What Is Market Research? Definition, Methods, and How to Measure Results

Market research helps businesses understand their customers, competitors, market trends, and opportunities. But what is market research, and how can you use it to benefit your business?

In this blog post, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of market research, evolving approaches, the impact of technology, key components, and tips for effective implementation.

Key Takeaways

  • Market research is a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to understand market trends and identify potential customers. It involves conducting primary research and secondary research to understand customer preferences, behaviors, and market trends.
  • Why do market research? Market research helps identify gaps in the market, potential problems, and future opportunities and trends, and provides a better experience for customers.
  • Evolving marketing research techniques have opened new avenues for understanding consumer behavior and creating competitive analysis efficiently. This includes leveraging big data, social media platforms, online panel discussions, eye-tracking technology, neuromarketing, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR).
  • Effective marketing research involves several key points: defining clear objectives, choosing the right methodology, such as quantitative or qualitative research, analyzing and interpreting data, drawing meaningful conclusions, and recognizing types of market research.
  • Tips for conducting sound market research include ensuring quality and validity with sampling techniques, response rate, bias reduction, ethical considerations, and using findings to create an action plan.
what is market research

Market Research Definition

What is market research? Market research is a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to gain insight into a target market or audience.

It involves conducting primary research and secondary market research to understand customer preferences, behaviors, and market trends.

Why Is Market Research Important?

Market research helps businesses make informed decisions, develop effective marketing strategies, and identify potential customers.

By gathering quantitative and qualitative data through methods like surveys, focus groups, and data analysis, companies can obtain actionable insights to guide their business decisions.

The Evolving World of Market Research

Over the years, the field of market research has evolved significantly. It continually adapts to technological advancements and changing consumer habits.

Here’s an overview of the past and present approaches to market research and the emerging techniques shaping the industry.

Past vs. Present Market Research Approaches

Traditional methods have long been the cornerstone of market research. They pioneered how companies spend money to understand consumer behavior, even before the birth of the internet.

The most common methods of how companies execute their own market research include:

  • Surveys: Provide structured questionnaires that gather quantitative data, allowing researchers to analyze responses systematically.
  • Focus Group: Typically consists of small gatherings where focus group participants engage in open discussions, providing qualitative insights and opinions.
  • Interviews: Involve one-on-one conversations with individuals, enabling researchers to obtain detailed information about specific topics.

Other than these strategies, researchers in the past may have gathered valuable data from observational research, desk research, and even experiments.

While traditional methods continue to be valuable, modern technologies have revolutionized the market research landscape. Here are just a few examples of how market research has evolved.

  • Big Data Analysis: Companies leverage vast amounts of information from various sources to uncover patterns, trends, and correlations. Unlike before, they’re not limited to specific locations and quantities of participants to collect data.
  • Social Media: Platforms like Facebook and Youtube have emerged as powerful tools, with billions of people actively using them. These platforms provide researchers with real-time information about brand perception and consumer attitudes.
  • Online Panel Discussions: Offer a convenient way to engage with a wider audience and gather broad insights from diverse perspectives.

Evolving research techniques have also opened new avenues for understanding consumer behavior and creating competitive analysis.

For instance, eye-tracking technology enables companies to analyze visual attention and engagement with marketing materials, helping define brand loyalty and refine a marketing strategy.

Neuromarketing uses brain imaging and physiological measurements to uncover subconscious reactions, revealing the motivations and preferences of a specific market segment.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) simulations offer immersive experiences for studying consumer behavior.

The Impact of Technology on Market Research

The effect of technology on market research has been profound.

Here’s what’s happening in the current market research methods.

Automation and AI

These have significantly changed statistical data collection and analysis.

With the abundance of OpenAI-powered market research tools, businesses can now access timely and accurate insights into their target audience, consumer behavior, and customer perception.

One prominent OpenAI-powered market research tool is Poll the People, which combines AI and human intelligence to offer efficient and cost-effective data analysis.

It provides easy-to-use templates for various tests, making it accessible even to those start-up market research companies without extensive technical expertise.

Another notable tool is Appen, which specializes in customizable data annotation and collection services. It excels at handling large-scale projects with high accuracy.

Remesh facilitates real-time conversations between businesses and customers. It enables instant feedback and scalable engagement, making it an effective tool for gathering real-time insights from the target audience.

Online Surveys and Mobile Apps

These provide a convenient and efficient means of reaching respondents anywhere, anytime.

They also enable real-time feedback, making the market research process faster.

By leveraging these tools, companies can overcome geographical barriers in their market size and gather insights from a diverse global audience.

Swagbucks, InboxDollars, and MyPoints are a few of the most popular online survey websites with millions of members worldwide. They help companies gain a competitive advantage through exploratory and specific research.

Some companies also develop their mobile app to collect valuable user data. For example, Nike introduced several apps where users can provide information like what product or service they like, their statistics, and more.

Virtual Focus Groups

Focus groups typically consist of experts from different industries, which makes it challenging when conducted in-house.

But market researchers have been proactive in adapting methods for online engagement, using video conferences, chat rooms, and online forums to facilitate meaningful interactions and gather valuable data.

This transition allows for seamless engagement with participants, facilitating discussions, and capturing qualitative insights effectively.

Key Components of Effective Market Research

market research definition

Sound market research involves several key points that contribute to its success. By understanding and implementing these, market research companies can gather valuable insights and make informed decisions.

Define Clear Objectives

Start by defining specific goals to conduct meaningful market research. This initial step is problem recognition, where businesses identify the specific challenges or areas of improvement they aim to address through email marketing campaigns.

Are they not generating enough sales or want to ensure their new product line will sell? It could be anything from increasing customer engagement to identifying what affects the company’s brand.

Once the problem is recognized, businesses can formulate a research question that guides their market research. When these are established, businesses can set expectations for the outcomes they hope to achieve.

This helps provide a framework for the research process and ensures that the findings align with the desired goals.

Choose the Right Methodology

Decide on the methodology that aligns with the research objectives. Two key considerations are qualitative versus quantitative research and primary vs. secondary research.

Quantitative Research

Involves collecting and analyzing numerical data, providing statistical insights into customer behaviors and preferences. This is useful for measuring the impact of email campaigns, such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.

By quantifying these metrics, businesses can evaluate all the data and the success of their email marketing efforts and make decisions.

Qualitative Research

Focuses on understanding customer perceptions, motivations, and preferences through in-depth interviews, focus groups, or surveys.

This allows businesses to gather rich, descriptive insights that provide a deeper understanding of customer attitudes and behaviors.

In addition to choosing between quantitative and qualitative research, businesses must decide whether to rely on primary market research or secondary market research.

  • Primary Market Research: involves collecting new data directly from customers.
  • Secondary Market Research: utilizes existing data sources such as industry reports, market studies, or customer databases.

Both looking at primary and secondary sources have their advantages, and the choice depends on the specific research objectives and available resources.

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Once the data is collected, the next step is to understand it. Here’s how:

Data Analysis Techniques

There are different strategies used to interpret data.

  • Descriptive Statistics: Provide a clear picture of market research data by summarizing its key features, such as the average, spread, and distribution. This can be used to analyze marketing trends and market segmentation.
  • Inferential Statistics: Help market researchers draw meaningful conclusions and make predictions about a larger target market based on a smaller sample of data.
  • Content Analysis: Allows researchers to look into qualitative data, such as customer feedback or online reviews, and extract meaningful insights.

Drawing Meaningful Conclusions

It involves connecting different data points, identifying correlations or causations, and extracting the most relevant findings to draw conclusions that align with the research objectives.

Identifying patterns and trends helps businesses understand the broader market landscape and customer behaviors. This could include recognizing shifts in consumer preferences, emerging market trends, or potential opportunities for a product or service.

It’s important to link the findings back to the initial research objectives. Businesses can ensure that the insights gained from the market research process directly inform their email marketing strategies.

Types of Market Research

It’s worth noting the different approaches before conducting market research. Here’s a look at the types of market research below:

Exploratory Research

Exploratory research is conducted when there is limited existing knowledge or when the subject is relatively unexplored.

Let’s consider a clothing brand that aims to expand its product line and cater to a new target market. Before diving into production, they need to conduct exploratory research to gather insights and understand the preferences of their potential customers.

This can be achieved through various techniques, such as:

  • Expert Opinions: The brand can seek the expertise of fashion designers, stylists, and trend forecasters to gain valuable insights into the latest fashion trends, color palettes, and fabric choices. Leveraging these experts’ knowledge will guide the brand in designing garments that align with current market preferences.
  • Literature Review: By conducting a thorough review of fashion magazines, online blogs, and content from social media influencers, the brand can gain a comprehensive understanding of consumer preferences, emerging styles, and popular fashion movements.
  • Case Studies: This can be a competitive analysis of similar clothing brands recently entering the target market. This will provide valuable insights into their strategies, customer engagement techniques, and marketing approaches.

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research focuses on describing the characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes of a target population. The primary purpose of descriptive research is to provide a detailed account of a particular phenomenon or group.

Let’s look at a coffee chain looking to revamp its menu offerings and enhance the customer experience. They aim to gather detailed information about customer preferences, buying habits, and overall satisfaction.

Descriptive research methods can be employed through the following:

  • Surveys: The coffee chain can design surveys to gather customer feedback. The chain can gain valuable insights into its customers’ taste preferences by asking questions about their preferred coffee flavors, brewing methods, and desired menu items.
  • Observational Studies: Researchers can conduct observational studies within the coffee shops, observing customers’ behavior, preferences, and interactions with the menu.
  • Data Analysis: The coffee chain can analyze customer data collected through loyalty programs, online ordering platforms, and social media interactions.

Causal Research

Causal research aims to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between variables. It determines whether changes in one variable directly influence changes in another.

Imagine a market-leading technology company planning to launch a new smartphone model. They want to understand the impact of different pricing strategies on consumer purchasing behavior.

Causal research methods can provide valuable insights through:

  • Experiments: They can offer different price points for the new smartphone to different groups of customers. They can determine the causal relationship between pricing and purchase decisions by comparing the sales data and customer feedback.
  • Quasi-Experiments: They can analyze sales data from different geographical regions where pricing naturally varies due to factors such as distribution costs or local demand.
  • Time Series Analysis: The company can analyze historical sales data of previous smartphone launches and correlate it with pricing changes.

Tips for Conducting Effective Market Research

Ready to begin your market research? Here are a few tips to help you conduct market research on your own:

Ensuring Quality and Validity

Market research companies should employ strategies that ensure the quality and validity of the data collected. This ensures the market research will provide useful results.

Sampling Techniques

This plays a crucial role in market research. You can gather insights that accurately reflect the larger audience by selecting a representative sample from the target population,

Random, stratified, and cluster sampling are commonly used methods to ensure a diverse and unbiased sample.

Response Rate

It refers to the percentage of individuals who participate in a study or respond to a survey. If a company gave 200 survey questionnaires, how many people answered it and gave it back?

A high response rate increases the reliability and representativeness of the data. You can enhance the response rate by using clear and concise survey questions, offering incentives, and following up with reminders.


Bias can occur due to factors such as leading questions, respondent bias, or researcher bias.

You can reduce bias by using neutral language, conducting research in a controlled environment, and ensuring the confidentiality and anonymity of participants.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations are fundamental in any research endeavor. It’s crucial to prioritize the well-being and rights of participants.

Here are vital factors to ensure you’re market research remains ethical:

  • Informed Consent: You should clearly communicate the purpose, procedures, and potential risks and benefits of participation.
  • Confidentiality and Anonymity: By ensuring confidentiality and anonymity, researchers can create a safe environment for participants to express their opinions honestly. This fosters trust and encourages meaningful insights.
  • Transparency: Transparent reporting builds credibility and enables others to evaluate and verify the study’s validity.

How to Use Market Research Findings

market research

Once market research has been conducted and the findings have been analyzed, the next step is to use the data to the company’s advantage.

Creating an Action Plan

The best way companies can use market research findings is to create a concrete action plan. This may involve three main stages:

  • Implementing Findings: This entails putting into practice the recommendations and insights obtained from the research process. By taking action, businesses can capitalize on opportunities identified and address any challenges or gaps discovered.
  • Updating business strategies: The data and insights gathered can inform adjustments or refinements to existing strategies or the development of new ones.
  • Informed Decision-Making: The information obtained through research provides a solid foundation for making well-informed decisions. This can be the starting point of which steps the business can take to better a product or service.

Measuring Results

Once the company has reached a decision and acted upon it, how can it tell the effectiveness of its strategy? Here are the options:

Assessing the Impact of Implemented Changes

Measuring the results and assessing the impact of the implemented changes is important. This allows businesses to evaluate the effectiveness of their actions and make data-driven decisions moving forward.

KPIs and Meaningful Metrics

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and meaningful metrics are instrumental in measuring the outcomes of market research efforts. These performance indicators provide measurable targets and benchmarks against which progress can be assessed.

By tracking relevant metrics, such as sales growth, customer satisfaction ratings, or website traffic, businesses can gauge their initiatives’ impact and identify improvement areas.

Periodic Evaluation of Strategies

Periodic evaluation of strategies is crucial to ensure ongoing success. By regularly reviewing the outcomes and adjusting strategies as needed, businesses can adapt to evolving market conditions and stay ahead of the competition.

Final Thoughts

Market research helps create successful strategies and make informed decisions. By understanding your target customers through primary research as well as secondary, you can identify potential problems and gaps in the market and provide a better customer experience.

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is market research?” you can get started. Market research is your compass to navigate the ever-changing business landscape.