How to design Cost-Effective, Powerful Market Research – Part 1


Sampling. Market research isn’t just for large enterprises anymore. The advent of do-it-yourself (DIY) online tools has revolutionized market research and made it available to businesses of all sizes. With the digital age comes the ability to conduct research quickly and much less expensively than in the past to help identify customer needs, provide insight into the competition, test new ideas, and much more.

Conducting research online can give you an advantage over your competition by helping you to bring products or services to market faster and with the benefit of prospective customer views already incorporated. Equally it can help you gather feedback from your target market after a launch and use real time insight to swiftly adapt to increase sales and adoption rates. This agile way of doing business is possible because of the speed and cost-effective pricing of online research. This 3-part series will explore the basic tenets of agile market research and instruct on how to meet the research needs of your business.

Four fundamental questions must be answered before launching any market research.

    1.What are you hoping to learn?

By answering this question, you narrow the vast array of information needs you might have into specific objectives. These objectives will clarify the types of research needed, direct how questions should be asked, and define with whom the research should be conducted. Objectives answer the questions of “Why are we doing this?” and “How will the results be used?” Vague objectives will produce vague study results.

    2.To get the information you need, whom should you talk to?

The second question narrows down the pool of possible respondents required for the study. It is essential that the sample is defined appropriately. Otherwise, the study results may not provide the answers you need. Correct sampling is as critical as knowing the right questions to ask (which we’ll cover in Part 2 of this series). Examples of sample types include:

  • Users of competitive products
  • Users of your products
  • Users of a specific brand or living in a particular place
  • Demographically balanced sample
  • A specific sample type such as females ages 13-35

Once you have the “who,” you’re ready to move on to the “how” of your study.

    3.What is the best way to get the answers you need?

There are two ways to conduct primary research: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative market research uses small sample sizes and some form of face-to-face interview. Focus groups are widely used and doing them online means location restraints (a problem in “live” settings) are eliminated. Qualitative research is used:

  • To test and develop new ideas
  • Gain in-depth understanding
  • For insights into quantitative questionnaire development
  • For market research that doesn’t need hard numbers for analysis

Quantitative market research uses larger sample sizes to ensure “confidence” in the results. The required sample size depends on the sample needed and the objectives of the study, namely how far into the data you need to look to find answers. Quantitative research is used:

  • To measure opinions or behaviour
  • To compare data across time or groups
  • To define different groups within a population (segmentation)
  • For market research that needs hard numbers for analysis

Several considerations must be taken into account to determine the appropriate sample size. These include population size, the margin of error allowable, and the level of confidence you need to feel confident in the results. Another consideration is cost. More respondents will mean higher cost.

    4.Where will potential respondents come from?

Samples can be obtained via list companies, customer databases, and online market research communities to name three.

Written by Stephen Walker

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