Market Research Process: Six Steps to Follow
This blog highlights the six key steps in the market research process, from planning a study questionnaire to data collection, analysis, and the final delivery of research findings.
Table of Contents:
- What is a market research process?
- Step 1: Identify the problem or objective
- Step 2: Develop your research strategy
- Step 3: Gather data and information
- Step 4: Analyze data and information
- Step 5: Present findings
- Step 6: Act on your findings
What is a market research process?
Market research is the process of exploring and understanding the subjective views of consumers of a certain product or service, as well as the objective facts that characterize the category - such as its value, competitor activity, and the market share of different brands. The goal of this process is to have a sound basis on which to make business decisions like launching new products, setting a pricing strategy, or creating persuasive advertising.
Step 1. Identify the problem or objective
To better understand an area of your business, the first task is to define the business objective and the research objective. For some projects, these objectives might be broad while for others, they might be very narrow. Whichever type of project you’re undertaking, it’s worth asking yourself: what do I want to know by the end of this project? This will help you to identify your objectives.
For example, a large strategic study around a business’s social media activity might have an overall business objective of creating a framework to refer to whenever a post is made on social media. Its research objective might be to ‘identify social media usage and preferences amongst our audience.’ Within this will be other objectives, such as ‘segment consumers into user groups to optimize messaging’, ‘understand social media usage patterns’, and so on, all of which will feed into the overall business objective of better aligning social media posts through an identified framework. A narrower study might be focused on new packaging for a fruit juice, with the business objective of creating a pack that is sturdy, attractive, and convenient. The research objective for this would be to identify which out of a number of options is the most appealing to consumers.
Whether you want to test a hypothesis you might have about consumer opinion, simply collect information on what consumers do, or understand how respondents react to concepts (e.g. test different pricing models or gain feedback on three different website layouts) all require identifying a solid objective first.
Step 2. Develop your research strategy
Once you know what your research goals and objectives are, it’s time to decide how you’re going to get your answers.
Research design is a crucial part of the research process; quality data collection right means reliable results. The way you collect your data will depend on the type of information you’re looking for and the research methods available to you.
There are two broad types of research: primary research and secondary research. Primary research is research that you design yourself - or with the help of research experts - and is customized to your unique research objectives. Secondary research means using data that already exists, either in the public realm (e.g. published government statistics) or sold by commercial intelligence agencies. Keep in mind that secondary data (e.g. sales data) is unlikely to be entirely focused on your business problem, nor may it be up-to-date, but it can help set a good foundation.
Within primary research, quantitative research and qualitative research are the main methodologies.
Quantitative research includes questionnaire-based surveys that ask for the views of a relatively large sample of people. For example, you might want to know what percentage of people eat fruit every day, or which price point will maximize sales of your product. Questions are usually closed, using rating scales or yes/no answers, although open-ended questions can also be included. This produces numerical data that describes what an audience thinks and does. Statistics can be applied to these numerical insights for significance and confidence levels, indicating which insights might be best to focus decisions around. There are a variety of advanced methodologies to include in quantitative research, all dependent on your desired outcome from your dataset.
Qualitative research is more exploratory in nature. It takes a smaller sample of people and gains spontaneous opinions that can be probed to answer research objectives. For instance, if you’d like to know what people’s skincare routines are, it makes sense to conduct qualitative research to build a picture of individuals’ habits and preferences. These qual findings can then be taken into a larger-scale quantitative research project for a number-based picture of consumer segments. That being said, qualitative research on its own can also address similar questions as quantitative research (e.g. what do people think of our new advertising concept?) but through a qual format, you can get a more emotional read on a consumer and uncover the deeper why beyond simply what people think.
Whether you leverage quantitative research, qualitative research, or both, you’ll need to think about your sample size and profile. You will generally want it to be representative of your target market, and within that market you’ll want to consider which demographics, buyer behaviors, and attitudes (if any) you want to take into consideration for your sample group.
Step 3: Gather data and information
Once you have an objective and a research plan in place, it’s time to conduct your study through data collection - or, fieldwork. Quantitative research is largely online these days - either via email, text, social media, or on websites. Postal and face-to-face interviews, though far less common, also exist - and might be preferable for certain respondent groups you‘re trying to reach: like those without access to the internet or smartphones. Companies can gather quantitative data through their own supplied list of contacts, through social media/website traffic, or through the use of a panel provider who has the ability to target and contact the appropriate respondents for your study’s desired sample group.
As for qualitative research, data collection is typically left to focus groups, depth interviews, or ethnographic research, though online qualitative fieldwork is also rising in popularity through things like video surveys. So what do each of these qualitative formats look like?
Focus groups generally involve 5-8 respondents coming together for a discussion led by a moderator. A discussion guide is drawn up prior to the discussion to outline the main subjects to cover, but respondents are free to talk spontaneously within those parameters, gently steered by the moderator. This ensures that as many pertinent issues as possible are raised by respondents. Depth interviews follow a similar structure, except only one or two respondents are interviewed. The number of focus groups and interviews within a research project will depend on the diversity of the target market and geographical locations that the research needs to cover.
Ethnographic research allows researchers to really live a consumers’ experience by accompanying them on a decision-making process or witnessing the usage of a product - perhaps going on a shopping trip, or being with the respondent as they cook a meal. Observation coupled with interviewing brings even further depth to an understanding of the research issues.
Lastly, online qual research comes in the form of real-time interviews or recorded video feedback from respondents. Video clips posted by participants are particularly useful as they allow respondents to answer in their own time, and can include an ethnographic element (e.g. video diaries documenting an activity of interest - such as doing the laundry or washing dishes with certain products).
Step 4. Analyze data and information
Data analysis for quantitative research has improved incredibly over the years and is now generally done using highly sophisticated machine-learning computer software and automated analysis tools. You will have decided at the research design phase which research tools and data analysis is most relevant to your needs, so running the data through that software should be relatively simple at this step in your research process. Some of the quantitative analysis techniques you might want to use are:
- Market Segmentation: to define and separate the various groups of consumers in your market
- Conjoint Analysis: to compare the appeal of different product or service concepts, and understand how different elements of the concepts affect overall appeal (e.g. price, color, or product features)
- A/B Tests: to compare reactions to product concepts, communications, or advertising routes using equally structured groups of participants
- TURF Analysis: to understand the optimal portfolio of products in order to reach the greatest number of consumers
- Price Sensitivity: to explore how changes in price affect the intended take-up of a product or service
Qualitative research is analyzed using transcripts to pull out trends in opinion, either manually or using an AI-drive software program that can identify the frequency and use of words, sentiments, and respondent emotions.
Step 5. Present findings
At this step, you’ve conducted fieldwork and analyzed the findings. Now it’s time to present them to your stakeholders and internal audience.
The key goal here is to make your findings come alive so that those who have not been part of the research can quickly understand what the objectives were and the insights you have uncovered. While analysis can be complex, the final presentation of insights shouldn’t be - they should point to the concrete actions that need to be taken as a result of the research.
Visual representations are always a good way to illustrate findings and to tell a story - think customized graphs, charts, maps, photos, and videos within a live dashboard. A good presentation should include a few key elements: some context about the business problem, a tension/disconnect found within the data set that is pushing you to investigate further, and the resolution with a logical explanation for the disconnect using the data in a meaningful way. This is the blueprint for good storytelling to keep the audience engaged. Keeping your presentation of findings simple, clear, and in a live format such as a dashboard is a great way to share findings across the organization without version control issues.
Step 6: Act on your findings
You did your research for a reason - to improve your business - so now it’s time to take that action. This might be setting up that social media framework, or pressing ‘go’ on the production of the ideal fruit juice package design. It could also be putting in place long-term strategies: monitoring ongoing customer satisfaction, taking actions to foster customer loyalty, or developing product ranges that meet the needs of all your consumers. Acting on your findings also means staying alert to changes in consumer demand or category trends. This means the data you have obtained from your research might need to be revisited, or new research launched, at some point down the line.
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quantilope offers a fully automated research process from start to finish. Be it strategic, tactical, focused, or exploratory research you‘re looking for, quantilope's Insights Automation Platform is equipped to uncover the answers you need - whether that‘s developing a new marketing strategy, launching a new product, or monitoring performance over time. The platform‘s thirteen advanced methods take basic usage and attitude studies to a new level, and on the qualitative front, quantilope‘s new video solution, inColor, provides depth through AI-driven transcriptions as well as keyword, sentiment, and emotion analyses.
To learn more about how quantilope can help you achieve these 6 key steps of your market research projects with automation, speed, and ease, get in touch below: