The Top 8 Most Valuable Types of Market Research

Posted on February 20, 2023 | Updated on February 20, 2023

Successful marketing campaigns require in-depth knowledge about their customer base and competition. It also demands intimate knowledge about the sector. All types of market research must be holistic to inform marketing teams’ strategies effectively. 

It guides organizations in investing their budgets and adjusting, eliminating, or improving existing methods. There are many market research types to experiment with, so knowing what each offers is vital to understanding where time is most well-spent. 

Defining Market Research Umbrellas

Market research has a few overarching categories that separate different methodologies. Every version of market research obtains different kinds of data, whether hard numbers or a database of opinions. The key is to not rely too heavily on one form of market research — diversity will provide more comprehensive pictures of the subjects you’re trying to study.

The two most notable groups are qualitative and quantitative market research. Quantitative market research obtains numbers, figures, and facts. Quantitative analysis gathers opinions and motivations. Ideally, both would need large sample sizes to be valuable, however, this is more important for quantitative research.

Another designation is primary and secondary research. Primary refers to original research data that a company or individual obtains first-hand. Referring to already-researched materials would be secondary market research.

Other methods include exploratory or casual research. Modern or mixed-methods research may overlap with the objectives of different research categories. Still, it can have variations, especially with the help of technological and digital tools like social media or AI.

1. Surveys

Everyone has received or participated in a survey. They are one of the most accessible quantitative and qualitative research forms. Fill-in surveys with customizable responses can gather customer attitudes while providing percentages about customer satisfaction. Here are some surveys you’ve probably encountered as a part of a company’s market research:

  • Online questionnaires
  • Phone prompts
  • Mail-in surveys
  • In-person interviews
  • Text messages

Surveys are inexpensive and customizable, making them a desirable option. Other types of market research may include survey methods built into their grander objective, which is why these methods often overlap.

2. Focus Groups

A focus group is when a coordinator manages a small to medium-sized group of people to foster discussion about products or services. It’s a costly yet insightful method if executed appropriately — though it heavily relies on an unbiased, diligent moderator.

Sometimes a focus group is a single entity. Other situations may call for hosting multiple instances of the focus group on the same topic to see how the different environments and group compositions respond to the same subject.

One of the most popular and modern versions of this market research is the advent of early access digital video games. Video game developers release games before they are finished. The focus group — the playtesters — play the game as usual, uncovering bugs, glitches, and inconsistencies on a massive scale. Regular updates are released as feedback rolls in from the focus group, molding the game into its eventual final form. Early access gamers are an example of usability testing, another market research method adjacent to focus groups.

3. Interviews and Roundtables

One-on-one or group interviews and roundtable discussions provide a low-pressure atmosphere for people to give honest feedback about a product or service. Because it’s usually face-to-face — even if it’s over Zoom — verbal and visual cues provide additional insight that text cannot deliver. 

Interviewees can prepare defined questions beforehand, but many should keep an adventurous mindset because, frequently, discussions lead to unexpected places that could reveal information you didn’t know you needed. Roundtable discussions have this effect as other people hear other ideas that spark innovative responses.

4. Segmentation

Marketing segmentation comes in almost as many forms as market research itself. In short, marketing segmentation is a way for marketers to categorize their audience based on metrics. The metrics vary depending on the type of marketing segmentation:

  • Demographic: Measures aspects such as age, gender, education, income, and ethnic background.
  • Firmographic: Measures similar data as demographics but on a commercial scale, like staff size and revenue.
  • Behavioral: Measures customer intentions, product usage and applications, purchasing behaviors, or social media engagement with the company.
  • Psychographic: Measures more nebulous, personal concepts like morality, ethics, lifestyle design, or personal values.
  • Geographic: Measures based on climate, population, county, or language.

Marketing segmentation’s goal is to understand the target audience more comprehensively. It also helps companies who need to know their target market to understand where to invest their energy.

5. Observational Study

Observational research often happens when the consumer is unaware of their contribution. Instead of actively responding to a survey, for example, market researchers can see how customers act in an organic environment, either while shopping or performing actions related to company services. 

The observer can choose to inform individuals they are being observed, which could skew results because of the Hawthorne effect. However, the observational study still increases insight into B2C interactions. Examples include secret shoppers, which are disguised observations, or indirect observations like noticing certain sidewalks containing more litter than others. Trials, experiments, and case studies can all include observational types of market research.

6. Desk Research

This is a form of secondary research where the name perfectly describes the method — individuals sit at their desks, at a library, or at their computer, poring through secondary resources to obtain market data. Some industries have more secondary research than others. If you’re in a relatively new industry, such as Internet of Things (IoT) technology versus infant fashion. Here are some of the resources desk researchers can utilize to obtain information:

  • Libraries, including books or academic journals
  • Schools and universities, including professors or industry experts
  • News and media outlets
  • Search engines

7. Phenomenological Studies

If market researchers take time to empathize with customers, seeing company interactions and purchasing behaviors through their point of view, that is the objective of phenomenological study. This qualitative research can unfurl the motivations behind consumers — a type of psychographic and behavioral market segmentation. It can include countless other forms of market research, like interviews and observation, but with an added focus on understanding your target audience’s behavioral and consumerist phenomena.

8. Competitive Analysis

Whether you’re looking to expand your clientele or research new business verticals, looking at what competitors are doing is a great place to start. It could reveal where your business is ahead — or falling behind. It may also instigate process discovery, demonstrating ways to optimize the business for productivity and efficiency. 

Research companies and their business and marketing practices. See how customers review their products and services through Google or company websites and reports. Perform SEO research to see how online metrics perform. These avenues provide priceless data on ways to self-reflect on your enterprise.

Conducting Productive Market Research

Whether your company sends an online survey or performs an experimental trial depends on what will serve your marketing efforts best. Every service and product needs careful market research that supports a company’s mission. 

Though some methods may be staples in your industry, it’s not certain they will have equal merit — if you remain open-minded about results and try new strategies, market research will flow in naturally.

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