Methods of Market Research

I love market research because you really have an idea of what your consumers are looking for."

Methods of Market Research Methods of Market Research

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Table of contents

    - Aerin Lauder

    Businesses need to undertake market research, as it helps them gain valuable insight into different groups of consumers, competition, and markets. So, how do organisations know which methods of market research are best for their brands or products? Let's find out.

    Different Types of Market Research Methods

    Regarding primary research, the various market research methods can be separated into five categories: surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation, and field experiments (see Figure 1 below). On the other hand, researchers might opt for using secondary research methods, which include exploring internal or external data.

    Methods of market research: Surveys

    Surveys are one of the most commonly used market research tools. Surveys can be either digital (online surveys) or physical (survey cards). Surveys are often used in the service industry to understand how customers experience different attributes of a service. For example, they are often used to measure customer satisfaction.

    A survey asks the respondent several different questions. The questions usually have a set of predetermined answers respondents can choose from.

    A survey might include questions like 'How likely are you to use this service again?'. The answers are usually provided in the form of a scale (e.g., 'strongly agree', 'somewhat agree', etc.).

    Surveys are helpful when you want to measure something quantitatively and have a relatively large sample to survey.

    Check out our Survey Research explanation to learn more!

    Methods of market research: Focus groups

    Usually, a small number of people participate in the focus group (smaller sample size than surveys). These people tend to share demographic traits or share similar characteristics. A focus group involves a moderator who asks the group open-ended questions and guides the discussion.

    Focus groups involve getting a group of people together to conduct a group interview.

    Focus groups are great for qualitative research, as participants are free to elaborate on a thought or experience they have regarding the research topic. However, focus groups can also lead to issues of bias if people do not feel comfortable expressing their genuine opinions in front of the rest of the group.

    Methods of market research: interviews

    Interviews are similar to focus groups, although they usually involve fewer people. The interview is generally focused on one individual, with a moderator asking them questions.

    Interviews can be structured with a list of questions the moderator asks the interviewee.

    Interviews can also be semi-structured, where the interviewer asks a set of predetermined questions, proposes a topic, and lets the interviewee decide what they want to talk about.

    Interviews are useful for qualitative research and profoundly understanding a customer's thought process behind a decision or behaviour.

    Check out our explanation called Interview in Research to find out more.

    Methods of market research: observation

    There are two different types of observations. In the first type, the researcher has no interaction with the subject; in the second type, the researcher has some interactions with the subject. There are many ways in which marketers can use observation for business research.

    During an in-store observation, the researcher or digital camera software tracks how customers move around in a shop, how much time they spend in each section of the shop, and which products they notice first.

    Observational research is helpful as it lets researchers know the actual behaviour of customers rather than what they tell the researcher or report in a survey.

    To dive deeper into this topic, check out our Observational Research explanation.

    Methods of market research: field experiments

    Field experiments tend to be a more scientific way of doing market research.

    Field experiments usually involve testing a hypothesis or multiple hypotheses and take place in the natural environment of subjects.

    An example of field testing would be test marketing. A company would use test marketing when they want to launch a new product on the market. They would first market and make the product available to a small group of people only. For example, a group of people in one specific city. They would then explore how this set group of people reacts to the new product and decide whether to launch it to a larger group of people.

    Field experiments are valuable for quantitative research and beneficial for businesses as the research is specific to a product or brand - the study meets the precise research needs of the company.

    Methods of market research: secondary research

    On the other hand, secondary research involves exploring existing data. The data researchers use for secondary research has already been collected by someone other than the researcher for other purposes.

    Secondary market research involves using data collected by another researcher for another purpose.

    Secondary data can be collected both internally and externally and may include gathering data from:

    • Internal reports - sales figures, inventory records, customer profiles, loyalty programmes, financial reports, etc.

    • External data - market reports, internet research, academic journals, Statista, Euromonitor, etc.

    Figure 2 below outlines the two methods of secondary market research.

    Check out our Secondary Market Research explanation to find out more.

    Digital Methods of Market Research

    Digital market research can take the form of both primary and secondary research. Traditional research methods like surveys, interviews, and focus groups can all be conducted digitally. For example, sending out e-mail surveys and conducting interviews on platforms like Zoom or Google Meet may be considered digital market research methods.

    However, digital technologies have also given rise to new types of market research. For example, certain companies might use eye tracking technology in-store to understand the customer purchase journey (observational research). Other companies might use heatmaps to track users' movements, scrolling patterns, attention areas, and clicks on websites and online spaces. This methodology is especially prevalent for e-commerce businesses. Furthermore, many brands nowadays use social media as a market research method, allowing firms to collect data on consumer behaviour and attitudes. Additionally, as digital techniques are becoming more accessible to all, companies may decide to use a combination of various digital market research methods.

    For example, due to digitised customer profiles from loyalty programmes, Waitrose can track what customers have purchased in-store and online. Based on recent purchase history, the grocer sends customers e-mail surveys to rate their in-store and online experiences and satisfaction with each purchased product. As a result, the company collects primary data on customer satisfaction.

    Methods of Market Research Advantages and Disadvantages

    Let's now take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of the different market research methods, namely, primary and secondary research methods.

    Methods of market research: advantages and disadvantages of primary market research

    Some of the advantages of collecting primary market data include:

    • It is specific to the business.

    • It can provide unique insight into customers' wants, needs, characteristics, attitudes, and behaviours.

    • It can provide unique insight into chosen markets and the individual business's competitive environment.

    • It meets the business's exact needs as they are the ones planning the research topic, (sometimes) collecting the data, and interpreting the results.

    • The business can discover insights that competitors do not have access to.

    • It can help in formulating a market strategy.

    Some of the disadvantages of collecting primary market data include:

    • It can be quite costly.

    • It can be very time-consuming.

    • It needs specific knowledge and skills to be carried out.

    • The company often requires a specialised team to conduct the research and collect and interpret the data.

    • The business might not gather enough comprehensive information to guide you in creating an effective strategy or making appropriate decisions.

    • The organisation might end up having to do further research.

    Methods of market research: advantages and disadvantages of secondary market research

    Some of the advantages of conducting secondary market research include:

    • It is less costly than conducting primary research.

    • It is more simple to gather.

    • It is quicker than conducting primary research.

    • It can be easier to analyse as the data has already been organised and formatted in one way or another.

    • It can provide access to industry-specific knowledge and information.

    Some of the disadvantages of secondary market research include:

    • It can provide data that is less specific to the business.

    • It provides data that is less specific to the research objectives.

    • The data gathered might not be sufficient to answer the research question.

    • The data may have been collected long ago, making it less relevant to the marketer's research needs.

    • It is not always formatted as the researcher expected it to be.

    • It is available to everyone, including competitors.

    • It may be biased, incomplete, or inaccurate when conducted by a non-reputable organisation.

    Examples of Market Research Methods

    Imagine you are working as a marketing manager for a chain of restaurants. You notice that your online customer reviews are not as good as you would like them. To understand why customers rate your restaurants poorly, you do some market research.

    You decide that collecting primary data is the most effective way to research this problem. So, you ask your customers to complete an online survey after dining. The sampling method you use is convenience sampling, as you provide the survey to any customer that volunteers to complete it. The survey consists of questions like:

    • How would you rate the quality of food in our restaurant?

    • How would you rate service quality in our restaurant?

    • How would you rate the selection of food options in our restaurant?

    Once enough people have completed your survey, you analyse your data. It is clear that people are rating your restaurant poorly because they are not satisfied with the food quality. As a result of your market research, you decide to inform management that they should invest in better quality ingredients. Finally, you choose to launch a marketing campaign informing consumers about your newly designed menu, with fresher ingredients than other chain restaurants.

    Methods of Market Research - Key takeaways

    • There are five main types of primary research: surveys, focus groups, interviews, observational research, and field experiments.
    • Secondary data can be collected both internally and externally.
    • Digital market research can take the form of both primary and secondary research.
    • Eye tracking, heat maps, and social media are forms of digital research methods.
    • The advantages of primary research methods include their specificity to the business and ability to provide unique insight, and their disadvantages include their costliness and time.
    • The advantage of secondary research stems from its simplicity and efficiency, whereas its broad approach is a disadvantage.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Methods of Market Research

    What are the 7 types of marketing research?

    The seven types of marketing research can be divided into two overarching categories: primary market research and secondary market research. Primary market research methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation, and field experiments. On the other hand, secondary market research methods include sourcing internal or external data that has already been collected by someone other than the researcher.

    What are the methods of market research?

    There are many methods of conducting market research. Primary research methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation, and field experiments. On the other hand, secondary research involves exploring existing data like internal reports and external data.

    What are the 2 methods of market research?

    The two methods of market research are primary and secondary research. Primary research includes collecting new data for a specific research problem. Secondary market research involves using data collected by another researcher for another purpose.

    What are digital methods of market research?

    Digital market research can take the form of both primary and secondary research. Traditional research methods like surveys, interviews, and focus groups can all be conducted digitally. For example, sending out e-mail surveys and conducting interviews on platforms like Zoom or Google Meet may be considered digital market research methods. Other digital methods may include eye tracking, heatmaps, or social media.

    How might you improve the validity of market research methods?

    There are several steps you can take to improve the validity of your market research. The first one would be to select the appropriate instrument. For example, if you are looking to conduct quantitative research, you would choose a survey instead of a focus group. Another way to improve validity is by asking specific and relevant questions. You should also make sure that your sample is representative of the population. This can be done by avoiding sampling methods like convenience sampling. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following statements is correct? Observational research is useful as it lets researchers know the actual behavior of customers. Surveys are useful for quantitative research. 

    Surveys are useful when you want to measure something:

    Which question/prompt are you more likely to encounter in a survey?

    Next
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