Businesses strive daily to provide what customers want. Their success depends mainly on how well they understand the needs and motivations of their target audience.
In the past, this frequently translated into a scattershot approach to meeting customer demands—build more products, design more features, and so on—with, at best, a goal of growing sales.
But this slapdash strategy occasionally resulted in overspending, overcommitment of resources, and other strains on business operations that could threaten the business’s existence.
The organised process of data collection in market research has changed all that. Now the focus is on collecting and analyzing high-quality data—information relevant to meeting customer demands—and how this data is obtained. The goal is the “systematic method of collecting and measuring data gathered from different sources of information,” as Medium notes, adding that an “accurate evaluation of collected data can help researchers predict future phenomenon and trends.”
Broadly speaking, there are two chief forms of data:
- Primary data refers to first-hand information gathered straight from a primary source.
- Secondary data encompasses information found in public records, trend reports, market statistics, etc.
Armed with high-quality data, businesses can better understand their prospective customers—what they want, what they already like, where they conduct their research, and much more. Companies come away with a deeper grasp of their markets, how their products will benefit that market, and the potential challenges they may face later.
At its best, market research offers a blueprint of how a brand can move forward while avoiding the pitfalls it might otherwise encounter (without the benefit of high-quality data).
It’s helpful to remember that a wealth of relevant data may already exist in your company. Information gleaned from business analytics and customer service scores offer vital insights into why consumers act the way they do. It’s an excellent place to begin research and avoid any duplication in data mining.
What sources of data collection work best? What should brands know about the methodologies employed to acquire and measure such data?
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The Value of Quantitative and Qualitative Data
Within the broader scope of primary and secondary data, there are other aspects of data collection worth noting:
- Quantitative research relies on hard facts and numerical data to gain an objective view of consumer opinion. In general, this approach focuses on uncovering insights about large groups of consumers or the population as a whole. It enables brands to easily compare purchasing and other behaviours of different groups (age, gender, market) and to identify potential buying trends on the horizon.
- Qualitative research is less concerned with statistics and trends and more focused on the “human” aspect of buying. This research digs deep into the more intangible and subjective reasons why customers behave the way they do.
As we have noted before, “People are complex and often unpredictable,” so qualitative research “means getting to know your customers and their motivations better.” As a result, brands can more effectively study customer pain points and barriers to consumer use while also guiding the way to a more personalised approach to marketing.
Where Qualitative Data Comes From
So, what are the sources of data collection? Here’s a quick rundown:
Focus groups. A group consisting of a small number of customers (usually no more than 15) meets to discuss a specific issue. Information derived from this approach often leads to rich insights around consumer attitudes and behaviours, underlying motivations, and perceptions about a brand.
One-to-one, in-depth interviews. Researchers talk to consumers directly, seeking to understand participant opinions better. This method can be in the form of face-to-face interviews and phone or online interviews.
Expert interviews. Industry experts are another rich source of data collection. Leveraging their knowledge through expert interviews can help brands explore the impact of emerging trends, thus helping to “future-proof” their business.
Ethnography. In this realm, researchers immerse themselves in customers’ worlds to learn more about the role brands and products play in their daily lives. This can entail visiting consumers and accompanying them as they go about their day or through self-ethnography, where consumers take on video tasks to show us how they live.
Online communities. Through an online platform, consumers undertake individual or group tasks that enable researchers to explore potentially sensitive issues and better grasp the attitudes and values that lead to that all-important decision to purchase a product or service.
The personalized focus of qualitative research goes hand-in-hand with more quantitative research methods, adding context and depth to more numerical and data-based metrics.
Survey Research Plays a Key Role
Sending out surveys is another key method for drawing insights to understand target customers or explore a new market. Surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways, including:
- Email. This approach offers the benefit of reaching many people at an affordable cost.
- Phone. Phone surveys are helpful for researchers seeking feedback from a particular demographic, i.e., older consumers who may not use online resources.
- Post. Postal surveys are another option, though of increasingly limited use. Prohibitive costs and a long time lag for responses often rule out this approach.
- In-person. This method is useful when researchers want to know more about how consumers physically interact with a product or a similar situation. Again, the costs and logistics of this approach make it a less appealing process in general.
These days, online surveys are often the primary method for collecting quantitative data. Existing customers can complete online surveys or respondents sourced from online panels (groups of people matching a brand’s target market who agree to participate in online research). Based on the results, brands can build accurate representative samples and extrapolate findings to the broader population.
When it comes to quantitative research, survey questions usually include closed rather than open questions. For example, a survey participant being asked, “How satisfied are you with our delivery policy?” would be restricted to answers such as “Very satisfied/Satisfied/Don’t Know/Dissatisfied/Very Dissatisfied.” This method generates data that can be categorized and analyzed in a quantitative, numbers-driven way.
How Technology Facilitates Data Collection
Social media has emerged as a valuable source for insights into consumer perceptions and behaviours. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others have potentially vast data reservoirs on a target audience.
On social media, consumers provide direct, unfiltered feedback about their needs, emotions, pain points, and hopes for the future. These platforms offer a relatively easy and inexpensive way to share surveys and questionnaires and enlist participants for upcoming focus groups.
In this respect, “social listening” offers an expedient method of gauging customer sentiment—what they like and don’t like about the buying experiences, preferences regarding how a purchase is made, and so on.
Technology also makes it possible for researchers to dramatically expand their horizons, connecting with audiences in far-flung areas of a brand’s home country and around the world. Researchers can conduct real-time interviews and focus groups with consumers in multiple time zones using tools like Zoom and Skype. In this way, data collection for international research often yields a more powerful and richer understanding of consumer behaviour.
Working with a Research Partner
It’s crucial to remember that every customer group is different. Some brands have a strong command of their markets and may conduct research on their own.
For many other brands, partnering with a professional research firm is the best approach to broad-based marketing research. At Kadence, we draw upon our extensive toolkit of qualitative and quantitative methodologies for a deep understanding of the needs of these under-served communities. The result is:
- More productive research
- Valuable insights into different demographics
- Gaining a step on the competition
By bringing companies closer to their customers, a third-party research firm can embed rich understanding across your organisation and promote more effective, customer-centric decision-making. This understanding often leads to more informed marketing strategies and greater success with untapped consumer populations.