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An Introduction to Data Collection in Marketing Research

Image of the post author Jodie Shaw

Data is at the heart of all research, and marketing research is no exception. It is the eyes and ears for a brand’s marketing initiatives. The data you gather — and its quality — will make a massive difference to how successful your research is, how accurate your findings are, and the impact on your business goals and strategies.

As a result, data collection is arguably the most critical market research stage. It can make or break the rest of the process, so it’s vital to do everything you can to make this stage run smoothly and successfully.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into why data collection matters in marketing research, the different types of data you should focus on, and all the options available to you when it comes to collecting that data. Let’s start by defining what data collection means.

What is data collection in market research?

Data collection entails gathering all the necessary raw information for your market research. Some people also extend the definition to include analysing that data to extract valuable insights for your research objectives.

It is a detailed, planned search process for all relevant data made by a researcher for a hypothesis.

The most critical purpose of data collection in market research is to ensure that reliable data is collected for statistical analysis so brands can make decisions backed by rich data. Therefore, your data must be high-quality, relevant, and plentiful enough to draw meaningful insights.

Why data collection is so important?

Data collection is a critical step in the research process, often the primary step. You can analyse and store essential information about your existing and potential customers when you collect data. This process saves your organisation money and resources, as you can make data-driven decisions. Data collection also allows you to create a library or database of customers (and their information) for marketing to them in the future or retargeting them.

Three main uses of data collection in market research:

  1. Data collection helps you make informed decisions and analyses, building complete and insightful market research reports that can drive future product launches, market-entry campaigns, marketing strategies, and more. Data collection is the foundational step for various activities that can lead to business growth.
  2. Data collection allows you to build a database of information about your market for future use. While your primary goal might be to create a research report with a specific objective, the data can still be helpful for future activities.
  3. Data collection allows you to target marketing and outreach more efficiently, thereby allowing your organisation to save money and do more with its resources.

The different types of data collection in marketing research

There are several different types of data to consider at this stage — let’s examine them more closely.

We can break down data into two main categories, which makes it easier to understand the types of data we want to focus on and helps us hone in on the research methods and channels that will be most useful.

Primary data

Primary data is collected directly by your researchers, specifically for your research purposes. This data is primarily collected from interviews, surveys, focus groups, and experiments. In other words, this data did not exist before your team collected it.

Secondary data

Secondary data refers to data that already existed before you started your research. Other researchers have already collected and compiled this data before. You can find this type of data in places like government reports, the analysis of other businesses, polls and surveys, and the work of NGOs. It’s typically cheaper and easier to obtain than your primary data, but it won’t be as relevant to your project.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is usually the first step in data collection. It’s more textual than statistical and involves collecting non-numerical data like interview transcripts, video recordings, and survey responses.

Qualitative data is typically collected via first-hand observation through focus groups, interviews, and ethnography. It is a way of diving deep into ideas and concepts, allowing researchers to learn more about specific topics that may not be well understood.

Quantitative Research

Where qualitative research is relatively more text-based, quantitative research focuses on numbers and statistics. This data is expressed in charts, graphs, and tables and is typically used to test initial findings.

Methods used to collect quantitative data include more closed-ended survey questions, mobile surveys, and Likert scales. The main benefit of this type of data is that it allows researchers to make more broad generalisations and predictions, but it’s not well-suited for diving deep into particular questions.

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How data collection in marketing research works

There are many steps involved in the data collection process. Some of these steps begin even before you start collecting data.

Prior steps

There are several steps you should take before your data collection begins, such as:

Make sure you have all the necessary permission to collect your data. Today, data privacy laws are stronger than ever, so researchers need to take extra care to comply with regulations and have the full consent of their subjects and participants. It’s best to work with a legal compliance team to draft all the required documents, forms, and contracts to share with your research participants from the very beginning.

Make sure you have the support of any company decision-makers and stakeholders. It may be helpful at this stage to prepare a preliminary report informing any higher-ups of your plans, goals, sources, and any methods you plan to use.

Try to predict and pre-empt any possible challenges or problems, such as privacy regulations, collection methods, infrastructure, or budget. Anticipating any issues now will help you avoid costly problems and make the whole process run more smoothly.

Put together a team of skilled and qualified researchers and analysts. Data collection can be a difficult task, and you need to have the right experience and skillsets on your team.

Decide on your data collection methods.

The next stage is to decide which data collection methods you will use to collect data for your marketing research report. You will likely employ various methods here, as each has unique pros and cons. Here are the main methods you should consider:

・ Surveys

There are many ways to conduct surveys — in-person, online, post, email, mobile message, others. Surveys differ in content and structure — from simple Likert scales with just five possible numerical responses to more qualitative open-ended questions.

・ Focus groups

Focus groups allow you to bring multiple participants together to discuss the subject of your research and share their opinions. This format can be a great way to brainstorm ideas, and people can often bring good ideas out of each other. To get the best results, everyone should get a chance to speak, and no one person should dominate the group.

・ Interviews

One-to-one interviews are the best ways to dive deep into a person’s opinions about your brand or a specific product. However, they can be time-consuming and may require much planning.

・Observation and experimental research

This type of data collection involves observing individuals as they interact with specific products or services. It helps get around certain biases that people might have in interviews and surveys and cut right through to their true thoughts. However, it isn’t easy and requires an expert touch to get it right.

Identify and prepare for common challenges with data collection.

During the data collection process, you’re likely to encounter several challenges. The good news is that you can avoid these challenges and mitigate any impacts on your research report with proper preparation.

Here’s what to look out for:
・Bad methodology results in poor quality data

A lot can go wrong with your data collection methods — badly identified participants, poorly designed questions, and choosing the wrong methods are just a few examples. This can result in poor quality data, leading to erroneous conclusions and an unsuccessful research report. Take the time to work with experienced researchers and build the right data collection strategy for your needs.

・Logistical challenges

You will also come across many logistical challenges. For instance, you’ll need a big venue to hold everyone if you’re running a focus group. If you want to conduct a stream of interviews, you’ll need to hire a space for a particular time. You may need to arrange transport, refreshments, and a wide range of other logistical demands. If you fail to plan this properly in advance, your team could find itself in a highly stressful situation.

・Using the proper channels

The channels you use to connect with your audience are consequential — what works well for one demographic might completely fail for another. If you choose the wrong media (like Twitter to send surveys to an older demographic), you could have a poor response rate and lack usable data.

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How to collect data effectively

Get to know your audience.

You will need to have an intimate and deep understanding of your audience and the people you collect data from. This will ensure you target the right people, ask the appropriate questions, choose the correct methods and channels, and analyse the data in the proper contexts.

There are many ways to get to know your audience better in advance of data collection:

Use social media to spend time in the same spaces and groups as your audience members, chat with them, and find out who they are and what makes them tick.

Work with your sales and marketing teams — it’s their job to understand your audience, and they’ll have access to valuable insights.

Look at who is using your competitors’ brands and products.

Once you understand whom you target, it often helps create detailed user personas, outlining details about your typical audience members like their age groups, income brackets, and education levels. You can then use this information to tailor your data collection strategy to be relevant and valuable.

Prepare for the analysis of your data.

Collecting data is one thing, but you should always have an eye on the analysis of that data. This is where you extract insights and draw tangible value from the data — allowing you to make informed business decisions and create a valuable and applicable market research report.

When planning your collection methods and recording the results, always remember that someone will be analysing this data. Be organised, clear, and detailed, and work with your analysts to ensure they are aligned with your approach.

Use a wide range of methods and channels.

The best data collection relies on various tools and channels instead of focusing on just one or two. By combining a number of the approaches mentioned in this article, you will connect with a broader part of your market, gaining a better understanding of how different demographics feel and leading to a more valuable and insightful analysis.

For example, if you focus solely on digital channels like social media and online surveys, your responses may skew heavily towards younger people. Some in-person interviews, focus groups, and postal surveys help target a broader range of age groups and accurately reflect your market and their views.

Data collection is a critical part of market research. It serves many important purposes, and it is essential to get it right to create effective research reports and complete a vast range of different business objectives.

At Kadence, we help companies worldwide fine-tune their data collection, laying the foundations for informed and effective market research.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you do the same.

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