Uncovering a clear view of your market and competition is the first step in developing any successful marketing plan. The data gathered by market research can provide invaluable insights into what customers want from their products and services, leading to strategies that perform better and generate more interest.
Market research can take many forms and usually includes a mixture of primary and secondary research. This often takes the form of competitor analysis, audience research, sector and industry research, competitor benchmarking and a list of audience expectations.
Primary research is the main method of research undertaken by a brand strategist. This involves a mixture of in-person and desktop research, where sources of information are found and analysed directly. This will usually take the form of staff, partners, customers and prospective customers within your target market. The activities and methodologies of information gathering vary greatly depending on the type of client. Some examples of primary research are interviews (online or in-person); surveys; questionnaires; focus groups; site visits; mystery shoppers; feedback requests and many more.
Group workshops, surveys and polls are useful tools in gathering relevant data. This information is then captured and presented back to a client to help them make informed decisions about their business. Focused primary market research activities can play an important role during a strategic audit to help qualify or disprove common beliefs about a brand, product or service. For example, market research may reveal that a certain product or service is outperforming the others in some metrics. This may lead to a rethink in how that product is categorised or marketed.
When a brand agency conducts primary research, they are typically gathering two basic kinds of information:
This research is general and open-ended, and typically involves lengthy interviews with an individual or small group. This can often form the initial stages of a brand audit. When undertaking exploratory market research, we recommend gathering key stakeholders and having an initial discussion to surface core topics of discussion. Some advanced preparation is advised here to establish an agenda and organise some light activities to help facilitate conversation. Exploratory meetings should have an open dialogue where participants can freely share their thoughts.
This type of market research is more precise and is used to solve a problem identified during sections of exploratory research. It involves more structured, formal interviews or questionnaires and can be used to prove or disprove certain assumptions. Specific market research is an essential tool in bringing clarity and a factual basis to any argument.
Primary market research is relatively costly and time-intensive, however, it does give a very detailed view of the topics in focus.
Secondary research is a type of research that has already been gathered and published by another credible group or organisation. This may include reports and studies by government agencies, trade associations or other businesses within your industry or further afield. For the majority of small brands with limited budgets, secondary research is a perfectly adequate form of research due to its fast turnaround and low barrier to entry.
Useful sources of secondary research can be found across the internet, with the Google Research Hub, the World Economic Forum report centre and The British Medical Journal research platform all providing useful insights to previous brand work in recent years.
There are many types of market research activities that can be undertaken when looking to better understand a brand, product or service. Market research should be a company’s first step in developing and executing strategies to grow its business. Well-planned market research will allow you to understand your market, identify opportunities for growth or new markets, as well as any risks involved. This article will explore some of the market research activities that can be undertaken when looking to better understand a brand, product or service.
Competitor analysis is a market research activity that takes a look at the market and attempts to identify, analyse and evaluate your competitors. This can be useful for understanding what is considered strengths or weaknesses in a market. A market analysis is one activity often used within a competitor analysis as this looks into an industry’s overall performance. This is useful as it will provide context to how a certain brand performs against others and within the benchmarks set out in the market analysis. A competitor analysis looks at a wide range of metrics including financial, brand positioning, product and service offering, proposition, USPs, threats, weaknesses, audience acquisition and retention and many more.
Target audience research is another market research activity. This type of primary and secondary research aims to identify and understand the needs that your audience is looking for in a service or product.
Best practice benchmarking is a process through which exception examples of specific activities can be identified. These benchmarks can be drawn from any industry or sector. The core driver here is to look for examples that a brand can learn from and apply to their own industry.
Analysing an audiences’ expectations from a brand can be useful as it helps you deliver what they want; this means you are less likely to lose them to competitors who might provide better service or a more desirable product.
The market research process is a mix of both qualitative and quantitative evaluation. Qualitative market research can take the form of focus groups, in-depth interviews and market ethnographies to uncover insights that are hidden or unarticulated by customers. Quantitative market research often includes customer surveys, polls and questionnaires which measure business performance through more structured means. Some key activities are listed below:
Market research workshops are an excellent way to involve key stakeholders in both understandings and shaping the market research process. They are a useful tool for identifying what types of information is required, who might want it, how they might gather it and how it can be used to improve the business through which they are commissioned.
A market research survey is a device for gathering information from a wide range of participants in order to measure attitudes, behaviours or experiences. A market research poll is the same thing but can also be used as a more general method of asking people which they prefer out of two things.
Focus groups are a useful tool for testing a theory or solution to a previously identified problem. For example, if a brand wanted to find out how people felt about a proposed logo for their brand, they would arrange a focus group where participants discuss and provide direct feedback. Focus groups can also be used to test market research questions, which are then adjusted based on the responses. Another benefit of focus groups is that they can be useful for gathering opinions from people who share particular demographics. For example, a group of young mothers may answer different questions than middle-aged fathers. This information is often presented as qualitative data and can help to shape specific product offerings.
Key stakeholder interviews can be used to gain insight into their roles and interactions with a brand, product or service. These interviews can take place with employees, managers and customers of a given company to find out what they want from the business in terms of products or services. Stakeholder interviews are a particularly focused method of market research and the participants should be carefully chosen. Key stakeholders that traditionally make good interviewees are directors of people with significant influence over decision making within their respective businesses. The stakeholders may be encouraged to provide opinions on products or services as well, which can help a company shape new ideas for the market. This is particularly useful when there is uncertainty about how to progress with existing offerings.
If your business would benefit from a new approach to strategic development, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strategic audit is undertaken before starting new strategic work to ensure it uses a solid evidence base.