Market research is at the core of every great marketing strategy. It’s the only way to truly understand your industry, customers, and competitors on an intimate level.
Generally speaking, every market research execution can be broken into one of four overarching types of market research.
To make it easier to refine your marketing research efforts, we’re breaking down the four types of market research to make sure you have all the necessary data and information to fuel your marketing strategies and make them successful.
Why is Market Research Important?
Market research is vital because it helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing strategy. While it’s important to follow your own marketing intuition as a business, you need to have that analytical understanding of what your customers want and what your competitors are doing to succeed over time.
Market research can help you uncover quantitative data such as size and demographics, and even qualitative research data like psychographics to get a better understanding of the size and scope of your industry.
Another benefit of market research is the ability to identify competitors within your industry. Market research can give you a better understanding of your competitive landscape by answering questions like: Are you competing against small businesses or big businesses? What do their target markets look like compared to yours? Does your company have enough brand awareness to compete?
Perhaps most importantly, market research also gives you insight into your target audience. You need to do market research to have a better understanding of customer preferences. The data you find can help your company better cater to the specific group of people you’re targeting and even open the door to new products they might want to purchase in the future. Market research is the driving force behind a customer’s purchase because it helps you understand exactly what they want and need.
What are the 4 Different Types of Market Research?
There are four main types of market research that you’ll likely come across. Each of these can help you extract data and information about your market in different ways.
Primary research refers to first-party data or information. First-party data or information is all the data and information you’ve collected on your own—you’re not citing any other source’s work. Examples of primary market research include:
- Focus groups
This type of market research can help strengthen your marketing strategy with data and information that comes directly from your customers. It’s arguably the most valuable type of market research because it’s particular to your customer base. This allows you to get candid details on business strengths and weaknesses to understand the overall customer experience.
Good examples of primary research are online surveys and polls, which are a great way to get a large number of responses from your customer base. Maybe there’s a question about your product or service that you’re dying to get feedback on. Well, why not ask your customers directly? You can broadcast your survey or poll on a social media channel or add it to an email newsletter you send to subscribers. A larger response like this will help you determine what your customer base is thinking, and you can identify shared pain points or praise they may have.
Learn more about market research questions, what to ask, and how to ask it.
Secondary research refers to second-party or third-party data or information. Second- and third-party data is collected from what already exists within the market. The research is not done by you, but by other businesses or organizations. Examples of secondary market research include:
- White papers
This type of market research can help you get a better understanding of your industry as a whole. You’ll be able to identify how competitors operate, important industry statistics, and other valuable insights that you can use to help create a more informed marketing strategy overall.
Secondary research is the best way to get a feel for the data and information that already exists within your industry and among your competitors. Identifying that data and information not only gives you a better idea of what you’re up against from a marketing perspective but also where you might be able to improve. Maybe a competitor has written a great article that’s bringing in a lot of organic search traffic or social shares, and there’s an opportunity for you to formulate a counter-argument that has the potential to be similarly popular. That contrary point-of-view not only shows that you understand your competitor’s content, but that you’re also willing to step in with an original perspective to add to the greater dialogue surrounding the topic.
Qualitative research refers to the collection of data that can’t be measured.
Qualitative research can be primary or secondary. You can use primary market research methods such as interviews, polls, and surveys to find out how customers feel about your product or service. The goal is to understand how they think. You can ask open-ended questions like:
- What made you buy our product or service?
- How do you think our product or service stands up to competitors?
- What features do you like about our product or service and why?
- In what areas do you think our product or service could improve and why?
This type of market research gives us insight into what customers are thinking; it’s the only way to discover why a customer decides to trust your—or another—brand. When you conduct customer research, you can ask customers specific questions about your product or service. The answers to these questions will help you form better marketing strategies that take all their feelings and thoughts about your product or service into consideration.
A great way to utilize qualitative research is to do it during a product launch. The goal is to get as much customer feedback about your new product as possible. Qualitative research can help you gauge whether it has met customer expectations or falls short. If it does fall short, dig deeper and find out in what areas it doesn’t meet customer expectations. Is it a quality issue? Price point? Competitors offering better products? Qualitative research gives you that critical insight into how customers feel about your product or service.
Quantitative research refers to collecting numbers for statistical analysis. Like qualitative research, quantitative research can be primary or secondary in nature.
This type of market research is all about having the figures to back up your marketing strategy. The stats aren’t interpretations—they’re empirical evidence. Quantitative market research can look like:
- Alexa Rank
- Bounce rate
- Share of voice
- Social media followers
- Social media engagement
This data can act as a benchmark for where to spend more time and money in your marketing efforts. Once you know where you stand in a market among certain dimensions like your pageviews or subscribers, you can adjust your marketing strategy accordingly to reflect your findings.
Unlike some of the other types of market research featured in this article, quantitative research has a very distinct advantage in that you’re able to use analytics platforms to track your progress. For example, Alexa’s Content Exploration tool allows you to enter a site and see how much engagement its content gets on Twitter and Reddit. You can then compare these metrics side-by-side with other sites in your industry.
Revisit Your Market Research Regularly
Remember, the dynamics of your market can change rapidly and often without much warning. That’s why it’s always important to make sure you’re conducting the market research process regularly. This will help you stay up-to-date with your industry, customers, and competitors at all times, which will, in turn, help you create stronger marketing strategies.
Alexa also has tools that can help you conduct market research with access to important engagement, traffic and reach metrics that can help measure the performance of your website within a market. Try it out with a free 14-day trial of our Advanced Plan
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