Market research is often employed when companies have questions, unknowns, or get stuck – unfortunately, it’s not often brought in, pre-emptively, before companies reach the point where they realize they don’t understand enough about their customers, product usage, brand perceptions, or user experience. Ideally, the market research process should begin prior to the design process to allow for input to shape the design and user experience. Then, following the launch, further research will give companies insight into how products are being used, and where there could be improvement.
Whether you’re at the beginning stages – and realize you need to employ market research – or at the stage where you and your team are scratching your heads and hoping for insights to guide your next steps – it’s critical to employ the right market research method. The following blog outlines steps to help you know which market research method is best.
First off, quantitative or qualitative?
The first step is to figure out whether you should start off with quantitative or qualitative market research (or a hybrid approach). Here are some good questions to guide you, along with the best methodology:
Q: Do you know who your target audience is?
A. If not, quantitative research can help your team create segmentation categories based on population commonalities
Q. Do you understand the competitive landscape – companies that make similar products, and/or products that currently stand-in for what your product can do?
A. If not, quantitative research (using databases and target demo surveys) can give you better insights on who the competition is, pricing, and market sizing
Q. Do you know what the market need and fit is for the type of product/service you’re working on?
A. If not, qualitative research is a great method to give you insights from customers about how they might use your product or service. Is there a gap with the current marketplace offerings, and where are the opportunities and roadmapping needs for improvement?
Q. Do you understand how customers are currently using your product? Likewise, do you know how non-customers (prospects) are using competitive products?
A. Qualitative research is a great approach here. You can also combine quantitative surveys for a broader look into overall trends, but qualitative in-depth interviews, or focus groups, will give you insights into day-to-day product usage trends and insights.
Q. Do you need to develop marketing campaigns but first need to assemble the strategy document to inform your creative teams?
A. Qualitative research – especially focus groups – are a great method to get insights into how people think, use products, and their perceptions. These findings can then inform creative teams so they can develop campaigns that truly resonate with people.
Q. Do you need to test campaign perceptions, brand awareness, and brand lift over time?
A. Once your campaign is out in the market, employ a longitudinal (every 6 months and annually) brand awareness and perception survey to test the effectiveness of your marketing messages, ad spend, and targeting efforts.
Q. Do you need to understand what people thing about your user experience (app, website, or email messages)?
A. Qualitative and quantitative methods are great tools to test UX. Using qualitative (screensharing) interviews, you can journey map with customers to see how they move through your user design flows. These themes can then be translated into a survey to see if these trends hold across a larger population.
Next steps? Consultation, proposal, and timelines
Hopefully the above guide is helpful in giving strategy, product, and marketing teams a good guideline on which types of market research methods can be used to answer strategic business questions. The next step is a consultation with a reputable market research firm. The firm will then write a detailed proposal, outlining the methodology, timelines, and cost. Your team can then make an informed decision before you embark on the market research project.