When it comes to figuring out what customers want, nothing would beat the ability to read your customer’s mind. But until telepathy is a realistic option, learning how to conduct market research is the next best thing.
What is Market Research?
Put simply, market research is the process of figuring out what a particular group of consumers needs and desires so that a business can deliver the products or services they would be most likely to buy. In short, it is about deciphering what customers want. This is done by analyzing information collected from consumers either directly (e.g. with a survey) or indirectly (e.g. through purchase history data).
This is critical, even for a small business. Why? Because bringing a product or service to market takes a lot of time and money. So we have market research to help reduce the risk that the cost of developing products and making them available will be wasted.
Why Market Research Online?
Using the Web is a great approach because it:
- Offers robust solutions at affordable prices: Using online solutions allows any size business to use powerful software and approaches without any of the overhead to set up and maintain the tools.
- Gives access to valuable data: As people use the Web, they leave behind data that can be mined to gain insight into customer wants and needs.
- Extends reach: Unlike the old days when it was difficult and expensive to reach consumers across a large geographical area, the Web shrinks the whole world into a computer monitor, allowing businesses of all sizes to gather data from consumers from all over.
How to Actually Do It
As mentioned above, there are two primary ways to gather information from consumers: directly and indirectly. In other words, you can ask them or you can watch them.
From surveys, to polls and online interviews, this is the type of market research most of us are familiar with. This can be especially effective for gathering information on customer needs and desires.
It’s important to engage consumers when asking for information, because engagement will increase both the number and quality of the responses you receive. Here are a couple of tips on increasing engagement:
- Frame the purpose of the survey and the questions in a “What’s-in-it-for-me” manner. You want consumers to know and believe that completing the survey or poll will ultimately bring them benefits.
- Start with consumers who are already engaged such as your email newsletter subscribers and social media followers and fans. These folks are already interested in what you have to offer so they are much more likely to take the time to provide you with information on their needs and desires.
Use the links below to learn about asking consumers for market research information online:
- Conducting Market Research: 5 Things You Need to Know — tips to use when creating your survey or poll.
- 5 Tips for Creating an Online Survey — more online tips.
- 10 Ways to Get More People to Fill Out Your Survey — advice on increasing engagement.
- Why Facebook's New Questions Tool Is Good for Brands & Businesses — a great tool because consumers can add their own answers!
- How This One Simple Question Shows You What People Buy — a worthwhile approach if you have an email list.
Every time someone goes online, they leave behind information that can reveal a fair amount about them. Here are two examples:
- Search trends: There are many tools online (such as Google’s keyword tool) that a business can use to discover which terms people are searching for. An increase in searches for a particular need likely translates a market demand for a product or service that fulfills it.
- Social media: Consumers talk about all sorts of things, both positive and negative, on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They also ask questions and offer advice. A business can use online tools such as HootSuite to dig into this goldmine to identify trends. (Note: I detail how to do this step-by-step using Twitter in the video, “How to Do Market Research on Twitter.”)
Use the links below to learn about discovering consumers’ needs and desires using the information they leave behind online:
- Geographic Market Research with Google Keyword Research Tools — very useful post on how to add the element of geography to you market research data as well as information on seasonal trends.
- 4 Steps to Product Innovation Through Social Market Research — insight into using the consumer opinions you collect from social media sites.
- Embracing Social Media Listening — solid overview on the cases where using social media listening.
Inc.com has a guide to market research that you can read by clicking here.
Learn about all the ways Pitney Bowes can help you communicate with your customers.