6 Market Research Methods & What They Reveal About Your Audience

Market research, when it’s done well, makes sure that you step into any market with your eyes wide open and a strong understanding of what your target customers will best respond to.

But how do you get market research right? What methods should you use, and how can you entice your target market to talk to you?

Today, we’re going to go through everything you need to know about market research, from why it’s important, to the best methods for your brand.

Table of Contents

Why marketers should care about market research

Market research is vital for everything from pitching your marketing messaging to building customer loyalty. Some benefits of good market research include:

  • Helping your brand to give customers exactly what they want.
  • Strengthening your position in the market.
  • Minimizes investment risk by helping to inform decisions.
  • Identifies threats to avoid and opportunities to grab.
  • Gives insight into competitor strengths and weaknesses.

Qualitative vs quantitative research method

Qualitative research has qualifiers. Qualifiers are markers of confident uncertainty. Qualifiers are necessary when data is opinion-based, or isn’t underpinned by numerical data.

So, qualitative research tends to deal in opinions and descriptions. In market research terms, qualitative data tends to come in the form of customer opinions and feedback. It’s gathered using open-ended questions such as “What do you like about our product?”.

Qualitative data is very useful for understanding nuances that can’t be revealed by numerical data. That being said, it can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming both to gather and to analyze.

Quantitative data, by contrast, deals in quantities. Quantitative data is all about numbers. Numerical data based on metrical analysis forms the backbone of quantitative market research. Quantitative customer surveys will use answer formats that can easily be entered into a graph or chart, such as “Yes/No” answers or “Rate X on a scale of 1 to 5”.

6 Market research methods to gather audience insights

The best market research will combine qualitative and quantitative methods for a complete, nuanced, and easily understandable picture of their target market and its needs.

1. Consumer behavior observation

When done well, consumer behavior observation takes a ‘fly on the wall’ approach to consumers. As the name suggests, it involves monitoring consumers to see how they behave in natural settings. 

If you run a bricks and mortar shop, consumer observation would involve watching how your customers behave in your store. You might note down things like the displays that catch their eye, which products they linger over, the route they take around the store, how they respond to atmospheric features like scent, lighting, and music. After a while, behavioral patterns will emerge which will help you to arrange your store and products for best effect.

In an online context, consumer behavior observation will rely more on behavioral analytics. For example, you might look for patterns in page traffic, bounce rates, purchasing behavior, and so on. This will yield valuable insights into the pages and products that catch consumers’ eyes, elements of your website they find frustrating, and so on.

2. Market and competitive analysis

Market and competitive analysis involves looking at your wider market context and taking a peek at how your competitors are faring.

Competitive analysis is a very strategic way to improve your position. Learning more about your competitors and the ways that they engage your primary market helps you to gain a competitive advantage, both by utilizing their more successful strategies (but better!) and differentiating yourself so that you stand out.

In order to analyze your competitors, you need to understand your market. So, before you start, define your primary and secondary markets, including the products you’re pitching at them, the consumers that occupy them, and the competitors also in that space. 

Then, you can start competitor analysis. This can involve everything from signing up to competitor marketing materials to reading their case studies, looking up their publically-available metrics, and monitoring their brand mentions.

Less glamorous brands that struggle to make a splash on social media can benefit a lot from market and competitive analysis, especially when it comes to things like SEO. For example, smaller SaaS brands are unlikely to get a statistically significant amount of brand mentions on platforms like Facebook. But they could benefit from reading a relevant SaaS SEO case study.

3. Social media listening

Social media listening is a powerful way to gain deeper insights about your brand and how your target audience thinks about you. Put very simply, social media listening involves monitoring social platforms for mentions of your brands, engagement with your brand materials, and so on. 

Social media is a very qualitative market, so it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of what you hear will be opinion. Rather than taking everything you learn personally, look for broad patterns in your brand mentions. For example, if a lot of people are raving about a certain feature of your product, build on that in your next marketing campaign.

Social media listening and analytics with Keyhole

real time social media monitoring

Social media listening is where Keyhole comes into its own. Keyhole’s Social Listening Analytics Suite will constantly comb the internet and log all mentions of your brand. You can use this to easily see how widespread your brand mentions are, and to take the temperature of discourse about your brand.

Keyhole will also alert you if something changes in your brand mentions. For example, if you suddenly get a spike in mentions and coverage, Keyhole will let you know.

This allows you to take action quickly. If you’re getting traction for good reasons, you can leap on the opportunity. If it’s for bad reasons, you can quickly dive into damage limitation mode and save your brand from a PR disaster.

Social listening is one of the very best ways to understand how your brand is perceived by your audience. With Keyhole, you won’t miss a single mention.

4. Surveys and online polls

Online surveys and polls are a good way to gain nuanced consumer insights and get a read on general customer satisfaction. There are various different types of surveys, designed for both qualitative and quantitative research.

Many brands use popups to offer quick surveys to customers based on their experience of the product, site etc. Popup surveys are usually quick and easy for customers to complete, and they’re a good way to get a lot of data very quickly. That being said, some consumers find popup surveys frustrating, and they do add an extra layer of friction to your site experience.

Longer-form questions and surveys allow you to get detailed information from your target customers on a wide range of things. However, it’s harder to get responses to these surveys as they take up more time. In order to encourage people to take more detailed surveys, some brands offer incentives like gift cards or entry into a prize draw.

5. Focus groups and market testing

This method involves bringing people who fit your target audience profile together and holding in-depth interviews and discussions about your product, your marketing messages, your competitors, and so on.

Focus group discussions can be very productive. People will reveal personal insights about your product/service and what they’re looking for that would be hard to glean through other market research techniques.

Market testing is a form of market research that sometimes occurs in focus group settings. This involves handing out product samples to your focus group and asking for feedback. It could also involve showing your customers different types of marketing content and asking them to rate or comment on them.

Market testing in a focus group context gives you the opportunity to observe how customers interact with your product or content, and draw insights that might not otherwise be possible. For example, you can observe non-verbal cues like frowning or enthusiastically grabbing a product. These cues might indicate discomfort or delight in ways that a survey can’t express.

6. Online market monitoring

Online market monitoring involves things like following market trends, perusing publically available sales data, watching follower counts, observing fluctuations in customer behavior, and so on.

Online market monitoring is particularly useful for quickly spotting and grabbing trends and opportunities. For example, many successful B2B SEO strategies involve closely monitoring the B2B market and taking advantage of keyword trends as soon as they appear. As B2B SEO is hard to achieve through means like focus groups and online surveys, online market monitoring is crucial to nail this tricky market.

Hashtag analytics and tracking with Keyhole

real time social media monitoring

You need a tool like Keyhole to get online market monitoring right. Keyhole’s hashtag analytics and tracking helps you to effortlessly measure every campaign you’re running, across every social platform. It will tell you what’s working, what isn’t, and what trends you could take advantage of.

Additionally, a robust content management system can streamline the creation, management, and optimization of digital content across your marketing channels, complementing tools like Keyhole.

And that’s not all. Keyhole can generate great-looking reports on your online monitoring with just a few clicks. This is great for seeing success trends at a glance and sharing them with stakeholders.

Final thoughts

A good understanding of the market gives you a huge competitive advantage. But understanding doesn’t happen automatically. In order to gain the actionable insights you need, market research is a must.

Keeping track of your market, your target customers, and the ever-changing trends you could use to your advantage. It’s important to conduct regular market research. It’s also a good idea to monitor markets on an ongoing basis.

This is where tools like Keyhole come in. With Keyhole, you can keep close tabs on everything from social media engagement to brand mentions. It’s perfect for social listening and audience analytics. Why not get in touch today and find out what Keyhole can do for you?

Author Bio

Nicholas (Nick) Brown - accelerate agency | LinkedIn

Nick Brown is the founder & CEO of accelerate agency, the SaaS SEO agency. Nick has launched several successful online businesses, writes for Forbes, published a book and has grown accelerate from a UK-based agency to a company that now operates across US, APAC and EMEA.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are primary and secondary research methods?

Primary research involves getting data directly from the originator. For example, surveys and focus groups are primary research methods because they involve asking people directly for their own opinions and experiences. Secondary research takes data from a third party source. For example, online market monitoring is usually secondary research, because it uses pre-existing data and analytics gathered by digital platforms.

2. What are paid market research surveys?

Paid market research involves rewarding people for completing market research surveys. Monetary incentives are a great way to encourage people to take market research surveys. It also allows you to create longer, more detailed surveys: people are more likely to spend time and effort on a survey they're getting paid for.

3. What is the difference between market and user research?

Market research studies a broad swathe of consumer behaviors, trends, and needs. User research is more focused on the specific needs and behaviors of product users.

4. What are common mistakes to avoid in market research?

Common market research mistakes include:
-Not having clear research goals from the outset.
-Asking the wrong questions.
-Speaking to the wrong people.
-Picking the wrong consumer sample.
-Not analyzing your results properly.
-Presenting your findings poorly.