Performing online market research is easier than ever with the variety of data, information, and tools at our fingertips on the internet. The core elements are still the same as traditional market research - finding a way to answer a question, in order to guide your business decision.
Why Perform Market Research
Why you should perform market research varies by your job function and/or industry. However, just about any business will benefit from market research of some sort.
Overall, performing market research allows you to base business decisions on objective data, rather than your - perhaps biased - gut feelings or beliefs. Market research will allow you to determine your competitive landscape, really learn what your customer persona is, what benefits and features to include in your product (or on your product roadmap if you are a technology product or SaaS solution), and more. Even better, market research allows you to gain a perspective into these questions from an outside perspective - mitigating any group think possibilities.
Now that you know the “why”, let’s get started on the “how”.
Market Research Steps
There are a few common steps to conducting market research
- Determine your question.
- Determine the type of market research to conduct.
- Conduct your research
- Analyze and summarize your results
What is your question?
First things first. Before you get started, you need to determine what type of question you are trying to answer - because what type of research you should perform depends on it.
Common business questions that market research can help address, and the method best suited to addressing them, include:
- What features and benefits do my competitors offer? (SWOT Analysis)
- How is my product or business unique in the marketplace? (SWOT Analysis)
- What are my customer persona’s? (Facebook Audience Insights)
- What product or feature enhancements should I pursue? Or pursue next? (Online & Email Surveys)
- Do customers like my upcoming product or brand, or do I need to make any changes before launching? (Focus Group)
- How can I improve my UX/UI? (Special Focus Group)
Types of Market Research
Now that you know what question, or questions, you are trying to answer, select the appropriate type of online market research to provide the answers. Here are several common online market research types, and some easy steps - or links to other great resources - on performing each.
SWOT Analysis & Online Research
For much competitive research, you may be able to locate the information you need online, or through your sales team. Your sales team may have gathered data on competitor pricing, discounts, or key selling features while working with potential clients, so be sure to ask for their input. Once you have gathered your data, then you are ready to analyze. For more detailed steps, and a handy template to help, check out Hubspot’s article about performing a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is great for delving into how your company measures up in the industry, how competitive your features or pricing is, what your competitive advantage is and more.
Online surveys are the most ubiquitous form of market research these days, due to low barrier to entry - namely, low cost! Sending an online survey - either to your existing customer list, or to a 3rd party provider’s list - is an economical way to get feedback, quickly. If you have just a few short questions for your existing customer base, you may consider implementing via a pop-up on your website, or use your social media accounts to recruit research participants.
For a more in depth survey - or to survey non-customers - explore one of the many providers who can help you create, send, and analyze your survey. You may have heard of SurveyMonkey, but you may also wish to explore alternatives based on your particular survey needs, such as Key Survey or Web Survey Creator. These providers often provide a way to send your survey to non-customers for a fee, or allow you to upload your customer email list to use.
Your audience participation rate is important for online and email surveys, with the average rate around 30%. Increasing your response rate allows you to get a large enough response size to be statistically valid from the same customer list. Interested to learn more about response rates and statistical validity? Check out Qualtrics blog post.
Here are a few tips to increase your participation rate.
- Be short and to the point. Your completion rate will significantly drop off for long surveys. Do your best to keep the survey to a few questions, or at least less than an expected five or ten minutes in length.
- If you have a large enough audience, A/B test your email subject lines. Email subject lines can have a large impact on your results. One tip - do not include the word survey in your email subject line! For 33 other tips for your email subject line, check out this helpful list from SurveyAnyplace.
- Avoid open ended questions - in most instances. For the most part, open ended questions are problematic, as they can increase your survey completion time, must be reviewed manually, and are hard to include in an analysis of your responses. Only include if you are willing and able to manually review.
- Be persistent - and patient. For most surveys, you will need to schedule a reminder or follow-up email to people who have not yet completed your survey.
- Motivate your audience. Encourage audience participation by including an incentive, such as a sweepstakes or a gift card offer. Giftbit makes it easy - simply upload the list of survey respondents, select your gift card merchant brands and reward amount, and done! Get started by creating a free account.
Online Focus Groups
Focus groups are ideal for obtaining feedback on new product prototypes, or learning about consumer perceptions of your business or product. To adequately perform a user focus group, we recommend hiring a company that hosts them for you. Their neutrality is helpful to obtaining honest feedback from participants, and to keep the moderator from influencing answers based on how questions are posed, their body language, etc. And, since the shift to virtual from the Covid-19 pandemic, there are even more online focus group options, conducted entirely via webcams.
For UX Design, it is best to do a specific form of focus group by recruiting a panel of people who are representative of your target persona, and have this panel actually perform tasks on your software (or functional wireframes) and help identify any potential pain points or areas of confusion. Alternatively, if you are looking for data on your current experience, heat mapping tools can be a great place to start.
Facebook Audience Insights
If you currently have a following on Facebook, or have a specific user persona in mind, you can gain some understanding of your customer demographic for free through Facebook Audience Insights (assuming you have a page following or targeted audience of more than 1,000 people). By using Facebook Audience Insights, you can learn more about your target audience’s interests, shopping behavior, and demographics. Plus, if you have a marketing job function, you can also discover new audiences and even learn how to optimize your marketing campaigns. For more detailed information on how to best use Facebook Audience Insights for market research, check out this article from Woobox.
Analyze & Summarize
Once you have performed your market research, the final step is to analyze and summarize your findings.
For a SWOT analysis, you are already done! Completing the analysis itself - especially if you use the easy template provided by Hubspot - provides a presentation-ready result. For an online or email survey, if you utilized a 3rd party provider, they may have easy-to-export charts and graphs you can include in a report. For online focus groups, be sure to clarify what deliverables the company will provide - which normally include a summary report.