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Introduction to market research

Basics of market research - principles, methods and approaches for students and non-researchers as part of our commitment to sharing knowledge.

  • Market research basics
  • Understanding the basics of market research Market research surveys are the stock-in-trade for gathering market information about customers or potential customers. The aim is to gather information from a small sample of a market in order to be able to predict what the whole market wants.

    In principle anyone can conduct their own market research surveys given the time, an openness to listen and a little bit of learning, and awareness of bias. We have a number of DIY resources aimed at those new to market research.

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  • Quantitative research
  • Quantitative research - measuring and counting Quantitative research is the numbers side of market research. It's about measurement and attaching numbers to a market - for instance market size, market share, penetration, installed base and market growth rates.

    Quantitative research can also be used to measure attitudes, satisfaction, commitment and a range of other useful market data and market metrics that can be tracked over time and used to generate insights as part of a wider business planning and business strategy process.

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  • Qualitative research
  • Qualitative listening Qualitative research is the exploratory side of market research, best known for focus groups to be able to listen to the genuine voice of the customer in their own words. Qualitative research is at its strongest with face-to-face research, where researchers can assess not just what is said, but also body language and facial expressions. However, modern qualitative research includes a wide range of online and remote research from online webinars to chat rooms or telephone groups and depths.

    Unlike the numeric based analysis of quantitative research, qualitative researchers are more like detectives, looking for clues, nuances and motivations to explore potential market drivers with a toolbox of qualitative techniques. And as always everyone is demanding new techniques for ever deeper insight such as our sensory-emotional research technique.

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  • Understanding market research samples and sampling methods
  • Understanding sampling The principle of samples and sampling is the foundation for survey research - using a small properly constructed sample to be able to project the views and opinions of a large population. However, sampling requires an understanding of statistics and the principles of probability. Researchers will choose how they sample based on a number of factors including how easy it is to find the target population and how important it is to have a genuine random sample as opposed to a so-called convenience sample.

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  • Understanding market metrics
  • Core market metric for measuring markets Markets are measured in many ways, from simple sales volumes to more complex measures like market penetration, price elasticity or brand equity. Understanding the standard market measures and using the right measurements allows businesses to plan and evaluate the success of business strategies over time to evaluate the success of marketing campaigns, market strength and to identify competitive threats. Knowing what to measure and how to measure it is central to quantitative research, and terms can be easily confused.

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  • Market research scales, ranks and trade-offs
  • Scales and ranks for market research Most standard market research is the preserve of rating scales - score out of 10, agree-disagree, satisfaction, likelihood to buy. Among the research community there can be heated debate about which type of scales are best and how questions should be asked.

    Scales are not the only possible method of measurement. Using choices, ranks and trade-offs through techniques like conjoint analysis or MaxDiff can provide more actionable data for models and to forecast market behaviour.

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  • Market research statistical techniques
  • Statistics for market research Most quantitative market research is delivered in the form of percentages, often pulled out of cross-tabulations to compare differences between groups (on the banner or cross-break) according to the different categories of answers on the stub.

    Beyond these basics, a number of statistical techniques provide deeper analysis of the data. Depending on the application these include cluster analysis, factor analysis, regression and display techniques like perceptual maps. Statistical methods need a level of expertise and understanding of the underlying mathematics to avoid drawing fallacious conclusions.

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  • DIY market research
  • Doing market research yourself - getting going The wide availability of information and tools on the internet for collecting information from and about customers means many more businesses are using DIY research techniques - subscribing to companies like SurveyMonkey or simply working through the collected market intelligence that is available. Even small companies are able to carry out simple research surveys or to reach out to customers online, or even on paper, but some knowledge of the basics of samples and question design will help in avoiding common pitfalls.
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  • Online market research methods
  • Methods and approaches for online market research The Internet has become the main method of carrying out market research with customers, via on-line surveys and on-line focus groups by mobile phone or web. It has also transformed intelligence gathering on competitor and market developments, and social networks have completely changed how companies listen to and respond to their customers.

    The nature of research has also changed. Research can be fast, light and iterative to test-develop-test, questionnaires have innovated with new question types and video and images, and more realism in understanding choices using e-commerce like conjoint studies while allowing survey data to be blended with behavioural data, or catch people 'in-the-moment' (also see our online research tips).

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  • Internet research - sample sources and recruitment
  • Sources for samples for online market research The main sources for online samples are either specialist panel providers, or internal contact lists with emails, or possibly mobile numbers for text or messaging. Panel providers are excellent for broad scale consumer campaigns, and can target down to some specialist subgroups and geographies.

    For specialist businesses and organisations, panel providers might not have enough contacts on their lists, particularly for business-to-business markets, which leaves internal lists or telephone-based contacts to find contacts as the only options.

    Using internal lists does need control. Respondents have rights to privacy and data protection, and overcontacting can look like spamming which can erode customer trust.

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  • Using online market research panels
  • Using market research panels The main source of respondents for internet research among consumers are online panels. Panels are pools of willing participants who have opted-in to do surveys in return for an incentive of money or points. The panel provider sends out an invite to randomly selected panel members in the appropriate target group, which then links them to the online questionnaire.

    Panels can also be used for specialist audiences, such as physicians or medical practitioners, some business professions and other hard to reach groups. Panels also make the co-ordination of international research far easier, though there are still issues of culture and behaviour to consider.

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  • Internet based research - tips
  • Hints and tips for online market research The Internet is the prime method for conducting market research from online surveys to focus groups and depth discussions providing a fast, convenient means of getting feedback from consumers and customers.

    The basics of internet-based market research are similar to most market research surveys. Decide who to talk to. Find out how to get hold of them online and then design mechanisms to find the information required.

    Online-surveys allow more sophisticated surveys than could be carried out either on paper or via the telephone and make iterative, agile and longitudinal research possible, but there are still occasions when phone or face-to-face are better options.

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  • Research in context
  • The objective of market research and insight management to help an organisation create and tune products and services for customers. What the customer wants and needs has to be balanced against the feasibility and capabilities of the business, and the costs of delivering what the customer wants.

    Consequently, research and insight processes constantly need to work with people in the organisation, and market realities, not just to identify what is wanted, but also to discover ways in which the organisation can come together to deliver that potential profitably. Keeping the context in mind and always asking how the business can use the results, helps sharpen the insights from the research.

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  • A better research and insight process
  • Steps on the market research process The way in which market research is carried out can have a greater impact on the usefulness of the insights and the success of a project. Sometimes a survey or research will need to be conducted extremely quickly, at other times the research is part of a longer period of exploration, investigation and decision making.

    Our research and insight process is designed to fit with your business, but works best when we understand more about the business background, the aims for decision making and the internal picture and people involved in making the decisions. We are fully cloud-based, from sharing documents to live access for monitoring research online, or sharing results.

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