while looking for consistencies and trends.
The big benefit here is that no consumer feels the "weight" of being directly interviewed or questioned. Because the simple presence of a third party could impact someone's decision-making, observation studies are considered to be the closest you can get to seeing a consumer behave when they're uninfluenced.
This study can yield a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, but all of it is from the perspective of the researcher. There may be exceptions to this, and there are cases where a researcher may follow up with a consumer to ask questions about what they did and why.
Even so, an observation study is an excellent method to discover what a consumer will do "in the wild" with a product.
5. Field Tests
A field test is a study that evaluates a small sample of a product among a target audience to see how well it's received and how well it earns revenue.
In the pre-Internet era, field tests took the form of specific studies like shelf tests in which a finished product was placed on a store shelf and monitored for purchase.
Today, online field tests exist that allow a company to broaden its demographic and geographic targeting. This includes studies like virtual shelf tests, where a packaged product is placed on a shelf alongside competitor products to earn similar data to a traditional shelf test.
Field testing can also take the form of in-home usage tests (IHUTs). These tests include a market research company sending finished product samples out to a small collection of qualified consumers.
The consumers then use the product in intended (or unintended) ways and send their feedback to the market research company.
These are just two examples of field tests. They stand out because they're so commonly used and they provide such valuable information, especially in situations like a product launch.
But it's important to note that there's more to market research than just the method.
In fact, the method is only the tip of the iceberg. The true significance of a market research method lies in what happens after the data is collected.
What Happens after One of These Market Research Methods?
Regardless of the method that works for your needs, all market research studies move into a phase of "insights."
Insights are significant takeaways that are identified in the data that a study collected. They can take the form of trends, outliers, and more.
Insights are almost always ascertained through the hard work and diligence of a senior market researcher because they're the person who is most immersed in the study. They often see the study's planning, execution, and conclusion, which is why it's so valuable to have them extract significance from the information they gather.
This is also why so many companies choose not to perform market research on their own.
While they may have the person-power to conduct the studies themselves, many companies don't have a senior-level market researcher on staff. This means that they could easily miss significant insights that could dramatically impact their business model.
A trained and experienced market researcher, however, knows exactly how to identify the standout data that a company needs.
So even when a company is capable of conducting a study, almost none can emulate the critical, attuned eye of an elite market researcher — and that's who truly brings the value to any market research method.
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Topics: Market Research