8 Types of Market Research Studies and How To Use Them
Market research is a broad topic. There are countless markets to research and innumerable ways to research them, which can feel overwhelming for brands. In this blog post, we look at how different market research methods and types of market research studies can tap into the specific insights needed to steer a business toward success.
Table of Contents:
- Primary vs. secondary market research
- Market research data collection
- Common market research formats
- 8 types of market research studies
- Choose the right research method with quantilope
Primary vs. secondary market research
There are two main ways to obtain data: either by gathering it yourself (primary research) or using data that already exists (secondary research).
Primary research involves setting up a dedicated research project designed to answer issues specific to your business. This might be exploratory in nature - such as understanding the prevailing attitudes, needs, and behaviors of a group of people. Alternatively, primary research might be more conclusive in nature, seeking a definite answer to a particular research question, such as which new product concept is most appealing to a target audience.
Secondary research (often referred to as desk research) involves using data and findings from previous projects. This type of research is common (and free to the public) in government and academics, while market intelligence agencies often charge for their reports.
Both types of research have their merits and can be used in conjunction to explore a research topic. For example, desk research is often done to create foundational knowledge and shape the questions that go into a primary research project.
Market research data collection
Before conducting primary market research, it’s important to make sure the method of data collection is appropriate for the research objectives. Are you looking for yes/no answers? Do you need a robust set of data that tells you whether a finding is statistically significant? Are you not yet sure exactly what issues are important to your target audience? These are the kinds of questions worth asking before you progress to research. Depending on the answers to them, your study will comprise quantitative research, qualitative research, or both.
Quantitative research interviews respondents on a large scale to produce solid data sets that can be analyzed for statistical significance and confidence levels. It involves number-based facts and figures so that business decisions can be made based on the percentage of people who have a certain perspective or behave a certain way. In addition to the reassurance from a large sample size, quantitative research is useful when a business wants to track findings over a period of time. Common brand tracking studies include customer attitudes or brand performance, which are repeated in equally spaced increments (i.e. monthly or quarterly).
Quantitative research is performed using surveys or polls, often with advanced methodologies, and can also be done by collating findings from existing data sets (i.e. secondary research). It can be a standalone form of research if a company already has enough information about the hypotheses it would like to test. Quantitative research can also be used to establish issues to research in more depth via qualitative research to qualify the insights that have risen in your quantitative findings.
Compared to quantitative research, qualitative research is a more open-ended approach to gathering consumer views. It can be just as broad, covering any number of subject matters, but aims to go into issues in more depth, with a greater focus on the nuances of opinion and emotion when it comes to needs and preferences. The sample size for these studies is typically rather small, as the focus is on being able to probe respondents to gather a foundational understanding rather than looking to quantify opinions across a set selection of metrics.
Qualitative research is valuable for exploratory research into the views of an audience, to establish the issues that are important. It is also fantastic for pinning down the language that consumers use when talking about an issue, product, or brand - which is essential for creating a successful dialogue with a target market. When conducted after quantitative research, it takes the bare bones of numerical data and adds color to the findings, bringing them to life in a useable way for marketers.
Common market research formats
Once you’ve decided which data collection method to use, you need to choose the best research technique for your research subject.
Quantitative online surveys are by far the most common form of gathering consumer research responses. The research sample (the people you will send the questionnaire to) can be found via specialist panel providers who own databases of market research respondents, or from databases owned by your own business (as long as those people have agreed to be contacted for research purposes).
Panels of respondents can be created if you plan to contact them regularly - for example, if you want to create an engaged set of participants who provide opinions on various aspects of your product or business over a period of time.
Quantitative questionnaires are made up of pre-set questions that elicit yes/no answers or ask respondents to choose answers from a scale. They can also include open-ended questions, where participants type in answers using their own words - questions such as ‘what do you like about this brand’?
Focus groups are a qualitative methodology that bring together a small group of people (generally 5-8) either in person or online. A qualitative moderator leads the session using a discussion guide, which outlines the topics to be covered. The idea is to gather responses that are as spontaneous as possible so as not to bias the findings, so each part of the discussion encourages respondents to talk within a general subject area rather than prompting them or leading them to give certain answers. Focus groups are great for debate on any issue, idea generation, and gaining feedback on design or new product ideas.
Qualitative in-depth interviews are useful for getting a deep and rounded understanding of an individual’s views or reactions. Interviewing just one person (or two, where relevant) results in more depth on their personal experience as a whole, which is particularly useful when researching a consumer’s buyer journey. Interviews are also a practical methodology for hard-to-reach samples, such as healthcare professionals or high-net-worth individuals who are less likely to be able to attend focus groups but can be visited in their homes or place of work. As with focus groups, a discussion guide is used by a moderator so that all areas for discussion are covered without bias.
Observing what people do is often as useful as hearing them talk about what they do. Seeing somebody use a laundry detergent bottle, for instance, will reveal a lot about what they like, what they find interesting, what they don’t like, or what they find difficult; (i.e. does their facial expression show that they don’t like the packing? What are they reading so intently on the back of the bottle? What did they smile at? Are they pouring from the bottle as it was designed to?). This is a simple example of observation, while ethnography can be used in more involved situations, such as a trip around a supermarket where there are a lot of stimuli to which consumers react. Observation is often followed up with an interview to probe on the spontaneous reactions observed, while ethnography involves living the customer experience with the respondent and interviewing them at the same time.
8 types of market research studies
So how are these formats of research used in reality? We’ve given eight examples below. Note that for all these examples, researchers should consider whether there is existing data that could help the research process, such as previous research into consumer attitudes, sales data, or competitor information.
1. Brand Research Studies
A brand image can be a company’s greatest asset, so it’s crucial that businesses know how their brand or portfolio of brands is performing from consumers’ points of view. This includes:
Brand awareness and recall: Whether consumers know your brand exists, and whether they remember it (spontaneously)
Brand image: the reputation and perception of the brand
Brand positioning: its values, personality, and where it sits in the competitive set
Brand performance: how the brand is selling and is projected to sell
Brand trust: whether it is viewed as reliable
Brand loyalty: whether customers stick with a brand or not
All of these brand topics can be researched using a mixture of qual and quant, and it would be advantageous to do so. An aspect like brand awareness is best understood via quant, while brand image and positioning can really be brought to life through qual. Further, brands can track these metrics over a period of time using a brand tracking approach - an equally incremented capture of consumer data to see how consumer perceptions around a brand change over time.
2. Consumer insights research
Consumer insights are all about putting together a comprehensive picture of who your target market is: their demographics, their lifestyles, their likes and dislikes, what’s important to them, their values, needs, and behaviors. It might be a ‘scene-setting’ exercise, so that consumer profiles are drawn up that help guide a marketing strategy over a few years, or you might want to gain consumer insights with regard to a certain area of your business: branding, social media activity, or product usage, for example. In either case, qualitative research and observation are useful for gathering the nuances and idiosyncrasies of a consumer group, while quant research supports from a numerical data front.
3. Customer satisfaction research
Satisfaction research investigates which areas of a brand or product are performing well and which could do with improvement. In most cases, quantitative research is used since businesses need the reliability of larger numbers to show how satisfied customers are. Survey questions ask respondents to score the brand/product/service on a variety of metrics (i.e. usability, reliability, value for money, design, taste, etc.) and computer-based analysis tools are used to calculate satisfaction according to those scores. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a common methodology used for this research purpose.
4. Product research
Product (or service) research forms a core part of market research in many businesses. For existing products, ensuring they remain relevant and achieve sales targets means making changes to them when appropriate. Product development research involves gaining spontaneous views on a product to identify what’s working well and where the pain points are, which feeds into ideas for improving the offer. New product research involves presenting respondents with a concept or product mock-up and gathering feedback, while new market research means exploring the potential of a product in a place where it has not previously been launched. As with many studies, qual and quant both play their part here, with qual nailing down the issues that exist and quant putting numbers against them.
5. Competitor research
Whichever business you’re in, knowing what you’re up against in your category is essential. Understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses means your brand can capitalize on gaps in the market and create an option for consumers that meets their needs. This is an area where secondary research can come in very useful, as sales and performance data on a variety of brands is freely available. But primary research also has its place, with focus groups hammering out the pros and cons of various brands, and quantitative market research rating brands on relevant metrics. Once findings are in, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) can be created to identify what a brand should continue doing and where it should improve.
6. Segmentation research
Market segmentation takes a target market and divides it up into groups that share similar traits, preferences, attitudes, needs, and behaviors. It is a useful way to understand that a target market isn’t one homogenous mass of people, but that it includes different groups who operate in different ways. This is powerful knowledge to have when developing marketing messages, as groups will respond in different ways to advertising and other communications. Both qual and quant are useful here, as qualitative market research enables a thorough profile of each group, while quant sizes the groups and quantifies the prominence of each trait.
7. Advertising research
Any business should care about whether or not its advertising is resonating with consumers in terms of message, style, and tone. Testing a selection of possible campaign routes (with an A/B test for example) helps advertising teams make the right decisions about which one to run with. Again, qual research can help in gauging initial reactions to executions amongst a small audience, as well as refining them once quantitative research has taken place (or, vice versa). Quantitative research delivers scores on different aspects of the advertising, thereby showing which are working well, which are irrelevant, and which require improvement.
8. Usability testing
Usability testing asks respondents to use a product or service and report on how well it performs. This could be anything from a car, to a website, to a pack of wipes. Qualitative research excels here at revealing the pertinent issues that might not have been uncovered if the research had gone straight into a quantitative approach. Ethnographical research bears witness to how products or services are used so that design teams can work on the technicalities of how a product is used in real-life situations. Quantitative research then takes those issues and quantifies how important they are and which would benefit from being addressed.
Choose the right research method with quantilope
quantilope can help with all aspects of your research and marketing strategy. Its online qual and quant tools deliver high-quality research for all eight of the research study types outlined above, and many more.
quantilope’s online survey platform makes quantitative research simple to set up, analyze, and present. With just a few clicks, you can create a questionnaire to be sent to target customers in a fraction of the time it takes with traditional research vendors. When results come in, quantilope’s automated advanced research methods take the data and model it in a way that makes the findings actionable for your business. Analysis tools like MaxDiff will identify which features of a brand or product are most important in the purchase decision, or which parts of an advertising message are most motivating. Key Driver Analysis will reveal which attributes are most likely to end in a positive outcome (customer satisfaction, loyalty, or purchase, for example.) Meanwhile, quantilope’s dedicated segmentation tool will map your target market and identify the defining characteristics and needs for each. These are just a few of quantilope’s advanced analysis methods - there are many more, each created to solve specific business issues.
In addition to our quantitative offer, quantilope’s inColor video research tool takes a qualitative approach to research. Respondents post videos of themselves answering specific research questions, talking generally about a research topic, or even using a product or service. Brands can put together a sample as large or small as they wish, then use the videos to create showreels for their stakeholders that illustrate consumer views on the topics covered.
quantilope’s online survey platform is designed to answer all your research needs. If you’d like to chat more about what it can do for your business, get in touch below: