Without thorough market research into industry trends and consumer habits and preferences it’s very difficult for any type of business to truly understand whether it is heading in the right direction.

Businesses need to obtain specific industry data before releasing a new service or product into their marketplace; that’s where innovative market research comes in. Innovation is key for any business. It’s vital that new brands have strong USPs to make their mark.

For businesses keen to innovate and make their mark in respective industries, a methodological approach to market research can transform new projects, right from the initial concept through to its implementation. Brand purpose is vital, and research can help support a company’s direction. In this article, we will explore market research techniques your business can explore. At its core, there are two defined methods of market research: primary and secondary market research. Both can help businesses to better understand their market and make informed business decisions based largely on data intelligence. Other techniques include competitor analysis (keeping an eye on the competition is never a bad idea) and using online communities to gain feedback and data that can drive your business forward.

Primary market research

Ethnography research

One of the oldest, yet most effective, forms of consumer study is the observation of people. Observing the behaviours of individuals in business is a specialist skill that helps to determine how one behaves and interacts under normal conditions.

Market observation is a particularly effective technique for businesses looking to tap into new markets. In this scenario, most importantly it can ascertain how ready consumers are for your brand.

There are six different types of market observation:
•    Human
•    Mechanical
•    Indirect
•    Disguised
•    Non-disguised

Competitor analysis

It’s all too easy for business owners to get bogged down by their own business and forget about what else is going on in their respective industries. If you don’t take a step back and analyse how the market is operating and how your competitors are being perceived how do you truly know your business standing?

In today’s always-on business climate, it’s very easy to keep track of your competitors. Competitor analysis should be an important tool in your market research arsenal. With competitor analysis, it is much easier to ascertain the aspects of your product(s) or service(s) that are unique to your brand.

It’s a good idea to put together a checklist of questions that you can standardise to roll out and analyse multiple competitors at once. Some examples to get you started:

•    What products or services do they sell to your target customers?
•    What are their self-proclaimed unique selling points?
•    What types of media are they utilising to market their brand?
•    What do you consider to be their strengths and weaknesses?
•    What potential threats do they pose to your business growth?
•    What potential opportunities does your competitor provide to your business?

Focus groups

A more personal approach to industry exploration, focus groups tend to feature smaller groups of people that you would consider to be your target market. By creating a focus group, you can facilitate the discussion around the topics you wish to cover. It’s a brilliant method if you wish to get to know the psyche of a typical customer and learn more about their perception of your brand.

The toughest aspect of a focus group – one which can ultimately negatively impact on its results – is successfully remaining unbiased throughout the discussion. It’s a real skill to engineer the conversation so that the responses from your focus group remain impartial. Selecting an experienced focus group moderator will be integral to the success and legitimacy of the discussion.

One-to-one interviews

If you want to ask some particularly probing or potentially sensitive questions of your target demographic, one-to-one interviews are one of the best ways to achieve a reliable outcome. Conducted via telephone or face-to-face in private, a personal interview is a very powerful qualitative market research technique as it enables the interviewee to be more candid and open with their opinions than they otherwise would in a focus group.

Another real bonus about one-to-one interviewing is that it’s not hugely onerous. The telephone calls or face-to-face meetings can take place at times that suit you. So if you’re a time-poor small business owner you can carry out your qualitative studies at your own pace.

Use of online research communities

Custom-designed online communities can help to generate discussion from target individuals across a series of topics relevant to your business. An online community platform is highly effective at securing qualitative data as respondents can comment and contribute their own content on topics at their leisure. Whether it’s a forum or message board post, blog entry or video diary, members of a private online community are given the freedom to offer their own opinions, free of bias.

Remember, this can be a longer-term market research strategy as conversations can take place over many weeks or months.

Mobile-based research

Mobile-based market research can be particularly effective if you are planning on surveying time-poor consumers that don’t have the time to dedicate to a focus group or a telephone interview. Mobile market research is also a very efficient form of quantitative data as it’s easy to reach smartphone users and get a significant data sample within seconds.

Mobile market research is most commonly used for purposes such as recent purchase decisions, marketing communications and interactions with products. Although mobile-based research is by no means a standalone technique, when included as part of an integrated research strategy it can be highly valuable to any business.

Online surveys

Today’s connected world has resulted in online surveys becoming a very popular data collection method for market researchers. Whether it’s a staff or customer satisfaction survey, feedback on products or services or reviews of events and conferences, e-surveys are quick and concise, making the data easy to digest too.

If you have a well-cultivated list of legitimate e-mail addresses, an online survey can provide highly-targeted consumer feedback.

Secondary market research

Sometimes businesses try to reinvent the wheel with the research of their industry when there is often no need; especially when secondary market research data is published and easily at your disposal.

Secondary or desk research relates to the collection of data from multiple other sources such as industry bodies, databases and libraries to provide a clear overview of an industry landscape. Alternatively, interviews with industry experts can also prove useful in securing insight into future trends.

In today’s continually evolving business world, no successful business can afford to stand still. With industry trends and practices ever-changing, market research companies can be invaluable partners to brands looking to cement their proposition and grow their reach. 

Tips and tricks for market research

Never assume you know it all!

Even if you’d worked in market research for many years, it’s important to acknowledge that there’s always more to learn. Market research as an industry is evolving all the time thanks to technological advancements and you need to keep pace with it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to head to the library and read for hours on end, it simply means you should always keep your eyes and ears peeled for developments and observe the news around you.

Build your industry authority

Another hugely effective way of improving your businesses standing and reputation is to put pen to paper and start online conversations with your peers. Whether it’s a branded blog, a downloadable whitepaper or a thought-leadership talk at an industry conference. It enables you to position your agency as an authority and one which is at the cutting-edge of market trends that may just win you some new clients. It also helps to build trust – something we talk more about here.

Develop a network of professionals you can trust

It’s important that you surround yourself with a select group of people you can trust with the experience and know-how that you lack. They don’t necessarily need to have a controlling interest in your business; if they are friends or colleagues, they may simply offer you professional advice and guidance for free.

If you need business funding to give your market research start-up a helping hand, Workspace partner, Informed Funding can offer a wealth of alternative finance solutions that can grow your business without needing to go via the high street, as well as free one-to-one consultations from an independent financial expert.

Consider your business location

In an ideal world, you’ll require a business centre that’s centrally located, feature-laden and easily accessible for clients and consumers to reach you.

For a convenient place to carry out your market observations you can hold focus groups in complete comfort and style at our Fleet Street Observation Room, which seats up to 16 participants and 10 observers. With all the state-of-the-art technology one could need and on-site refreshments it features seamless communications technology to record group audio and present to people via the 80” LED screen.

At Workspace, our diverse portfolio of office and studio space gives ambitious companies of all shapes and sizes the chance to make their mark in the capital. Our network of over 3,000 businesses is on-hand to tap into, with ample networking opportunities throughout the year, plus free workshops and seminars on offer.