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15 best consumer research tools and datasets

15 best consumer research tools and datasets

Consumers buy from social media. It’s why brands of any size need a presence if they want to reach them.

Understanding what motivates your customer, where they are, when they're ready to buy, and how their purchase will fuel your next sale, are critical to success.

Marketers need insight into the consumers they’re trying to reach. Find out how to do customer research, what tools to use, and what datasets you can access to fuel your insights.

Show me how to do consumer research!

Marketing is about decoding consumer behavior. If you’d like to try Talkwalker’s consumer intelligence platform, to find and unscramble your consumer insights, give our free demo a spin.

Businesses that conduct consumer research want to understand what drives a consumer. What they like and dislike. Why they love one brand, and avoid another.

Surveying consumers will provide insights so that you can create consumer profiles, which will highlight buying behavior, pain points, attitudes, and needs. Once you have this information at hand, you can improve your offerings - product development, customer service, payment procedure, marketing campaigns, communication, paid ads - to align with customer expectations.

For example, supposing you're launching a new product. You'll need to find out precisely what consumers are looking for, so you're able to optimize it and meet their demands. Your consumer research will also provide actionable insights into how to present your new product to existing customers.

Using consumer research will help you gain a deeper understanding of what influences customer behavior, to support development of your business strategy, increase brand loyalty and trust, and deliver a healthy bottom line.

Let’s take a closer look at what consumer research is and how it can benefit your company, along with all the datasets you can access generated by your research.

Table of contents

What is consumer research?

Understanding consumers' decision making and purchasing behavior means your business can put customers at its core and be wholly customer-centric. This'll increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and drive more sales.

The danger in not including consumer research in your marketing strategy is that you'll be making assumptions based on your superior knowledge of your industry and your product. Listening to real-world customers ensures that you don't waste time and money taking your business and/or product development in the wrong direction because you've ignored consumer demands.

Why should I do consumer research?

Regardless of industry. Regardless of size. Your business will only succeed if you meet consumer demands, and drive loyalty across your customer base.

It’s essential that you recognize how your brand is perceived by consumers. The sentiment behind their comments. Their buying behavior. Their opinion of your competitors. Without consumer insights, you’ll struggle to predict the changes in consumer behavior and needs, which in turn, will stunt the growth of your business. Here’s why researching consumers is so important for your brand…

Find your target audience

When things are tight, with budgets being cut and consumers spending less, it’s time to target your marketing. Identifying consumers who are likely to purchase your products or services, and understanding how you should communicate with them becomes essential.

Ask questions. What’s influencing buying decisions? Which brands are consumers favoring over yours? Which brands are being ignored?

New customers’ insights

Talking to new customers about your brand - which channel they found you on, what they associate with your brand, why they switched to you from a competitor, which piece of content led to their purchase - provides insights into what’s working for you.

Understanding new customers’ journeys to your brand means you can target future campaigns.

Understand customer churn

Why are you losing customers? What’s caused them to switch to another brand? Until you understand this, you’re in danger of repeating whatever mistakes you’re making, and losing more.

Are your products missing the mark? Do your prices scare people away? Is the customer experience clunky? It’s impossible to improve if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. Consumer research insights will enable you to make data-driven decisions to strengthen your business strategy.

Find your competitive edge

Your team can sit around a table and guess why consumers are choosing you over your main competitors, or you could ask consumers.

Not wanting to diss your team, because I know they’re all experts in your product, but… making assumptions without customer input, is going to lead to your marketing campaigns missing their target, or product development going in the wrong direction.

How do I do consumer research?

The best consumer research blends art and science. It’s not quite as simple as that of course.

  • The first step is a hunch or assumption. That’s the art. It could be something as simple as: cold soda tastes better than warm soda.
    You’ll build your marketing strategy around it if the consumer research validates your hypothesis. That’s where science comes in.
  • Step two requires you to pull the numbers, and make sense of what you’re seeing in the market itself. Market research tools will definitely help here.

  • Step three is of course insight creation - what do the numbers tell you to exploit? Finally, more art, time to build a numbers-backed marketing strategy based on an outstanding consumer research report, powered by the best tools and datasets.

Here’s a rudimentary example:

  • Step 1 - Assumption/hypothesis: People who like soft drinks need a cooler to store them.
  • Step 2 - Learning the market: Turns out the market for coolers is much larger if you include people who store beer in them.
  • Step 3 - Insight creation: Beer drinkers are three times more likely to Google coolers than soda drinkers.
  • Step 4 - Art time: Whip up a beautiful campaign targeting these cooler-Googling beer drinkers. Using a little Don Draper magic and a lot of resonance powered by insights that showed up in the data.

In this consumer research example, the original hypothesis was wrong - people who like soft drinks don’t need coolers. At least, not as much as people who drink something else do. Your research tells you that beer drinkers will buy coolers much more frequently.

This is important: do what the data tells you!

It’s okay to be wrong about your hypothesis, but your time and effort will be for nought if you don’t follow what you learn doing your consumer research. Trust your data, not your disproven hunches.

What are you actually looking for when you do your consumer research? A few different things.

Check out the competition

Once you know what you’re after, find out who you’re up against.

Your competitor analysis strategy should include the following questions:

  • Who are their customers?
  • Are they loyal? Why?
  • Is the competition missing an important audience or segment?
  • What do you admire about them?

Even The New York Times has to admire the Washington Post’s TikTok account.

If that reference means nothing, get this year's Social Media Trends report

Listen for your opportunity

Get listening, not lucky. Social intelligence tools can power a brand to new levels of strategic insights, but you don’t need a fancy product or service to know when opportunity strikes. A simple listening solution like TweetDeck could be all you need to strike at just the right moment and achieve virality.

Opportunities come in many forms, like memes, user-generated content, or retro moments. If you’re not trying to hear from all parties on all channels at all times, you’ll find you’re missing more opportunities than you ever thought possible.

Know who's who

Social media audiences are evolving. They’re becoming more mature, and they’re demanding more from brands.

No, you can’t just have my info. The same message doesn’t work on every platform. Social’s not some task to be dumped onto the intern. If your brand can’t understand these simple truths, the simple truth is that audiences won’t understand you either.

Social intelligence will help you identify audiences and segments that are predisposed to certain messages, helping you to achieve greater success trying to target and reach them. Listening will help you understand what builds loyalty, and how to cultivate it.

Deliver the right message to the right person at the right moment

The last point your consumer research should help you pinpoint is how to align your brand in this magical trifecta.

  • The right message is the one this audience wants to see. That means it’s useful, of value, or interesting.
  • The right person is the one who wants to buy. Not simply the one who comes for the witty memes or the informative pontificating.
  • The right moment is that time when they'll buy, because your brand aligned these forces to make it so.

Your consumer research should help you answer these unknowns.

Best consumer research tools

Here are some of the best tools to help you conduct your consumer research. They range from fonts of information on humanity itself like Google or Facebook, to real-time solutions to your customers immediate problems like Talkwalker or TweetDeck.

Talkwalker | Consumer intelligence

Talkwalker’s consumer intelligence platform is an ideal consumer research solution, regardless of budget. Offering free consumer research tools and paid analytics, our platform provides several solutions, including…

Talkwalker Alerts | Google Alerts +++

Use our free Talkwalker Alerts to monitor in real time the words, ideas, and personas of the consumers that your brand’s trying to reach. You’ll also be able to learn what forums and social media platforms they’re active on, to further focus your marketing strategy.

Talkwalker Alerts - consumer research tool dashboard with set up

Talkwalker Alerts - free consumer/customer research tool.

Like Google Alerts, but supercharged, set up alerts to receive mentions from websites, blogs, forms, and Twitter. Yep, you can monitor Twitter.

Free Social Search | Free consumer insights

You can research further into these likely consumers using Talkwalker’s Free Social Search, which includes seven days of data. Another free consumer insights tool, it’s perfect for tracking an important event in your industry, checking competitors’ campaigns, or taking a snapshot of a week in the world of your target audience.

Talkwalker's Free Social Search showing how to enter a hashtag to track and the results you'll find, such as sentiment, emojis, etc.

Free Social Search for hashtags, events, competitors, consumers...

Quick Search | Social media search engine

Quick Search Talkwalker’s social media search engine, and ideal for new practitioners of social media listening and monitoring to start their consumer research.

Talkwalker's Quick Search dashboard showing demographics, interests, top mentions surrounding Share A Coke campaign, for consumer research.

Quick Search analysis will reveal mentions, engagement, sentiment, potential reach, and consumer demographics.

Using sentiment analysis, image recognition, hashtag tracking, and easily followable core KPIs, the widgets allow anyone to get an at-a-glance look into the minds of the consumers they want to reach.

It’s also a great tool for experts who want to scrutinize in detail their ideal consumer.

Talkwalker Analytics | Social intelligence

Talkwalker Analytics is the full-suite open data analytics platform trusted by brands and agencies across the globe. Talkwalker can take your data from focus groups or online surveys, compare it to your social mentions and whatever else you’ve learned conducting market research about your target market.

We’d love to give you a tour and help your brand go from insights to impact.

Google Trends | Analyze search queries

People are constantly searching for the answers to questions and solutions to their problems. The best consumer research methods will dig into those queries, and find out how your brand can help.

Google Trends showing consumer trends in US for consumer research

Google Trends analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across multiple regions and languages.

Capitalize on emerging trends or find an underserved niche that desperately needs a solution your product can provide. However you go about it, Google Trends is a free data collection tool, packed with great datasets that’ll help you understand customer pain points and interests. It’s also one of the best consumer research tools for analyzing consumer behavior.

Facebook Audience Insights | Create targeted ads

If Google Trends should be used more ephemerally, to insert your brand as a solution, Audience Insights from Facebook is best used for the hard sell. Facebook knows their audiences, and knows how to sell to them. Use their insights to help power your brand forward.

Facebook Audience Insights website home page - consumer research tool

Inspire campaigns that are meaningful to people and drive real results.

This research tool finds data about your audiences, allowing you to compare audiences, plan campaigns, and create targeted ads. Using native and third-party-data, Audience Insights can break down your audience according to:

  • Age, gender, relationship status
  • Education level, job role
  • Top categories
  • Page likes
  • Top cities, countries, languages
  • Frequency activities

You can also identify trending topics that people are posting on Facebook, so you can create content that resonates with consumers, and increase your follower numbers.

Facebook Audience Insights website goals for consumer research tool

Choose your goals - more leads, boost a post, more website visitors, more calls, promote your page.

TweetDeck | Social media dashboard

Real-time monitoring of everything that’s important to you, on Twitter. Use Boolean queries to build out columns or lists monitoring everything from the competition, the keywords, the hashtags, or the purchase intent of your target customers.

Here’s a quick guide to Boolean operators if that sounds complex.

TweetDeck - consumer research tool - screenshot of various streams.

TweetDeck for consumer research on Twitter.

TweetDeck is great if you're looking to jump into live discussions with consumers. The platform is connected to your Twitter account and has the options to add multiple accounts. Best of all, it’s a free consumer research tool!

HubSpot | Make My Persona

In 7 easy steps you’ll have your persona laid out in front of you, including their business needs, job responsibilities, who they report to, their goals and challenges all compiled on one easy reference sheet.

HubSpot - Make My Persona dashboard for consumer research

Create a buyer persona that your entire company can use to market, sell, and serve better.

Audiense | Segmentation by consumer, or cultural relevancy

A screenshot of the Audiense consumer segmentation platform

Finding the perfect influencer for your cultural niche doesn't have to be hard - even if you're looking for a B2B influencer.

Audiense helps marketers and consumer researchers to put consumer segmentation and cultural understanding front and center of their strategy. The platform applies machine learning to instantly understand who makes up your target audience. They also include two free plan options.

Qualtric | Sample Size Calculator

This handy tool lets you calculate margins of error, helping you to verify your datasets and increase your confidence levels.

Qualtric - sample size calculator - website homepage

Determine your ideal survey sample size in seconds.

2021's social meda trends, plan now!

70+ PR & marketing experts. 50+ actionable insights. 10 social media trends. Increase consumer engagement, improve brand visibility, drive ROI.

Best consumer research datasets

Where are you even going to find the data you need to power your insights? These databases below should cover most of your needs.

Pew Research Center

Download these datasets to get statistically rigorous insights into the trends and attitudes shaping the country and the world. Whether you’re doing primary or secondary research, you’re sure to uncover something new about your target audience with this dataset.

Statista

Statista includes great charts with their wide variety of datasets that cover many industries and subcommunities.

Talkwalker

The Twitter firehose + 150 million websites crawled daily in 187 languages? Over 500 million results a day? The path to customer research that creates customer satisfaction is in there. We’ll help you narrow it down.

SparkToro

The simple interface makes it easy to get going in just a moment. This tool can definitely help you reach the audience you want in a place you didn’t expect, or an audience you didn’t know you wanted.

SparkToro for audience insights, website home page

"Forget expensive surveys or time-consuming research. SparkToro identifies your customers' biggest sources of influence,
and the hidden gems⁠ - so you can reach them where they hang out."

Tableau Public

You know people have probably done the research into your topic before, right? See if they put it up on Tableau Public, which has thousands of freely accessed reports pulled from a huge array of datasets. Plus, it’s all displayed beautifully, as expected from Tableau.

Census.gov

The census.gov page for downloadable datasets is shared for those looking to perfect their consumer research with the best datasets

Ahh, the government. What don’t they know?

Very little, it turns out, and because you funded this research, John Q. Taxpayer, you’re able to access it for free.

Detailed demographic and income trends are easy to uncover across counties or states. This is the perfect place to start your primary research. Target those Facebook ads!

Google Trends

I mean, how’d you get here? If you used a search engine, you should be incorporating the data around searched terms into your consumer research.

Facebook Audience Insights

Audiences on Facebook are inclined to buy, and Facebook knows when to get them to do it. You should arm yourself with this knowledge too.

Consumer research tool free demo

Why do consumer research? They're the driving force behind your business decisions.

Put consumers first and understand what they want, what they like, what drives them, which channel they spend time on. You'll find new markets where you can promote your brand. Plus, the insights you collect will help you customize and target your social media and paid ad campaigns.

Use consumer research tools to avoid expensive mistakes when launching new products by gathering feedback from customers and performing competitor analysis, to find preferred features, so you provide a product based on the expectations of consumers.

Having a plan is important, but your business has to remain relevant. Researching trends and consumer needs, then adapting your long-term plan will ensure your brand grows alongside the changes in consumer behavior and demands.

Talkwalker's consumer intelligence platform will help your brand evolve to continue meeting the needs of consumers. Sign up for a free demo from one of our team of experts. You won't be sorry...