Conducting Market Research: Template and How-To Guide

Understanding a market means having specific insight around a customer base, trends, and competitors. And this is all essential intel to capture, as a strategy that’s not rooted in this knowledge is riddled with assumptions and destined to fail. Let’s see that you don’t, with a template to guide your efforts!

Even today, some decision makers rely on their own experience, intuition, and opinions to make critical decisions. And this is the exact opposite of what needs to happen in today’s consumer-driven business environment. Market research confirms or dispels dangerous assumptions and reveals intel that generates new ideas and makes marketing magical. That’s a tall order – let’s start with the basics.

What is Market Research?

Market research is the process of understanding the current state of the market in relation to a particular aspect of the business. In more detail, this means that market research is guided by a specific research problem rather than simply going out to understand the market. And its steps include the collection, analysis, and interpretation of market data.

Market research can be conducted by the organization interested in solving a research problem but it can also be commissioned to external service providers. The market research service industry – including research agencies, research technologies, etc. – is estimated to grow from $75 billion in 2021 to more than $90 billion in 2025. This shows that more companies are conducting market research and they are choosing more advanced approaches. They have good reason to. But how does this apply to you?

Do you have to outsource your market research too? No. Advances in technology have made it possible for businesses of all sizes to conduct their own internal market research, as long as they can plan and follow the process. And find a tool that offers accurate results that they can bet the business on.

And with that in mind, we have created this guide and with it a market research process template for brands that want to keep it in-house.

Critical Elements of a Market Research Template

Before we go into more depth on what market research is and how to conduct a study, let us first get familiar with the market research template. The template allows you to quickly design and deploy your own studies without having to think about the format or sequence of steps. It helps ensure that you don’t leave anything out.

So, what are the critical elements of a market research template? Our handy template provides space to record the following – all of which we discuss in more detail following, to guide your efforts:

  1. Problem definition: Your template must start with the purpose of your research, and that is the research problem you want to solve.
  2. Target respondents: It should highlight the characteristics of your preferred subjects for this study.
  3. Research design: Deliberate on the best format to help you answer your research problem. Many efforts adopt a hybrid approach.
  4. Data collection: Consider the different data collection methods and choose one or a combination of which will be most effective at helping you get the data you need from your research respondents. Having a central business intelligence platform to aggregate your efforts regardless of what you choose is important. Our Intelligence Connector is a lifesaver for brands capturing large quantities of intel for ongoing research and analysis.
  5. Research location: Depending on your research design and data collection method, you will have the respondents come to you, you to them, or conduct desk research. Each has its own advantages and challenges.
  6. Data analysis: After you gather a sufficient amount of data, you will analyze it to gain insights. The tool you use here must offer actionable results.

We will now go into more detail on the market research process itself to help you fill in those blanks. And if you want to have the market research process template defined above in your back pocket, download it here.

Types of Market Research

There are various types of market research depending on the design. Essentially, there are only two main types: Primary and secondary market research. However, these have subtypes.

Primary market research has exploratory and specific research while secondary market research has internal and external research. Further, research can be quantitative or qualitative depending on the type of data gathered.

Let’s explain each one in steps.

1. Quantitative vs. qualitative research

Quantitative and qualitative research differ in the type of data obtained and how each is analyzed, as well as the insights derived. Quantitative research deals with quantifiable data e.g. numbers and other often structured forms on insight. But it can also just refer to massive quantities of unstructured data. On the other hand, qualitative research is specific and exceptionally relevant to a given topic or need and often incorporates worded data for vital context e.g. opinions.

Additionally, while quantitative data is analyzed statistically revealing insights such as averages and other big picture insight, qualitative data is analyzed categorically and separates the signal from the noise resulting in insights such as sentiments.

word clouds terms and feelings

2. Primary vs. secondary research

The difference between primary and secondary research lies in how involved the researcher is in the data collection process. Primary research is where the organization collects (or commissions the collection of) the required data directly from the respondents using one or more of the methods of research. Secondary research, also referred to as desk research, is where the organization finds already collected data and analyzes it to find the information needed. More specifically:

  • Primary: exploratory vs. specific research

There are two types of primary research. Exploratory primary research investigates a research problem that is not yet well understood by the researcher. Its goal is to shed more light on the problem rather than deliver a conclusive result. When the problem is well understood, the researcher conducts specific primary research which deals with a well-defined problem and aims at a conclusive outcome.

This is where an AI-powered consumer and market intelligence tool works wonders. It removes researcher bias, revealing insight that hones the research question and offers unexpected and often category defining information!

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  • Secondary: internal vs. external research

Secondary research is also divided into two types both of which involve analyzing already existing data. Internal secondary research looks at the organization’s own past records to gather insights. These may include sales data, marketing campaign data, and past research data. In external secondary research, the organization tries to solve its research problem by analyzing the study reports of others. The sources of this type of data include government agencies, academic institutions, and major research organizations.

Market Research Methods

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the method used in market research. Businesses choose the method or combination that is best suited to their current research problem. However, the research method may be constrained by the budget and time allocated for the exercise.

The following are the basic methods of market research today. Even when they get creative and design their studies in customized formats, businesses often draw their inspiration from these five methods.

1. Interviews

This method of market research relies on the researcher (interviewer) asking the respondent(s) questions in structured or unstructured formats. Each comes with varying results. In structured interviews, the researcher asks predetermined questions in a certain order while in unstructured interviews, the conversation flows freely yet along a specific channel. There is typically an intermediate format where the interview is semi-structured.

Assuming the questions cover an exhaustive breadth of potential answers, the key here is in the analysis of the answers. Oftentimes these questions are rigid and offer limited insight as a stand-alone source of insight.

2. Focus groups

A focus group is a small group of people brought together to interact with a brand and answer questions in a moderated setting. The aim is to collect data based on people’s experiences with the brand. The researcher utilizes the close proximity to collect additional data such as body language when responding to questions. This method is mostly used where the research problem is to confirm or refute a pre-existing belief. And as the description implies, it is highly subjective.

3. Observation

Observation requires the researcher to stay out of the subject’s way and just gather data on their actions within a natural environment. For instance, the researcher might observe from a distance as people shop at a supermarket to see how they navigate the environment and how they pick items. This way, the method is thought to yield authentic data free of the consumers’ biases. But unfortunately, it still does not account for researcher bias.

4. Social listening

Social listening employs technology to monitor conversations on the internet. It is the newest and most advanced method of market research – and yields the most powerful results. In social listening, businesses use a platform like NetBase Quid or Rival IQ to discover what is being said about their brand, competition, or the market as a whole. Evidently, it is wide reaching. But it is also challenging, as the data gathered is text-heavy and thus unstructured. Social listening platforms use natural language processing (NLP) technology to parse these conversations and reveal a key consumer intel, which should drive every business decision.

Sample Tweet with analysis

5. Surveys

In a market survey, the researcher attempts to understand a large demographic through a sample or series of samples. A group of respondents (sample) is selected and issued a predefined set of questions. The results of the survey are thought to represent the general state of the wider demographic – and sometimes they do! Other times, they’re inherently flawed and offer little beyond expected answers.

Market Research Use Cases

We’ve shared that market research is important for modern businesses to understand their consumers and formulate effective strategies. Let us elaborate that with a few use cases that every business owner or marketer can relate to.

1. Competitor analysis

Market research can help you identify existing and emerging competitors in your industry. Further, it can reveal their strengths and weaknesses allowing you to position yourself better. How does it do this? As you collect and analyze the data you need, you discover what customers love about products in your vertical. This can help you understand what your competition is doing well and the gaps in the market. For competitor analysis, consider social listening, from the methods discussed above.

2. Brand loyalty assessment

As consumers get bombarded with options and customer acquisition remains ever costly, it becomes increasingly important for brands to cultivate loyalty among their customers. To do this, they need to first know where they stand with them. This is brand loyalty assessment. Market research can yield relevant consumer intelligence to inform about your brand’s relationship with the customers. A survey with your customers would be a great starting point.

3. New product development

If you want to introduce a new product into the market, you need to know that there is demand for it. Market research will not only tell you this, it will also reveal gaps that you can fill and get your creative juices flowing about the type of new product that would succeed. Social listening can help you discover gaps. If you already have a product out, a focus group can help you fine-tune it.

It’s really important for today’s businesses to master each of these use cases––and to be ready to pivot, changing course as the market or consumer needs shift. To that end, if you are conducting market research on the web, and you should be, a powerful market research platform could be the most important addition to your toolkit. It doesn’t matter whether you are looking in social media, news media, or private properties such as business websites; your methodology must touch every corner of the web – and the tool you use must support that effort.

Moreover, if other tools are necessary, we make it easy to harmonize the data by pooling it in a single location. Would you like to see how it works? Reach out for a demo today and have insight at your fingertips tomorrow!

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