How Market Research Has Changed in the Last 5 Years

Gathering data through digital means can give brands more consumer information than ever before.

07/01/2020
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This post originally appeared on the Nimble Thinkers blog, The Nimble FixNimble Thinkers, part of Scranton Gillette Companies, is a full-service marketing agency led by industry experts experienced in consumer, trade and channel strategy and content marketing.

Market research helps brands answer major questions and determine the best strategies for growing business and reaching the intended customer base. In order to sell a product or service, whether it’s to an end user or to another business owner, understanding the customer’s needs and behavior is key.

In today’s atmosphere, much of that behavior can be found and tracked online. According to business data platform Statista, the pandemic has affected consumer behavior around the world. Online traffic increased by 25 percent across 20 different industries in the week ending on April 19, and online transactions went up by about 43 percent when compared to a reference period in January and February.

These new adaptive digital behaviors are unlikely to reverse. They’re also poised to provide brands with more data than ever before. Marketers can use web browsing patterns, social media activity, webinar/virtual event attendance, and online buying behavior to pinpoint customer preferences and create targeted campaigns to generate leads.

In 2020, the inability to compile and understand data could leave businesses at a big disadvantage, wasting valuable time and resources. 

Market research can be done by the company itself, gathered from outside sources within the same industry, such as trade organizations and publications, or conducted by a third party specializing in market research. Here are some areas to consider when building a market research plan.

Key Questions

There are certain core questions that market research should aim to answer. They include:

  • What is the market opportunity for a brand’s product or service? In order to sell something, you have to know if it solves a problem or fulfills a need of a prospective buyer. This helps determine a potential market or demand.
  • How does a brand’s product or service rank against competition? Knowing what already exists or doesn’t exist in an industry can help a brand innovate and set itself apart from competition.
  • Who is most likely to buy the product or service? The more you know about a perspective customer’s demographics and interests, the easier it is to sell to them.
  • What is the best away to advertise and reach the target market? This involves knowing to where your perspective buyers turn for information and what message is likely to resonate with them.

Collecting Answers

The core questions have generally remained the same over time. What is changing is how brands are able to go about collecting the answers. According to Infiniti Research, a market intelligence company that studies markets in more than 100 countries, the market research industry has grown gradually over the past few years. However, 2020 will bring about larger changes as technologies improve and people spend more time on digital devices.

Here are some ways technological advances are changing the way market research is conducted and collected in 2020 and beyond.

Social Listening

The growth of social media usage has made it a major component of marketing, but brands are also learning to see its value as it relates to market research. That value comes from seeing the bigger picture and doing so requires a deeper dive than just monitoring a brand’s social media profiles.

Social listening, a relatively new term and concept, refers to paying attention to the conversations happening on social media channels surrounding a particular topic or industry, then analyzing those conversations to better understand your audience and perspective buyers.

Use social listening to:

  • Learn current industry trends
  • Study how customers are reacting to a product or service
  • Keep an eye on the performance of competitors
  • Identify new markets or target customers
  • See how your audience is responding to your messaging
  • Identify influencers or micro-influencers who can help promote the brand

Surveys

In the past, humans were needed to conduct and compile market research. Surveys had to be conducted by phone interviews or by mail. Now, online surveys are much more common. They cost less to produce, making them an option for companies of all sizes, and are more convenient for respondents. There are many web-based tools that make survey execution easier by utilizing email lists or through social media.

Since they require less effort and interaction than a mail or telephone survey, people are more likely to respond. Responses can also be tracked in real time.

Automated Data Collection and Analysis

New automated research techniques, some of which use artificial intelligence (AI), are helping market research to become more effective and more efficient. For example, a chat bot can reach people in their homes or place of business and can gather information faster than a human on a telephone. Other AI learning programs have the ability to engage with a number of users through apps, social media or online discussion forums.

Automated programs can also be used to organize data and quickly compare older studies with newer ones to detect possible market trends over time.

Once the data on consumer preference has been collected, AI can deliver more personalized marketing and advertising materials. For instance, a brand’s message can be tailored to buyers based on regional preferences.

Chat Rooms

Chat rooms allow an online gathering place for a group to discuss a certain topic from anywhere in the world. They may also let users disguise their real identity with a handle or screen name, which can lead to more authentic conversations.

When people join chat rooms, they often do so based on like-minded interests or preferences. Researchers can use these observed interactions to learn a lot about the preferences and behaviors of a specific subset of the population.

The Human Element

All of this automation doesn’t mean humans are out of the equation—at least for the moment. However, it does free people up to focus on the analysis to learn from the data and extract actionable recommendations that make sense. The machines are good at collecting the information, but it still takes a human element to examine it.

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