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An illustration showing a desktop computer with a large magnifying glass over the search bar, a big purple folder with a document inside, a light bulb, and graphs. How to do market research blog post.

How To Do Market Research: Definition, Types, Methods


TJ Kiely

Jan 2, 2024

Market research isn’t just collecting data. It’s a strategic tool that allows businesses to gain a competitive advantage while making the best use of their resources. Research reveals valuable insights into your target audience about their preferences, buying habits, and emerging demands — all of which help you unlock new opportunities to grow your business.

When done correctly, market research can minimize risks and losses, spur growth, and position you as a leader in your industry. 

Let’s explore the basic building blocks of market research and how to collect and use data to move your company forward:

Table of Contents

What Is Market Research?

Market Research Definition: The process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market or audience.

doing a market research

Market research studies consumer behavior to better understand how they perceive products or services. These insights help businesses identify ways to grow their current offering, create new products or services, and improve brand trust and brand recognition.

You might also hear market research referred to as market analysis or consumer research.

Traditionally, market research has taken the form of focus groups, surveys, interviews, and even competitor analysis. But with modern analytics and research tools, businesses can now capture deeper insights from a wider variety of sources, including social media, online reviews, and customer interactions. These extra layers of intel can help companies gain a more comprehensive understanding of their audience.

Why Is Market Research Important?

With consumer preferences and markets evolving at breakneck speeds, businesses need a way to stay in touch with what people need and want. That’s why the importance of market research cannot be overstated.

Market research offers a proactive way to identify these trends and make adjustments to product development, marketing strategies, and overall operations. This proactive approach can help businesses stay ahead of the curve and remain agile as markets shift.

Market Analysis Example

Market research examples abound — given the number of ways companies can get inside the minds of their customers, simply skimming through your business’s social media comments can be a form of market research.

A restaurant chain might use market research methods to learn more about consumers’ evolving dining habits. These insights might be used to offer new menu items, re-examine their pricing strategies, or even open new locations in different markets, for example.

A consumer electronics company might use market research for similar purposes. For instance, market research may reveal how consumers are using their smart devices so they can develop innovative features.

Market research can be applied to a wide range of use cases, including:

  • Testing new product ideas
  • Improve existing products
  • Entering new markets
  • Right-sizing their physical footprints
  • Improving brand image and awareness
  • Gaining insights into competitors via competitive intelligence

Ultimately, companies can lean on market research techniques to stay ahead of trends and competitors while improving the lives of their customers.

5 Types of Market Research

Market research methods take different forms, and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. Let’s review the most common market research techniques and the insights they deliver.

1. Interviews

One-on-one interviews are one of the most common market research techniques. Beyond asking direct questions, skilled interviewers can uncover deeper motivations and emotions that drive purchasing decisions. Researchers can elicit more detailed and nuanced responses they might not receive via other methods, such as self-guided surveys.

colleagues discussing a market research

Interviews also create the opportunity to build rapport with customers and prospects. Establishing a connection with interviewees can encourage them to open up and share their candid thoughts, which can enrich your findings. Researchers also have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions and dig deeper based on individual responses.

2. Surveys

Market research surveys provide an easy entry into the consumer psyche. They’re cost-effective to produce and allow researchers to reach lots of people in a short time. They’re also user-friendly for consumers, which allows companies to capture more responses from more people.

Big data and data analytics are making traditional surveys more valuable. Researchers can apply these tools to elicit a deeper understanding from responses and uncover hidden patterns and correlations within survey data that were previously undetectable.

The ways in which surveys are conducted are also changing. With the rise of social media and other online channels, brands and consumers alike have more ways to engage with each other, lending to a continuous approach to market research surveys.

3. Focus groups

Focus groups are “group interviews” designed to gain collective insights. This interactive setting allows participants to express their thoughts and feelings openly, giving researchers richer insights beyond yes-or-no responses.

focus group as part of a market research

One of the key benefits of using focus groups is the opportunity for participants to interact with one another. They spark discussions while sharing diverse viewpoints. These sessions can uncover underlying motivations and attitudes that may not be easily expressed through other research methods.

4. Observations

Observing your customers “in the wild” might feel informal, but it can be one of the most revealing market research techniques of all. That’s because you might not always know the right questions to ask. By simply observing, you can surface insights you might not have known to look for otherwise.

This method also delivers raw, authentic, unfiltered data. There’s no room for bias and no potential for participants to accidentally skew the data. Researchers can also pick up on non-verbal cues and gestures that other research methods may fail to capture.

5. AI-driven market research

One of the newer methods of market research is the use of AI-driven market research tools to collect and analyze insights on your behalf. AI customer intelligence tools and consumer insights software like Meltwater Radarly take an always-on approach by going wherever your audience is and continuously predicting behaviors based on current behaviors.

By leveraging advanced algorithms, machine learning, and big data analysis, AI enables companies to uncover deep-seated patterns and correlations within large datasets that would be near impossible for human researchers to identify. This not only leads to more accurate and reliable findings but also allows businesses to make informed decisions with greater confidence.

Tip: Learn how to use Meltwater as a research tool, how Meltwater uses AI, and learn more about consumer insights and about consumer insights in the fashion industry.

What Are Common Market Research Questions?

No matter the market research methods you use, market research’s effectiveness lies in the questions you ask. These questions should be designed to elicit honest responses that will help you reach your goals.

Examples of common market research questions include:

Demographic market research questions

  • What is your age range?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What is your household income level?
  • What is your educational background?
  • What is your gender?

Product or service usage market research questions

  • How long have you been using [product/service]?
  • How frequently do you use [product/service]?
  • What do you like most about [product/service]?
  • Have you experienced any problems using [product/service]?
  • How could we improve [product/service]?
  • Why did you choose [product/service] over a competitor’s [product/service]?

Brand perception market research questions

  • How familiar are you with our brand?
  • What words do you associate with our brand?
  • How do you feel about our brand?
  • What makes you trust our brand?
  • What sets our brand apart from competitors?
  • What would make you recommend our brand to others?

Buying behavior market research questions

  • What do you look for in a [product/service]?
  • What features in a [product/service] are important to you?
  • How much time do you need to choose a [product/service]?
  • How do you discover new products like [product/service]?
  • Do you prefer to purchase [product/service] online or in-store?
  • How do you research [product/service] before making a purchase?
  • How often do you buy [product/service]?
  • How important is pricing when buying [product/service]?
  • What would make you switch to another brand of [product/service]?

Customer satisfaction market research questions

  • How happy have you been with [product/service]?
  • What would make you more satisfied with [product/service]?
  • How likely are you to continue using [product/service]?

Bonus Tip: Compiling these questions into a market research template can streamline your efforts.

What Are the Limitations of Market Research?

Market research can offer powerful insights, but it also has some limitations. One key limitation is the potential for bias. Researchers may unconsciously skew results based on their own preconceptions or desires, which can make your findings inaccurate.

  • Depending on your market research methods, your findings may be outdated by the time you sit down to analyze and act on them. Some methods struggle to account for rapidly changing consumer preferences and behaviors.
  • There’s also the risk of self-reported data (common in online surveys). Consumers might not always accurately convey their true feelings or intentions. They might provide answers they think researchers are looking for or misunderstand the question altogether.
  • There’s also the potential to miss emerging or untapped markets. Researchers are digging deeper into what (or who) they already know. This means you might be leaving out a key part of the story without realizing it.

Still, the benefits of market research cannot be understated, especially when you supplement traditional market research methods with modern tools and technology.

How to Do Market Research

Let’s put it all together and explore how to do market research step-by-step to help you leverage all its benefits.

Step 1: Define your objectives

You’ll get more from your market research when you hone in on a specific goal: What do you want to know, and how will this knowledge help your business?

This step will also help you define your target audience. You’ll need to ask the right people the right questions to collect the information you want. Understand the characteristics of the audience and what gives them authority to answer your questions.

Step 2: Select your market research methods

Choose one or more of the market research methods (interviews, surveys, focus groups, observations, and/or AI-driven tools) to fuel your research strategy.

Certain methods might work better than others for specific goals. For example, if you want basic feedback from customers about a product, a simple survey might suffice. If you want to hone in on serious pain points to develop a new product, a focus group or interview might work best.

You can also source secondary research via secondary research companies, such as industry reports or analyses from large market research firms. These can help you gather preliminary information and inform your approach.

team analyzing the market research results

Step 3: Develop your research tools

Prior to working with participants, you’ll need to craft your survey or interview questions, interview guides, and other tools. These tools will help you capture the right information, weed out non-qualifying participants, and keep your information organized.

You should also have a system for recording responses to ensure data accuracy and privacy. Test your processes before speaking with participants so you can spot and fix inefficiencies or errors.

Step 4: Conduct the market research

With a system in place, you can start looking for candidates to contribute to your market research. This might include distributing surveys to current customers or recruiting participants who fit a specific profile, for example.

Set a time frame for conducting your research. You might collect responses over the course of a few days, weeks, or even months. If you’re using AI tools to gather data, choose a data range for your data to focus on the most relevant information.

Step 5: Analyze and apply your findings

Review your findings while looking for trends and patterns. AI tools can come in handy in this phase by analyzing large amounts of data on your behalf.

Compile your findings into an easy-to-read report and highlight key takeaways and next steps. Reports aren’t useful unless the reader can understand and act on them.

Tip: Learn more about trend forecasting, trend detection, and trendspotting.

Improving Your Market Research with Radarly

Meltwater’s Radarly consumer intelligence suite helps you reap the benefits of market research on an ongoing basis. Using a combination of AI, data science, and market research expertise, Radarly scans multiple global data sources to learn what people are talking about, the actions they’re taking, and how they’re feeling about specific brands.

Meltwater Radarly screenshot for market research

Our tools are created by market research experts and designed to help researchers uncover what they want to know (and what they don’t know they want to know). Get data-driven insights at scale with information that’s always relevant, always accurate, and always tailored to your organization’s needs.

Learn more when you request a demo by filling out the form below:

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