Market research tools & guide
Looking to jump into a new market? Change your marketing strategy? Launch a new product? If you want to win, if you want your business to survive, you have to do market research. It’s the best way to understand consumers, competitors, your industry. Equip your company with insights and make informed business decisions, with market research tools and tips. Ready?
Would you get married, without planning? Bake a cake? Buy a car? Without researching, without being fully informed, your flowers won’t arrive, your cake won’t rise, your car will be a non-starter.
The same applies to your marketing campaigns. Your product launches, events, price hikes, targeting new countries, etc. You need to research, ask questions, pull out data, back your decisions with proof that you’re heading in the right direction. Making data-driven decisions.
If you follow the right process, you’ll be able to answer the following questions...
- How big is my target market?
- Who are my potential customers?
- What are my consumers’ buying habits?
- How much are potentials prepared to pay?
- Who are my competitors?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
I’m going to show you how to do quick and effective market research, along with the market research tools you’ll need...
Table of contents
- What is market research?
- Benefits of market research
- Market research process
- Types of market research data
- Market research tools & methods
The definition of market research is the process of gathering information about consumers, customers, competitors, and your industry, to get a better understanding of what a company’s target market is looking for.
Check out Raf's post - Consumer Tools & Datasets - for more detailed tips.
Once data has been collected and analyzed, the insights help businesses make informed decisions about their strategies and operations. Driving better product design, improved user experience, targeted marketing campaigns, tailored advertising, improved conversion rates.
Market research as a tool is essential for a startup, looking to understand its target audience. Or, if a brand is planning to launch a new product or service. Researching potential customers to identify how an audience will react.
Companies can instigate free marketing research inhouse, or outsource to agencies. Methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, in-store product testing, social media...
There’s huge competition out there for all of us. It’s vital that we understand the preferences of consumers. Their buying behavior. If we don’t research the market, we’re guessing what consumers want. Adopting a market research process is a way to guarantee customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and stay one step ahead of competitors.
Using analytics is a great start, but you need to do more. Research will tell you what consumers are thinking. Why they’re purchasing one product over another. Why they’re not buying yours, but they’re happy to buy from your competitor for a higher price.
For example, Google Analytics shows you that potential customers are visiting your website, and clicking to the pricing page, then bouncing off your site. Research will help you understand why.
Google Analytics | Track website traffic
This is a free market research tool...
Market research tool - Google Analytics.
- Analytics intelligence - brand performance insights - key changes, new trends, opportunities. Smart Goals, Smart Lists, and Session Quality data can be used to increase conversions.
- Reporting - understand how visitors are using your site and apps - interactions, value, user behavior. Track and analyze Google Ads, Display & Video 360, and Search Ads 360.
- Data analysis and visualization - inbuilt reports to visualize your data - customize and segment datas. Report on multiple campaign touchpoints on the path to conversion.
- Data collection and management - import customized data and combine with analytics data.
- Data activation - predictive analysis reveals valuable users and actions - users to re-market with ads. Demographic data about your audience - age, gender, and interests, etc.
Let’s look in more detail at why market research is important…
- Identify how your brand’s products or services are being talked about - consumers, industry, competitors. Use social listening tools to monitor the conversations around your brand - positive and negative - will strengthen your communication strategy and enable you to jump in and protect your brand’s reputation.
- You’ll learn what consumers want and need. Their preferences, buying habits, income. This means you’ll be able to design the products and services that people are asking for.
- It finds insights and opportunities about the value of new and existing products and services, so you can plan and strategize effectively.
- Understanding the volume of consumer needs - market size - will enable you to produce sufficient stock to fulfil supply demands. Eliminating wasted money on over production, and increasing profits.
- Competitor analysis will help you create business strategies to ensure you lead in your industry.
- What’s the sentiment behind consumer comments? Positive, negative, neutral. Apply the same analysis to your competitors.
- Identify consumer communication channels - customers and potential clients - so you’re sharing your marketing messages on the appropriate channels.
Market research example | Starbucks
My Starbucks Idea kicked off in 2008. Customers, potentials, and employees were invited to visit the website and submit ideas. Flavor suggestions, new products, improvements, relaunching old products, etc.
Starbucks asks consumers questions for new product ideas.
A popular suggestion was the introduction of dairy-free milk products. This, along with a market research report demonstrating an increase in sales of dairy-free milk products, persuaded Starbucks to follow the trend. Going on to launch drinks using coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk.
You asked we listened. Introducing our new Oat dairy alternative (yes, it's vegan). 🌾 🙌 Try it in your latte today. pic.twitter.com/B4r6FUdK5i— Starbucks UK (@StarbucksUK) January 4, 2018
Starbucks also uses social listening, asking questions, and monitoring online conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., to find out what people are saying about the brand. Collecting valuable feedback to enable brand and product improvement.
Tell us your favorite Starbucks drink without telling us your favorite Starbucks drink. 💚— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) December 11, 2020
BOOM! Starbucks’ market research strategy ensures they give consumers exactly what they’re asking for.
Okay. Now I’ll highlight the best practices you should follow for your market research…
Define your problem or new opportunity
If you start your market research without knowing the problem or opportunity, you’re gonna waste a ton of time and a heap of money. Recognizing the issue will decide what you need to find out and how you’ll source the information.
Your opportunity might be… how are you going to launch a new product in a specific location? Your problem… your newsletter readers are unsubscribing. Why, and how to get them back?
Ask questions that’ll reveal potential causes for your problem, so you can decide on the appropriate action you need to take.
- What does your ideal customer look like - demographic information, occupation, income, interests, etc.?
- What content are readers looking for? Do they want more promos? More/less frequent newsletter?
Build your market research plan
Your market research plan should include all the methods you’re going to use to find the answer to your problem, or how to explore a new opportunity.
Market research methods include creating a survey, interviewing customers and prospects, running A/B tests, listening to online conversations, polls on social media, and more. This is primary data that your company will collect.
Before you spend time and money on your research, check whether other organizations suffering the same problem or looking at a new opportunity have already researched. This is called secondary data.
Gather data and information
The best market research collects both quantitative and qualitative data…
- Quantitative data - analyzing figures to get hard data on how consumers behave
- Qualitative data - putting data into context to understand why consumers behave a certain way
For example, you’ve created a landing page for users to register for your newsletter. Unlike your usual form, asking for name, email address, and company, you’ve requested more details. But, you’re worried it will discourage users from signing up. Perform an A/B test to identify which version works best. For your market research process, ask consumers if they’d be happy to share more information about themselves. Using both methods will give you quantitative and qualitative data. Way more valuable insights.
User testing will provide a tone of insights and data on how consumers behave. Whether it’s new content, design, product updates, etc. Tools such as Hotjar - heatmap tools, and Google Analytics will track website traffic and behavior.
Hotjar | Visitor behavior
This is a super, cool tool for tracking how consumers behave when visiting your website.
What are visitors doing on your website?
You can see what they’re looking at. Where on the page they’re clicking. Their scrolling movement. How long they look at a particular section on a page. How they travel around your website.
Use Hotjar to optimize conversion and usability of your site, improve user experience, and kill pain points.
The heatmap will record mouse movements on a page. That’s right, you can make mouse movies.
- Visitor Recordings – monitor consumer actions on your site
- Heatmaps – tracks where consumers scroll and click to see which sections get the least or most attention
- Conversion Funnels – find out which pages cause consumers to bounce from your site
- Form Analytics – see where visitors are dropping off and identify why they’re not completing forms
- Feedback Polls – add a polling box to high-traffic pages to collect instant feedback
Analyze data & report results
Time to analyze the data.
You must avoid guesswork. I mean, if you’ve an idea in your head, don’t look for patterns to prove it. It’ll distort your results.
Look for trends. See the overall picture.
When creating your marketing research report, include the methods you used - survey, interviews, etc. - the insights you collected, your conclusions, and the action you intend to take.
Market research done. Insights collected. Time to act.
Start working on your new marketing campaign, product launch, new landing pages, etc. It’s important to remember that market research isn’t a one time process. It has to be ongoing. Trends change, problems mutate, new competitors hit the market, pandemics strike.
If you want to answer questions like these...
- What are the buying habits of the consumers you’re targeting?
- Why are potential customers abandoning their shopping carts?
- How much are consumers prepared to pay for our latest product?
- Why are consumers buying products from our competitors that are more expensive than ours?
These aren’t questions you or your team can guess the answers to. As well intentioned as you all are, you’re blinkered. You’re in a vacuum, where your product is the best. Your product is super easy to use. You know your target audience, inside out.
No you don’t. You’re making assumptions. You need to do market research.
There are two kinds of market research data...
Primary market research data
This is the data that you and your organization collect. Or a market research firm, if you’re going that route. You control this data.
It’s a combo of qualitative and quantitative research, whereby you contact consumers, prospects, customers, etc. You’ll be looking to collect two types of information...
- Exploratory market research asks open-ended questions to groups of people. The goal being to collect opinions.
- Specific market research is targeted, and will provide answers to questions that you found after exploratory research. For example, feedback on your last event, product launch, etc.
Secondary market research data
Secondary data already exists. It’s public information that's, for instance, shared in newspapers, media, government documents, industry reports, financial reports, etc.
Use secondary data to understand industry trends and shifts in the market. Sources include…
- Public and government libraries
- Newspapers, magazine, television
- Universities and educational institutions
- Trade groups, industry associations, industry reports, Industry analysts
- Government reports
- Census data
- Research centers - e.g., Pew Research Center in the US, providing data on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends
- Reputable websites, including your competitors
Quick Search | Trend research tool
To follow trends, Quick Search is your tool. It’s our social media search engine…
- Unlimited searches going back 13 months
- AI based themes and segmentation models
- The best global coverage - social networks, news, blogs, and forums
- Compare multiple brands - benchmark your performance with multiple brands and competitors
Talkwalker Quick Search - social media analytics tool for tracking trends.
While you’ll find mention of several tools throughout this post, to help you with your market research, I’ve included market research methods as part of your toolkit. Without them, research would be impossible.
Primary market research takes time. But, you’re sure to get all the answers to your questions. Don’t feel you have to stick to one research method. Here goes…
Create user personas
First up, you need to get to know your target audience. People who use products, services, websites, that are similar to yours. These are your ideal customers.
Free Social Search | Monitor conversations
You can use a social media analytics software - Free Social Search - and search for your brand, to understand who’s talking about you and what they’re saying. Fine-tune your search depending on geography, language, media type, media channel, devices, etc. Boolean operators will ensure the accuracy of your search terms.
Talkwalker’s Free Social Search for consumer intelligence.
The data you collect will help you create a detailed user persona, ensuring you target the right audience with your market research.
Download my buyer persona template, to help record the insights you gather.
You need to be able to answer the following questions...
- Who are your ideal customers?
- What’re their demands/needs?
- What’s stopping them from meeting these needs?
Looking for quick, real-time feedback? Social media channels are the way to go. Tackle it like this…
- Measure engagement level
Track social mentions, shares, comments, and likes to find the most popular posts. This data will help you replicate successful posts. You’ll also understand the needs of your target audience.
- Monitor your brand’s image and reputation
Track reviews of your brand and product, to understand the level of customer loyalty towards you and your competitors.
Ask questions directly using polls on social networks. Make it fun, to encourage responses and increase engagement. You’ll learn the needs of customers and prospects.
Surveys are the most common market research tool, and they don’t have to cost you anything. Unless - and it’s worth it - you’re going to give a prize for the best contribution.
Your survey should be short. I’d say no more than 15ish open-ended and/or closed-ended questions. It could be via an email, on your website, over the phone, or go retro with snail mail.
SurveyMonkey | Online market research tool
“81% of businesses who track their Net Promoter Score - NPS - describe themselves as very or extremely successful.”
SurveyMonkey includes a vast range of use cases - online polls, Facebook surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, etc. You can also use questionnaire examples, free survey templates, and pre-written survey questions.
- The free plan offers unlimited surveys, with max 10 questions per survey. It’s limited to viewing the first 40 responses. The paid plan gives unlimited surveys and questions, tracking of email responses, pop up online surveys, and recurring surveys - weekly, monthly, quarterly.
- It supports multiple languages, video, and image questions, rating and ranking questions, question and page skip logic, A/B test questions, etc.
- Team collaboration features include shared themes, templates, and library. You can build surveys and analyze results. There are customization options and white labeling.
- Real-time analysis and reports can be filtered, visualized in a dashboard, or exported in various formats.
- Mobile app support for viewing or analyzing survey results. Mobile SDK and API access is also available.
SurveyMonkey market research tool.
You’ll be asking a set of questions to find out what they thought of your last marketing campaign, last event, new product/feature. How they felt about their stay in your hotel. What they think of the customer service in your bank.
You get the idea.
Surveys are a popular choice because they’re easy, and as I said, cheap. You can quickly collect data that’s relatively easy to analyze.
The main benefit of a one-on-one in-depth interview, is that you’re able to collect non-verbal clues. Also, even though you have a list of set questions, you can do follow up questions depending on the responses, for deeper insights.
If face-to-face isn’t possible, doing a video conf call is a good option.
- Don’t sell your company or product. Your interview shouldn’t involve a sales pitch. Chat with the person, asking about their pain points, frustrations, what they’re looking for in your product, their purchasing habits, why they use brand X and not brand Y, etc. Ask questions. Lots of questions.
- Do not push your preferences or bias. For instance, what do you think about our competitor’s rather expensive service?
Simple but effective.
This market research tool involves watching a person use your product or a similar one. The user should fit your ideal customer persona, your target.
For instance, you’ve recently updated and launched your new website. Your company loves it. No issues. While positive feedback is encouraging, this isn’t a true test of your site. You need fresh eyes. Observe someone navigating your site. Ask them to find a particular page or make a purchase. You’ll find potential stumbling blocks and be able to improve the CX.
Your new product has hit the streets. Generally, comments are positive. But there are complaints about a particular feature. Again, your team had no issues. Of course, they’re familiar with every aspect of the product. Watch a user interacting with your product, and oops… found the problem.
There are two kinds of observational market research...
- Overt - users using your product, aware that you’re watching
- Covert - users being watched interacting with your product, without their knowledge
I’d avoid recording either overt or covert observational research. If the user knows, it could change their behavior. If the user doesn’t know… well, it’s a bit dodgy.
This involves inviting a selected group of people and engaging in a conversation about your… pricing strategy, new product, shopping experience, social media campaign, etc.
Your focus group should match your target market. If you’re launching a new range of clothes for babies, ideally your group will consist of people who have kids. Starting a company that sells skateboards, talk with a young demographic.
That’s not to say the older generation don’t skateboard. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
Focus groups as a market research tool can be expensive, and tricky to handle. Results can be distorted if one member of the focus group dominates. Or, when using several moderators, their different styles sway results.
Remember, the goal of market research is to collect data and create actionable insights to improve your product, service, marketing campaigns, startup launch, etc.
Use a flow diagram to track your research process, so you can understand consumer needs.
Market research flow diagram.
A customer journey map shows you how a consumer converts into a customer. Demonstrating their initial interaction with your brand, and the steps they take to purchase.
Market research customer journey map.
Competitor analysis & benchmarking
This market research method means doing some legwork. Virtually or IRL. You’re going to be checking out your competitors.
Take a look at my Competitor Analysis Guide, for the steps you need to take.
For brick and mortar companies, take a walk. Visit your competitors’ businesses. What are they charging for products? How’s the customer service? What are customers saying? What’re they doing right? What’re they doing wrong?
Online or offline, take a look at your competitors’ websites. Check review sites for comments - positive or negative. Monitor their social media channels. Identify funding, acquisitions, and pricing. You’ll need a social media analytics tool, to collect all the data.
Rather than having to constantly check websites, set up Talkwalker Alerts for mentions of company names, trends, and products, to be notified of any shifts in the market.
Talkwalker Alerts | Monitor brand mentions
Free market research tool...
Talkwalker Alerts - market research tool.
Talkwalker Alerts monitors all online mentions of your brand and keywords. This includes news platforms, blogs, forums, websites, and Twitter. You can also set up alerts to monitor your competitors, industry, trends, etc.
You’ll be equipped to make data-driven decisions and stay one step ahead in your industry. You’re identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
SWOT analysis- strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
- Direct competitors - selling similar products and services as you
- Indirect competition - selling different products/services but targeting the same consumer base
The goal of market research is to collect and analyze information from your industry and competitors, understand how your product will be received compared to others. Market research answers the following...
- Who are my customers?
- How much demand is there for my product or service?
- How are customers using my product?
- Is there product feedback to improve my product?
- Which pain points does my product solve?
- How is the performance of my brand, compared to my competitors?
- Where are opportunities for growth in my market?
The Talkwalker platform offers several analytics tools that you’ll need to work efficient market research. If you’d like a free demo from one of our experts, get clicking. You can see examples of how Free Social Search, Quick Search, Talkwalker Analytics, sentiment analysis, and heaps more, will knock your research into touch.
While I have your attention, you may like to take a look at our Social Media Trends 2021 Report. 70+ PR & marketing experts, sharing 50+ actionable insight, so you can increase consumer engagement, improve brand visibility, and rock your ROI...